Taking your focus on speaking and understanding language further

How can you continue to develop speaking and understanding skills in class?

Evidence shows that strong skills in speaking and understanding language have a significant impact on pupils’ educational attainment, social, emotional and mental health and life chances. Classrooms which encourage and facilitate talk are beneficial for all children and young people.

For pupils who have difficulties with speaking and understanding language, or speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), creating a communication supportive environment provides an essential foundation on which more specialist interventions can be built

A good spoken language curriculum should provide children with the opportunity both to develop their skills, and use talk to enhance their learning.

Quick tips for teaching talk:
  • Get pupils to think actively about what makes a good discussion. Before asking pupils to begin group work, decide on some rules together. For example, ask them to consider how they can make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
  • Try giving pupils clear roles, expectations and responsibilities during group work, for example one might be the director, one might be the summariser, one
    might have the responsibility for feeding back to the rest of the class etc.
  • Allow sufficient time for feedback and debriefing following group work, so that pupils can process what they have learnt and how. Ensure that feedback and debriefing is structured, using a framework such as: 
    • Remembering: Information discussed
    • Summarising: Key points
    • Understanding: Conclusions and answers
    • Evaluating: What was considered and how
    • Creating: Anything made or resulting from group discussions  

Be aware of the complexity of the question that you’re asking different pupils. A ‘what’ question (for example, ‘what’s happening here?’) is much simpler to answer than a ‘how’ question (for example, ‘how do we know he’s feeling like that?). Modify the questions you ask pupils based on their speaking and understanding abilities.

  • Engage pupils in questioning each other's ideas by asking "What do you think of that?", "Do you agree with that?" etc. 
  • Try to get everyone in the class involved in sharing their ideas, not just the confident speakers. Encourage differences in opinions and viewpoints. 
  • Prompt pupils to elaborate on their answers. Asking  ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ in response will help them to develop problem solving skills and extend their thinking through speaking. 
  • Teach key behaviours that make up listening. Often we say ‘listen’ but don’t always explain to pupils that good listening means
    • Sitting still
    • Looking at the person who is speaking
    • Thinking about what that person says
    • Waiting your turn
  • Look out for behaviours that demonstrate good listening and praise them. 
  • Introduce new vocabulary in context rather than in a list to support pupils' understanding. Encourage them to put the new word into practice by using it in a sentence, acting it out, or including it in a story.  
  • Get pupils to think about what a new word means:
    • Is it similar to any words you already know? (it means almost the same as....
    • Have you heard the word before?
    • What do you think it means?
    • Describe it – what do you do with it, where might you keep it, what does it look/ smell/taste/feel like
    • What category does it belong to?
  • Get pupils to think about the structure of the word
    • What the word sounds like:
    • What does your new word...begin with?
    • rhyme with?
    • sound like?
    • How many syllables does it have?
    • What different parts are in the word?
    • Does it have a prefix/suffix
    • Try making groups of words that have common features or patterns
  • Repeat the new word throughout the lesson
  • Prompt pupils to use the word in class discussions/small group work/paired tasks
  • Review new words at the end of the lesson/week
For more information and resources
TalkBoost primary pupils

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