Developing Oracy Skills: Speaking and Listening within the Classroom

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Hot Seat / Ask the Expert

Purpose: to develop interview techniques, encourage more detailed discussion about an issue, to share information, to explore motivation and interpretation of events, to develop empathy / deepen understanding.

  1. Ask the students to generate challenging questions that they would like to ask a character from history, literature, science, etc. or an expert on a topic / event. A discussion of the context / character / event beforehand would be helpful.

  2. Teacher will place a ‘hot seat’ facing the group and will model either being the expert in the hot seat or being the questioner.

  3. Students are allocated a particular character, or alternatively they think of a role themselves relevant to the issue in question. The role can be researched by a group or individually.

  4. The character / expert is put in the hot seat and questioned by the other students.

  5. A mystery game could also be played out using this technique, with class members having to guess the identity of the person in the hot seat.

  6. Discussion afterwards will focus on new information gathered, new understanding of the character / topic, questions left unanswered.

Just a Minute

Purpose: to encourage speaking aloud / sharing of ideas and experiences, to promote active listening, to use key vocabulary / phrases, to summarise a lesson or activate prior knowledge.

  1. Teacher uses a stopwatch and gives the students a topic / issue / experience to think about for one minute, or asks students to focus on the main points of the lesson, or on questions they still have about a topic.

  2. Using the stopwatch, each student has one minute to speak on their chosen topic, without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

  3. Other students can challenge the speaker if the rules are broken, or can add points missed at the end of each student’s speech.

Question and Answer

Purpose: to gather further information about a topic, break down a topic into smaller parts, activate prior knowledge, summarise a lesson, differentiate between literal and inferential questions, develop critical thinking skills.

6 W questions – Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which

1 H question - How

  1. The teacher asks an initial comprehension question starting with How or Why. The teacher then continues with a series of connector question stems, where the question must always start with either the How or Why.

  2. Students will be encouraged to develop their own connector questions.

  3. Teacher can also stimulate further critical thinking through the use of:

Inverted questioning

Changing the question to a challenging statement.

Backward Testing

Purpose: To ask and answer questions, use key vocabulary / terminology / concepts, justify choices, provide a safe zone in which to explore assessment, provide feedback.

  1. Teacher gives the students either the test questions in advance, or the answers to a test.

  2. In small groups, students prepare the answers to each question, or formulate the types of questions needed to generate these answers.

  3. Students will teach each other how to answer the questions. The group should take turns in the role of Explainer (explaining how to answer the question) and Accuracy Checker (verifying that the Explainer is correct and seeking help as needed). The roles can be rotated until everyone understands the material on which they will be tested. They could also agree the marking scheme for each question.

6 Thinking Hats (Edward de Bono)

Purpose: To examine issues from a number of important perspectives, to develop empathy and a clearer understanding of various points of view, to explore new styles of critical thinking.

  1. Each group is given one of six coloured hats. They have to view the problem from point of view of that coloured hat.

  2. In a group setting each member thinks using the criteria given for the group’s coloured hat. The group focuses on the same thinking challenge—this is called focused parallel thinking--a tool that facilitates creativity and collaboration. It enables each person's unique point of view to be included and considered.

The six hats:

White hat - This is the information seeking hat. The focus is on pure facts, figures and objective information. Questions that this group should ask could include:

• What are the facts?

• What information is available? What is relevant?

• When wearing the white hat we are neutral in our thinking.

Red hat - This is the emotions and feelings hat. It focusses on hunches and intuition. Questions include:

  • What do you feel about the suggestion?

• What are your gut reactions?

• What intuitions do you have?

• Don’t think too long or too hard.

Black hat - This hat plays devil’s advocate. It focuses on logical and negative judgment - on why it won’t work. This is the caution hat. Questions include:

• What are the errors or pit-falls?

• What are the risks or dangers involved?

• What difficulties and problems can be identified?

Yellow hat - This hat promotes sunshine, brightness and optimism. It is the hat of positive constructive thought. The traits of this hat are that it is positive and constructive. It is about effectiveness and getting a job done. Questions include:

  • What are the benefits, the advantages?

  • Logical reasons for decision making given

Green Hat - This is the creative mode of thinking. This hat is creative and is open to new ideas, movement and provocation. In the green hat we look to new ideas and solutions. Questions include:

• What are the ideas and alternative solutions?

Blue Hat - This is the control hat. It is cool and controlled. It tries to rule over other hats. It sets the focus, calls for the use of other hats. Blue is for planning.

  • Let us reflects on the thinking processes used.

  • What plan can we put in place?

Exit Pass

Purpose: To allow the teacher to assess student learning of the lesson, to develop further critical thinking skills, to encourage students to admit points of confusion/ ask for clarification, to share understanding.

  1. Towards the end of the lesson, index cards / post-its are given to the students.

  2. Students are encouraged to describe a part of the lesson which they particularly enjoyed, as well as a part of the lesson which they may have found challenging, or questions which remain unanswered for them.

  3. The student responses are noted on the index cards / post-its and handed to the teacher as the students leave the class room.

  4. Further feedback will be provided by the teacher during the next lesson.


Paul Ginnis - The Teacher’s Toolkit

Education Bradford – Talk across the Curriculum

Miriam Hamilton – Co-operative Learning Strategies

Jill Spencer – Classroom Learning Strategies that Support School Improvement

**** These strategies will work in PowerPoints, Movies, Podcasts & Other Web Publishing Opportunities

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