Historically, oracy has long been the poor relation to reading and writing in education. Since the publication of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (Welsh Government 2013) and key curriculum reports (Rose 2009; Donaldson 2015), the importance of oracy to support learning across the curriculum has been highlighted. A range of approaches to teaching oracy skills are advocated by researchers, including dialogic teaching, exploratory talk and discussion.
In this inquiry, the author has focused upon developing pupils’ discussion oracy skills, as early reconnaissance showed that many learners in the school lacked skill and confidence to participate effectively in discussion. Over a 5 week period, a Year 1 class took part in 10 Talk Time sessions, designed to directly teach the children specific discussion oracy skills. Learning the skills directly and then applying them during small group discussion aimed to support the learners to gain confidence and skill in participating in discussion. A mixed-method research design, using individual interviews, group observations and confidence Likert scales, presents the findings from different perspectives.
This inquiry concludes that teaching discussion skills directly has a very positive effect on pupils’ ability to apply these skills in small group discussions. The pupils gained confidence to participate and developed skill in applying discussion strategies they had learnt. A significant implication for teachers is the benefit of small group discussion in supporting confidence levels and encouraging more child-led talk. This suggests that small group setting should be utilised more often as an effective oracy teaching strategy. The findings further suggest that teachers need to discretely plan for oracy activities within the classroom to support children to develop their skills in a language rich learning environment. Improving children’s use of discussion oracy skills at an early age, as in this inquiry, aims to have a lasting impact on their literacy learning outcomes.
© Alys Powell January 2016