Emily Hazell is the Director of English at Shenley Brook End School. Here, she shares her experience of using protocols for talk to close the oracy gap.
As the impact of the pandemic in education became more visible, it was clear to us that an oracy gap was developing, particularly in our Year 7 and 8 cohorts. Where previously our students would have experienced different learning environments, working with different groups of peers and participated in a wide range of structured oracy opportunities, they were now learning in a post-lockdown world of forward-facing desk formations, teaching from the front and minimised contact with others.
With the end of lockdown and the return to the classroom, we saw an opportunity to revive the focus on oracy that had been set aside while we dealt with the more pressing challenges of the pandemic. We decided to focus our efforts on Year 7, with a longer term plan to embed oracy skills throughout the school.
We wanted to go back to basics, to establish a shared set of protocols for talk that students were invested in and could take ownership of. Through the explicit teaching of oracy skills, we felt that our students would become more effective communicators, the learning environment would become more dynamic and over time students would become better, more engaged learners.
We developed a ‘Talk Tuesdays’ programme to be delivered by Year 7 form tutors during tutor time over a 6 week period. The programme introduced students to a shared set of protocols for talk:
Through structured talk activities students have been able to explore and define these protocols for talk collaboratively, and to practise using a number of structured oracy frameworks.
“My experiences of the last 3 weeks of “Talk Tuesdays” have been incredibly positive. The resources provided are clear and appropriate for form time. The protocols for talk are simple and effective and are also relevant to how students can break down what makes effective talk. We have had some interesting conversations in form time where the students have made great contributions in lessons.” Joanna Pledger, Year 7 Form Tutor
The form time programme has been shared with all staff and teachers are encouraged to reward good examples of oracy through the school’s reward system. In my own English lessons, I have seen evidence of the impact of the project with students beginning to contribute more in lessons, including one particular student who has previously been disengaged from learning.
Year 7 form groups are building their own ‘SBE Talk’ classroom displays and are now beginning to practice the skills they have developed in form time within their subject lessons.
Oracy and the protocols for talk will continue to be a focus of whole staff CPD. The long term vision is for the protocols for talk to become embedded as a shared language of learning throughout all year groups. Our staff CPD focus is also shifting to look more closely at the relationship between oracy and metacognition. We will be asking how the explicit teaching of oracy skills can help students to not only talk to learn but to talk about how they learn.