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Big Talk Part 2 | Building oracy in the Prep School and at home

27 November 2019
In Big Talk Part 1, Mr Wright and Mr Clayden outlined the inherent importance of building oracy in all pupils as early as possible, as the ability to communicate effectively through verbal as well as technological means is essential, no matter what their future holds. After showing how the Prep School learning environment is focusing more intently on verbal communication skills, the second article is all about taking those skills further at home. As parents, how can you help develop oracy at home?While this might seem over simplistic, all you have to do is talk! In Part 1 we discussed how your child needs the ability to engage in all manner of conversations in different social circumstances in order to sharpen their oracy tools as much as possible. Simply by engaging with your children in conversation and showing genuine interest, you are already broadening their opportunities to practice their abilities around speaking, listening, analysing body language, interpreting social cues and establishing meaningful dialogue.
In any and every conversation with your child, remember that the goal in terms of building oracy is to let them know that their thoughts and opinions are being heard, understood and valued. Let them share what’s on their mind, let them see that their words have made an impact, they will want to share again and again.Formalising family discussionsYou can, if you feel comfortable with it, mirror some of the techniques we have introduced in the Prep School. You can deliberately break up a conversation into different roles, formally alternating with your child who will ask questions and who will give answers. You can take turns probing for more details and giving counterpoints or alternative opinions. Throughout this process, be sure to pay attention to how your child is speaking as much as what they say. You can praise them for taking turns, asking questions politely and listening respectfully. All of these factors will reinforce the kind of established social rules that lead to good oracy in both children and adults.
Some of this might seem a little bit forced or unnatural at first, but the idea is to make the child think more deliberately about how they are engaging in the conversation, as well as the elements that make it run smoothly and in a way that is enjoyable for everyone involved in it.Keeping it fun and lightEqually importantly, you can freely experiment in these home discussions; try different techniques to see what you are comfortable with and what leads to the best conversations. The idea is to make family chats as relaxed and enjoyable as possible, so that your child is eager to share and to practise expressing themselves. It should not feel like homework!So, if that means going for a family walk, or everyone putting away their phones (‘no tech at the table’ is a useful conversational aid in our house!) then go for it. All that matters is that everyone engages in the conversation in a genuine and open manner.What’s next for oracy in Prep?As we continue to refine our oracy-building activities in the Prep School, look out for announcements regarding end-of-year projects and opportunities for parents to observe and collaborate with us. We are particularly looking forward to the first set of year 8 Ignite speeches next term, and we look forward to showing you what your children can do when passion and persuasiveness collide.
Oracy is vital and that’s why it is one of our key focal points in the new Prep School curriculum. Our pupils have access to incredible digital communications devices but cannot solely rely on them as they grow and mature. Oracy works hand in hand with technology, because pupils need to be digitally confident but they will always need to be able to work effectively with their fellow humans. Apps are great communicative tools, but there is no app that will make a child completely socially competent.
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