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The Power of Oracy in Primary Classrooms

The Power of Oracy in Primary Classrooms

In primary education, where literacy and numeracy so often claim the spotlight, it's easy to overlook oracy—the development of speaking and listening skills.

However, over the past year, oracy has gained significant attention. The ‘Cracks in our Foundations’ report by The Centre for Social Justice, published in February, highlighted the widening attainment gap and stressed the importance of implementing high-quality oracy provision to address this disparity. Moreover, Keir Starmer has stated that oracy teaching would form a central part of Labour’s education policy, if elected. So, it’s fair to say that there’s a growing consensus that oracy deserves equal recognition alongside literacy and numeracy.

Continue reading to discover how oracy can improve children's educational outcomes, personal development and future life chances and for actionable ideas to boost oracy in your setting.

Primary school children talking
Caption: In 2022, 57% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds left primary schools without reaching the expected standards in foundational literacy and numeracy skills. Source Centre for Social Justice


What is oracy?

Oracy refers to the development and use of oral or spoken language skills. It involves the ability to express yourself fluently and coherently, listen actively, and engage in effective verbal communication. Oracy encompasses both what is said and how these words are expressed.

As such, oracy includes a range of skills, including articulation, vocabulary, pronunciation, listening comprehension, and the ability to engage in meaningful conversations and discussions.

Why is Oracy important?

  1. Provides a Strong Foundation

Oracy is the bedrock upon which other skills build. Typically, children first express themselves orally, before they learn to read and write. 

Good oracy skills will also help children progress in every subject they learn, from Science to History, PE to Design Technology. Indeed, the National Curriculum states, “Teachers should develop pupil’s spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of teaching every subject.”

  1. Boosts engagement and attainment

Classrooms which prioritise oracy create engaged and active learners. Through talk and collaboration, children actively participate in the learning process while also learning how to express themselves clearly and respectfully. Not to mention that oral rehearsal and storytelling activities are great for strengthening memory acquisition and recall.

Research consistently demonstrates a strong correlation between oracy and academic achievement, too. Pupils who are confident in speaking and listening are better equipped to understand complex concepts, ask insightful questions and engage meaningfully with subject matter.

It’s clear that oracy and metacognition go hand in hand. Communicating effectively means that children have better tools to reflect on their learning, to express themselves and to reach out to request help or clarification when they need it.

A teacher and group of primary school children working collaboratively
Oracy and metacognition go hand in hand

It’s also not hard to see that quality oracy provision could prove indispensable for educators looking to raise attainment. Perhaps, more importantly though, teaching oracy is a highly effective tool for closing the attainment gap. Pupils from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds - who are more likely to display less developed early language and speech skills than their more advantaged peers - greatly benefit from both class-wide and targeted interventions. According to the EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, oral language interventions can have an impact of up to six months of additional progress on pupil outcomes.

An example slide from the PSHE scheme Being Me
An example of a slide about what worry might feel like in your body from the Being Me PSHE KS1 scheme of work


  1. Supports the development of self and social skills

The impact of oracy education is not limited to the acquisition of academic knowledge and skills. When you see a child confidently presenting their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, it is oracy - alongside social and self-awareness - that underpins such confidence. 

Oracy plays a pivotal role in honing essential social skills and self-reflection - including, active listening, effective communication and empathy. These skills are critical for establishing and maintaining positive relationships, both within the classroom and in the wider world. Articulating ideas clearly helps us to share meaning and to be understood so we can work well with others, for example. 

Oracy also facilitates children’s emotional regulation, enabling them to name big feelings, explain their frustrations and advocate for what they need, rather than become overwhelmed by them (see also Daniel Siegel, Name it to Tame it).

An example slide from the PSHE lessons How do I feel?
An example of a slide about why talking is important from the How do I feel? PSHE KS1 scheme of work


By creating home and classroom environments where every voice is valued, oracy can become the vehicle through which children develop social skills and explore different viewpoints, experiences and cultures.

Practical Strategies to Embed Oracy

Incorporating oracy into the classroom need not be a daunting task. Indeed, many educators already embed oracy in their teaching practice and classroom culture via talk partners, discussion and presentations. That said, not all educators feel confident or equipped when it comes to teaching oracy effectively.

