Consider the impact the listener has on the speaker. If you are bored and disinterested the speaker will loose confidence. Remember the role play I talked about in the post about the physical skills? This element goes hand in hand with that.
Some things to consider when listening are smiling, nodding and offering words of encouragement.
Listening is a way of developing understanding.
You can check what has been understood by summarising, asking questions, building on what is said.
These skills require a variety of responses and need practicing.
Here is an idea of a game that you can play to practice those all important listening skills!
One pupil tells a story to the rest of the class who listen for a buzz word such as bananas. Once they hear the word they raise their hand. The first one to do this is the winner and they go next. To be successful you need to pay attention to what is being said.
It is important to explicitly teach skills of listening but equally important is providing opportunities to reflect and evaluate on how well they listen.
The Listening Ladder as described by Stott and Gaunt (2019) gives a guide as to specific areas to work on:
- Giving 100% of their focus to the person speaking
- Being calm and still
- Giving eye contact to the speaker
- Offering nods or short words of encouragement
- Reacting and refocusing
- Asking questions to clarify understanding
- Asking questions that dig deeper
- Summarizing the speaker’s ideas
Transform Teaching and Learning Through Talk (Stott, Gaunt 2019)
The idea of the Listening Ladder is that you work on one area at a time before you move onto the next. Give it a go!
This is demonstrating you have listened and understood what has been said. If you can paraphrase what has been said it is a good indicator of your linguistic skills.
This is different to sumarising. Paraphrasing is explaining someone else’s ideas in your own words.
There are a number of different aspects of speaking and listening to teach. The physical skills are just as important as the others. Making these skills really explicit and giving examples of both good and bad physical skills will help the children to consider these both when speaking and listening.
When I taught this in class I asked a child to talk about their favourite toy and the first time I didn’t listen or show I was listening – I didn’t make eye contact, I turned my back on her and I even started talking to someone else. When I asked how she felt she said not good and in role playing we were able to establish what we should do from this example. We then redid the role play and I paid attention, asked questions and looked at her when she was talking.
So what sorts of things should you encourage every time the children are speaking and listening?
- good eye contact
- face the speaker
- don’t interrupt
- do ask questions and seek clarification
You can also consider the position of the children in relation to one another. For example a circle lends itself well to these behaviours particularly when working in a small group.
Do you find yourself complaining that your pupils aren’t listening or that they talk too much?
Check out the OAM (Oracy Assessment Matrix) which gives you areas to work on by year group or age.
Also look at the Oracy Framework written by Voice 21 and decide on the area you need to work on.
In the next few posts we will explore the aspects of the framework and their importance.
It is vitally important to give the pupils the numerous opportunities to use and practice new vocabulary they have learnt if we wish them to assimilate this into their ‘usable’ vocabulary. In order for a new word to be understood and in our long term memory we need to use it 8 times in context.
There are a number of ways we can practice new vocabulary:
- Using sentence stems to target vocabulary – ‘I thought it was inevitable that…’
- Talking Points – Use challenging vocabulary in a list of talking points e.g. Hamlet’s death was inevitable.
- Summary bullseye – On a bullseye list a range of vocabulary for the children to use in talking about a specified topic. They then score points for each word used – the easiest words are worth one point, mid-range words are worth three points and challenging words are worth five points. It is then a competition between you and your partner to see who can gain the highest score. If all the vocabulary is placed on a bullseye they can have the sheet in front of them as a scaffold.
The first way a child learns vocabulary and language is through speech. Speech from others in the right context. Later on children learn through reading, however the problem with reading is that it is more difficult to understand the meaning from a written context. What is missing from this is the body language and oral meanings that you gain from the physical surroundings.
The only way that children can really embed new language is to hear it and use it themselves in context. If they haven’t spoken it themselves then they probably won’t be able to understand it in reading or be able to use it in writing.
‘It is through hearing new language and using it in speech that children will be able to read it, write it and use it with fluency.’ (Stott, Gaunt, 2019)
Alice Stott, School 21 took a group of pupils to City Hall to listen to the Mayor of London taking questions from assembly members. She said herself it was a bit of a gamble as she worried the children may not understand enough about what was going on or take on board the language however what she actually found was very pleasing. The children listened attentively to the discussion and afterwards they dissected the discussion that they had heard. They had picked up on the body language, they picked up on how the Mayor was able to mask anything he couldn’t answer and how he played the room. All this shows their learning about Oracy really enabled them to gain from listening to this conversation. There may well have been elements that they did not understand but listening to challenging texts and discussions provides something to aspire to and encourages the use of new vocabulary.
First some facts:
- By the age of five 75% of British children who experienced poverty consistently throughout the early years are below average in langauge development, compared with 35% who never experienced poverty. (Communication Trust, 2017)
- In the UK, low-income children lag behind their middle-income counterparts at school entry by nearly one year in vocabulary, and by smaller but still substantial amounts in other types of cognitive development. (London, Sutton Trust, 2010)
- In the USA, children from low-income backgrounds have heard on average 30 million fewer words than their wealthier peers by the age of three. (American Educator, 2003)
For those of us teaching in an inner city school or a deprived area we are the second chance that many children have to learn the language skills needed to succeed.
The saying the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is true in this instance with respect to language and vocabulary. The children that hear a wider range of vocabulary and have a larger vocabulary that they can use only tend to get richer with regard to vocabulary. They already have the tools to enrich their vocabulary. The children that have a very low range of vocabulary and have poor language skills only get poorer as the gap for them widens significantly with time. We need to bridge an ever increasing gap for them which is incredibly difficult especially if it is not specifically targeted and developed.