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What is Oracy?
Oracy is the ability to express yourself clearly and communicate with others effectively through spoken language.A key part of oracy is for children to think carefully about the language they’re using, and tailor it to their subject, purpose and audience. For example, a Year 6 pupil should understand that they need to use simpler words and sentence structures when explaining the rules of a game to a Reception child than they would if they were with their peers.
Oracy involves embracing different speaking skills, such as:
- Discussion: exchanging ideas with others
- Instruction: telling someone what to do, or explaining facts
- Dialogue: having a conversation with someone, listening and showing an interest in what they say
Oracy isn’t, however, just about being a good talker – or talking lots. It also includes listening to others, and responding appropriately. So much in life depends on being a good communicator, so it’s vital that children learn the importance of oracy from a young age.
‘Good communication and language skills support children’s ability to learn, think about and understand the world, and interact with others,’
Indeed, children who start school with limited communication skills are six times less likely than their peers to reach the expected standards in English at the end of Year 6. Good oracy also leads to improved performance in other curriculum areas, including maths and science.
Developing early oracy skills isn’t just important for children’s education, though. Children who communicate well are more likely to form good relationships with other children and adults, and may be less prone to behaviour sanctions as they can express their frustrations verbally rather than lashing out or losing their temper. Focusing on oracy in primary schools has a big impact on children well into the future.
Children who are good communicators are less likely to have mental health problems as adults, possibly because they’re more able to express their feelings.
Good oracy skills also help them secure employment later in life, with over two thirds of employers rating literacy as one of their three most important considerations when recruiting school leavers. At Holborough Lakes we believe that embedding oracy into the curriculum is key to improving children’s life chances.’
7 ways to promote oracy at home
Try these techniques to help your child become a more confident communicator, in school and at home.
1. Read aloud to your child
‘Reading aloud to your child, well beyond the age they can read for themselves, combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within one activity that helps children build their vocabulary, learn to express their thoughts, and understand the structure of language,’
2. Record a video diary
Many kids aspire to being vloggers or YouTube stars, so encourage them to start a video diary, either to chart their everyday life or to record special occasions like birthdays and holidays. For safety’s sake, keep these within the family rather than broadcasting them online.
3. Play word games
Games like 20 Questions, Guess Who? and I Spy are great for helping children use descriptive language and think critically about what they’re saying.
4. Talk about their day
Ask your child, ‘What did you do today?’ and they’ll often claim they can’t remember, so find different ways to talk about what they’ve been up to. Eating your evening meal as a family is a good way to encourage conversation, while older kids are often more chatty in the car, where they feel less like they’re being interrogated. You could also try our tips for asking the right questions to elicit information.
5. Phone a friend (or relative)
Persuade your child to take a break from text and WhatsApp and develop their speaking skills by making an actual phone call. Encouraging them to speak to different family members on the phone or on a video call will build confidence.
6. Go on a nature walk
This is a great pre-phonics activity for young children, who can be encouraged to listen carefully to the sounds they hear – from traffic to birdsong – and describe them. They can also describe the natural sights they see, such as trees, animals and birds and the sky.
7. Sign them up for a club
Joining extracurricular clubs is a good opportunity for your child to converse with different people outside the home or school environment. Many of them also involve taking instructions (such as being coached in sporting techniques or to complete science or art projects), and introduce them to different vocabulary relating to their new hobby.
The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life programme has lots of great tips and activity ideas to encourage speaking, reading and writing skills in children from birth to 11 years.