13 November 2019
Pupils from over 2000 schools, nurseries and colleges across the UK and beyond will put down their pens today and learn through spoken language only for No Pens Day Wednesday – a national campaign run by I CAN and The Communication Trust.
Now in its ninth year, No Pens Day Wednesday aims to raise awareness of the importance of spoken language in education. Although developing language skills is a prime area of the early years’ curriculum, there is a common misconception that it is not as important in primary and secondary schools.
The event highlights that good spoken language is fundamental for all aspects of learning in school especially learning to read, as well as managing emotions and developing relationships. Over 50% of children in some areas of disadvantage begin school with delayed language, and children with poor vocabulary skills are twice as likely to be unemployed when they reach adulthood. The benefit of a focus on spoken language in teaching is well-researched, and classrooms where talk is structured and encouraged can help to close this attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.
Bob Reitemeier, CEO of I CAN, said “The importance of developing speech, language and communication skills cannot be underestimated, both in the early years and in later childhood. These skills have a huge impact on academic outcomes, and without support in the classroom, a significant number of children are at risk of being left behind.”
Resources including lesson plans, activity ideas and assembly materials are available to download from I CAN’s website. These have been developed by speech and language therapists from The Communication Trust in collaboration with teaching staff, and are designed to make learning through talking accessible and fun for pupils of different ages and abilities.
On top of developing pupils’ spoken language skills, taking part in the event helps to increase staff’s awareness and understanding of teaching spoken language skills, and encourages schools to embed it further into their curriculum. The pen-free activities can also help identify pupils with speech, language and communication needs who may have been struggling in silence, enabling schools to put appropriate support in place.
Mary Hartshorne, Director of Impact at I CAN, said: "We have received fantastic feedback from participating schools over the years and are excited to relaunch the event this year. It’s a great opportunity to try out new teaching approaches and engage children in a new way of learning. We hope that even more schools will join us next year to speak out about children’s communication.”
No Pens Day complements other recent efforts to raise the profile of spoken language education, or ‘oracy’. This includes the all party-parliamentary group on oracy, who are leading an inquiry, campaigning for increased recognition of these skills in the national curriculum.
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