Here are some simple, actionable ways to support children to develop their oracy skills:

  1. Create a school-wide plan

You can start simply by using a staff meeting to discuss our Oracy Activities Guide to spark discussion about the importance of oracy, its progression across the school and the different ways it can be built into your everyday teaching. For the more sustained promotion of oracy, you might consider appointing an oracy ambassador or forming an oracy task force to take the lead in co-ordinating oracy-related initiatives and any professional development needed to support this work. Just take care to ensure that oracy skills are intentionally integrated into the curriculum across subjects and not an ‘add-on’.

  1. Create a rich, language environment

There are many ways you can use your classroom environment to support oracy: display key vocabulary prominently on working walls; play oracy games for morning work or designate pupils as “Talk Detectives” who identify and share great talk examples. Most importantly, make sure you model and scaffold talk appropriately, using word banks and sentence stems, with dictionaries and thesauruses that are easily accessible. Use technology, such as Immersive Reader, sound buttons and microphones to support and stretch all pupils.

  1. Use oral rehearsal across the curriculum

Most children love storytelling and being given the opportunity to orally rehearse their ideas before writing. This not only helps children to structure their thoughts but also supports their narrative development. So, retell stories and events across the curriculum, to understand the chronology of events in history or scientific and Geographical processes like the water cycle. See Whoosh! in our FREE Drama Conventions Guide.

FREE Drama Conventions Guide sheet
FREE Drama Conventions Guide sheet


  1. Explore varied partner talk

There are many great talk partner techniques so don’t just stick to just one style. One of our favourites is ‘Concentric Circles’ as it is great for helping children develop clear, well-structured descriptions and explanations. Split your class into two equal groups and stand them in concentric circles, facing each other. Give children in the outer circle time to explain a concept, event or process to their partner from the inner circle. Then, rotate just one circle to change partners and repeat the process so children can build on their partners work and revise their explanations. See this activity in action in our Toys: Past and Present Scheme.

Toys past and present example slide
An example slide from Toys: Past and Present showing an oracy activity


  1. Incorporate drama and role play

Drama activities, such as hot-seating and role play or conducting guided tours, interviews and podcasts, allow children to adopt different roles and interact with others. Such immersive oral language activities also enhance children’s understanding of diverse perspectives and fosters empathy. To explore sculpting and thought-tracking with your class, try our KS1 Coming To England Scheme of Work. For resources which support creating new reports from World War Two battlefields with your class, see our World at War Geography lessons.


An example slide from the English scheme Coming to England
An example slide from the English scheme Coming to England showing 'thought tracking'


World at War scheme Thought Tracking worksheet example
A Thought Tracking worksheet example from a Geography lesson in the World at War topic
  1. Engage in discussion and debate

Provide children with regular discussion opportunities. This could be a prompt or them to complete, such as, “I remember when…’ or a choice to make and justify, such as,  ‘I would rather’ or even using artwork or pieces of music to generate discussion. Children could pair up to interview each other on a given topic and present their findings.

Be explicit about the transition from discussion to debate, making sure children understand the different expectations and model how to build and defend arguments persuasively.

The UKS2 Early Islamic Civilisation Topic offers engaging oracy activities, including researching and debating the greatness of early Islamic caliphates and participating in an Expert Exchange to demonstrate their understanding of life in Golden Age Baghdad and Anglo-Saxon London.

UKS2 Early Islamic Civilisation Topic slide example
UKS2 Early Islamic Civilisation Topic slide example

Delve deeper and use oracy opportunities for children to develop their understanding through speculating, hypothesising and exploring ideas. There are plenty of oracy-rich activities embedded within our Science and DT schemes. See What Do Scientists Do? and Moving Monsters, for example.

What do Scientists do? Slide example
What do Scientists do? Slide example


  1. Engage in group work and collaborative projects

Collaborative or group work is highly effective for oracy development in the primary classroom.

Group story creation is a fantastic activity which encourages oracy and imagination as well as teamwork. Divide your class into small groups and provide each group with the beginning of a story. Ask each group to collaboratively create a narrative which continues the story. Alternatively, set up interactive learning stations around the classroom, each focused on a specific topic or concept. Divide your class into small groups and rotate them through the stations.

Lastly, ask children to work together on a research or enquiry project and to present thrift findings to the class. Our World at War topic for UKS2 includes everything your class needs to conduct their own independent historical enquiry.

World at War slide show example
World at War slide show example


By incorporating these strategies into your classroom, you can create a vibrant oracy-rich environment that nurtures confident and articulate communicators.

See how PlanBee’s Curriculum Vision and Principles align oracy with broader educational goals.

Oracy Activities Guide printable resource
Oracy Activities Guide printable resource


Questioning Strategies printable resource
Questioning Strategies printable resource
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