Developing Oracy Skills: Speaking and Listening within the Classroom

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Walking Debate

Purpose: To develop the use of persuasive and descriptive language, to give every student the opportunity to express their opinion on the issues under discussion, to actively listen to and research new ideas, to justify choices made.

  1. Place agree and disagree signs on either side of the room. Gather all students in the centre of the room.

  2. Invite students to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the following statements by standing under the agree or disagree signs:

  3. Draw feedback from students after each statement is read. Ask why they took the position they did – note if any students changed position based on the contributions of others.

DRAPES (Jill Spencer)

Purpose: This is a useful strategy to focus a group in the preparation / research stages of developing a presentation. It can be used as part of a speaking and listening exercise and / or in the reading, drafting and writing-up stages.

  1. In groups, students think about the purpose of, and the audience for, the presentation

  2. Using the DRAPES strategies, students will discuss their approach and focus on the key areas for researching, drafting and writing the presentation:

D – Definition / Dialogue

R – Rhetorical question

A – Analogy

P – Personal experience

E – Examples

S – Statistics

  1. The group will decide on where to include a DRAPES strategy at each stage of the presentation.

  2. Teachers could share the responsibilities for teaching the students what each of the DRAPES terms mean and then the other teachers could reinforce these concepts in their classrooms.

Three - Step Interview (Kagan, 1990)
Purpose: To find information from texts, ask and answer questions, seek clarification, demonstrate understanding of texts, as members of a team interview one another on a particular topic.

  1. Students decide whether they are A, B or C.

  2. The group reads the piece of text / researches the topic.

  3. A interviews B, while C records observations from the responses.

  4. The roles are then rotated after each interview to ensure that all members of the group have had an opportunity to the interviewed.

Fishbowl Listening Activity (Adapted from: NCCA ‘Working with Others’ toolkit)

Purpose: To listen actively to the experiences, ideas and perspectives of a specific group, to gain feedback on the group experiences, to explore challenges and issues which arise from discussion.

  1. Divide the class up into small groups. Each group writes down their thoughts and views on the particular question or topic on a piece of flip chart paper with a marker for about 10-15 minutes.

  2. The whole room then re-groups, moving their chairs into 2 circles: one circle is a large “fish-bowl” round the outside of the room and the other small circle is the “fish” in the middle of the room. This is a listening exercise.

  3. The small circle contains the fish, and one person from each original group should sit in this small circle. The fish tell everyone in the room about what was discussed in their group. The fish are the only ones who can talk at this stage. One person from the fish group volunteers to write all the main ideas on a flip chart paper in the middle.

  4. Students in the large circle are the fish-bowl and they are the listeners – they must listen very carefully to what the fish are saying, to check that this is an accurate description of the views put forward by their little groups.

  5. Any listener who disagrees with what is being said by the “spokes-fish” of their group, or wants to add something, can go up and tap them gently on the shoulder. This means that they will swap places.

It’s a Rap

Purpose: To engage students who feel disconnected from language use, listen to the ideas and experiences of others, introduce nuances of tone, pitch, pace, rhythm, rhyme, use descriptive language.

  1. In groups of three, students decide on a topic / experience that they wish to share with the class.

  2. As a team, they create a speaking ‘rap’, incorporating appropriate description and expressive language.

  3. The group ‘perform’ the rap as a team, or take turns to perform individual sections.

  4. The rest of class act as the critical audience and discuss the merits of each piece.

Phone Calls

Purpose: To promote careful listening and speaking, use of appropriate expression, discussion of formal and informal language, step-by-step instruction

  1. Students divide themselves into A, B, C.

  2. A and B sit back to back.

  3. In pairs / groups of three, students have imaginary phone conversations with each other, where A is the caller, B answers the phone and C listens to, records and reports back on the conversation.

  4. Depending on the task (e.g. giving a step-by-step instruction on how to do a recipe / experiment, speaking ‘in-character’ as one character to another from history, making a complaint in another language, etc.), the students must use the appropriate tone and pace of voice, choice of vocabulary and expression. While A speaks, B listens, but may also prompt A during the conversation. B may not interrupt A.

  5. Working with C, the students review their conversation and make note of areas for improvement.

Think-Pair- Share (Square)

Purpose: to clarify and articulate the thoughts of the students on a topic, deepen understanding, practise skills of speaking, listening, agreeing, disagreeing, rephrasing and working in groups, to increase confidence, to move through the stages of individual work, paired work and group work, to provide feedback in a ‘safe’ environment.

  1. Ask students, on their own, to spend several minutes thinking and writing down own ideas, thoughts, etc. on a topic (THINK).

  2. Put students into pairs to share their individual ideas with a partner (PAIR).

  3. The pair group decide on a common agreement and share their thoughts with either the whole class (SHARE) or another group, where two pairs work together to agree on a group response (SQUARE).


Purpose: To focus group attention on a task, to share and record individual and group ideas, to ask and answer questions, to negotiate and justify choices, to activate prior knowledge / summarise topics, to reflect on learning and provide feedback.

  1. Students are divided into small groups of 4 and gathered around a “placemat”.

  2. The “placemat” is organised with sections for each student to record their ideas and a central section for students to summarise their individual ideas.

  3. Each member of the group thinks about a question and writes down ideas on his/her own section of the placemat.

  4. Ideas are shared among the group and a common answer is decided upon, which can be written in the centre of the placemat.

  5. The group answer is shared with the rest of the class.

Thinking Triads

Purpose: to promote higher order thinking, pose questions, stimulate ideas and answers to questions, take turns, actively listen, use key terminology and concepts.

  1. Students form groups of three. As a group, the students read / research the topic or problem to be solved.

  2. Each member of the group takes on a role – researcher / recorder / questioner – where the problem / content is analysed, ideas gathered, answers recorded and questions asked, to ensure individual and group understanding, share ideas, check back on information and agree on the key points / concepts.

  3. As a team, the triad explains their findings to the rest of the class. Each member of the team must be able to justify their group findings.


Here are some different ways to ask your students to THINK about things:

  • How are things alike? Students look for similarities between items, events or ideas. How are fractions and decimals alike?

  • How are things different? Students look for differences between items, events, or ideas.

  • How do things look differently from inside or from the outside? Students imagine what it would be like to be an observer inside or outside an item, event, system, etc.

  • What is your estimate or prediction? Students must make an educated guess or an inference using given information and their own general background information.

  • Justify their stance or thinking.

  • Devil's advocate--students respond to another's points with views that are the opposite. Let's look at this from an opposite point of view.

  • Ask groups to pair up with another set and have both groups share their ideas. Ask each group to choose one or two ideas to share with the entire group. Chart and discuss.

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