How can I help quieter children become better speakers?

There are a number of ways in which we can help the quieter, more anxious child to talk in group situations. Oracy can really support them and encourage them to speak without the level of anxiety they may have come to expect surrounding talking in group or class situations.

Sentence stems – These can be really helpful if a child does not know quite how to start what they want to say. It takes the pressure off and gives them to point at which to start.

Roles – these can be quite empowering for the quieter child. For example if you give the quieter child the role of the silent summarizer they will have the chance to listen quietly to the conversation taking place and then summarize what was said at the end. This will give a purpose for the talk and a chance for the child to consider what they will say in response to the conversation that took place.

Groupings – Once upon a time I would have grouped quieter children with slightly more talkative children to encourage them to talk or to take the pressure off them feeling like they had to talk. This approach does not wholly work as you can end up with the more dominant talkers taking over and doing all the talking. Why not try grouping all the quieter children together? This will take the pressure off in terms of feeling like they have to find a space to ‘butt’ into the conversation and instead of feeling the need to compete they may find they surprise themselves with the number of contributions they are actually able to make.

Talk tokens – Another way of providing equal opportunities for talk is to give each child in the group a set number of tokens. For the quieter child they have to use all their tokens which means they know they have to speak a set number of times. For the louder, more confident talker this can have the opposite effect in that it will limit the number of times they can talk. They will need to really think about when is the right time to contribute making the talk more meaningful.

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