The importance of Oracy in language development

Paul Main

The importance of oracy in language development cannot be emphasised enough. Discussion is central to all aspects of the curriculum including unlikely areas such as grammar.

The importance of oracy in language development

Get them talking. That would be my advice for any teacher thinking about developing really strong language work in the classroom. The importance of oracy in language development cannot be emphasised enough. Discussion is central to all aspects of the curriculum including unlikely areas such as grammar. If the conditions are set up correctly with the right sort of tools, children can have purposeful discussions about the possibilities, effects and meanings of words. It's where deep learning occurs.

Learning conversations

As a teacher you can't give them what you know. Learners have to take it and make it their own, and it's the discussion that really helps to do that. You can really support this by giving children tasks that require them to create several versions of something and then discuss which is best. Using the ‘Writer’s block’, we have seen children make changes and then reason their ideas to someone else. So you might say,‘write several opening sentences and discuss which one is the best’. The children can then use the blocks to move and change the parts of the sentence without any fear of ‘getting it wrong’. As learners make changes, they always justify their thinking to their peers, a gateway to critical thinking.

Talk for generating ideas

Another important role for talk in writing is the kind of talk that helps children to generate the ideas.

You can't write if you haven't got anything to say and the talking to generate ideas helps you to work through the content of the story or your argument in a logical way. One element of talk that's particularly powerful is elaboration. This is the idea of explaining your ideas back to someone else and adding details along the way. This approach acts as an oral rehearsal before pen is committed to paper. For very young children, oral rehearsal separates the formulating of a sentence from the very difficult demand of writing it.

With older children it helps them try out different possibilities for sentences and to hear their writing aloud. And finally, talk is important for reflection and evaluation. We all know how hard it is to get children revising their work. Support children to reflect and evaluate on their writing - not just after they've written but also as they're developing their ideas and vocabulary. The block structures can easily be manipulated into different combinations, it’s a lot less daunting than putting a line through it. Focus their revision with key evaluative questions tied to the learning focus.

Remember, talk is the foundation of all learning.