What is “oracy”? It sounds like a made-up word, but a school in London has decided that it is equally important to literacy and mathematics. The oracy element added to School 21 nurtures the school to further implement a social-emotional learning curriculum through communication. The Progression in Oracy rubric gives standards at the school for teachers to design curriculum to move their students towards mastery. School 21 in London has become an exemplar for other schools in the U.K.
How has School 21 implemented their framework into the everyday curriculum? They made it their core pedagogy:
1. Embedding Oracy Into Your Classroom (It’s Already Happening)
2. Create Discussion Guidelines With Your Students
3. Guide Your Students to Reach a Shared Agreement
4. Help Your Students Analyze Discussion Guidelines
5. Consider How to Group Your Students
6. Create Discussion Roles
7. Create Structured Talk Tasks
8. Build Comfort and Confidence in Your Shy Students
What does the research say about oracy? The head school teacher and cofounder at London 21 lays out the thinking behind the decision to make oracy a primary focus. As a classroom teacher and educational researcher, I like how he puts forward the research while offering the partnerships that have developed since the start. Voice 21 is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the speaking and listening standards, while the head school teacher further mentions using Ignites (think quick TED talks).
Forensics Education is Important?
“It’s the best thing you don’t know.” That’s a line often repeated among students, parents, and speech coaches who believe the league’s competitions offer some of the most useful lessons high school has to offer. A direct quote from an article in the Boston Globe regarding the impact speech and debate is having on students in the region. Unfortunately, something so important to the development of adolescents is a funding nightmare for teachers with school districts cutting an important extracurricular piece to a child’s education.
Based on my own experience as a classroom teacher and the impact on my curriculum as a speech and debate coach, I can only say that extracurricular is only one way to reach students. The best way to increase the number of students impacted is to include the lessons into your everyday curriculum.
With the advent of the Common Core curriculum in Florida, a principal decided that her middle school students (6-8) would be required to take a speech and debate class each year. The reason for the decision? The principal was a speech major in college, and knows the power of speech and debate in the curriculum. Any talk about how English Language Learners or “special needs” populations would falter with the more rigorous curriculum did not deter the curricular change. A mindset developed at the school that the students that would gain the most are the populations that have historically not been served by speech and debate. Students would learn methods in the speech and debate class, and then use those same methods in their core literacy classes.