Speaking and listening is central to the Wheatley Curriculum. It is developed from our Acorns Nursery and EYFS through to Year 6 and across the whole curriculum. Speaking and listening involves more than analysing your ability to talk and hear other people. It is about adapting language to suit the situation and linking your listening and speaking skills to be able to respond to any argument. By developing pupils' vocabulary, we can offer them the vital academic tools for school success, alongside the capability to communicate with confidence in the world beyond the school gates.
We aim to teach our pupils to speak clearly and convey ideas confidently using Standard English. This includes the ability to justify their ideas, ask questions, develop vocabulary, build knowledge, negotiate, and communicate effectively. They are taught to give well-structured descriptions and explanations and develop their understanding through speculating, hypothesising and exploring ideas. This will enable them to clarify their thinking as well as organise their ideas for writing. Speaking and listening is built into every subject area, through subject-specific vocabulary and the encouragement for children to discuss and ask questions.
We want to inspire children to be confident in the art of speaking and listening and to use discussion to communicate and further their learning.
From Acorns and Early Years upwards, we encourage children in the development of the skills they need; to communicate how they feel; to talk about themselves and their experiences; to hold conversations with adults and other children; to develop their own narratives and form questions and demands to cater to their own needs. There is a strong emphasis on adults modelling, speaking clearly in full sentences using Standard English. Through using language and hearing how others use it, children become able to describe the world, make sense of life's experiences and get things done. They learn to use language as a tool for thinking, collectively and alone.
The readiest way of working on understanding is often through talk, because the flexibility of speech makes it easy for us to try out new ways of arranging what we know, and easy also to change them if they seem inadequate.
Exploratory Talk for Learning
We recognise that spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing. Teachers ensure the continual development of pupils’ confidence and competence in their knowledge of spoken language and listening skills. They are assisted in making their thinking clear to themselves as well as to others and teachers ensure that pupils build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and remedy any misconceptions.
Building on this foundation, we teach literacy and the wider curriculum using a range of strategies which include:
● Group Discussion – Children discuss and interrogate new ideas in a small group or whole class setting. They listen to and value each other’s ideas whilst taking on board feedback so as to improve their own explanations.
● Partner Talk – Children work in partners to discuss their ideas. They are able to explain their ideas about texts they have read and orally rehearse and prepare their ideas before they write.
● Questioning – Teachers use a range of questioning strategies to establish children’s current understanding and develop their learning. Higher level questioning is used to elicit a deeper understanding.
● Modelled Writing – Teachers model writing and editing to demonstrate the high expectations they have. They verbally ‘think aloud’ in order to make the writing process explicit and provide a rich and varied vocabulary for the children to utilise in their own work.
● Shared Writing – Teachers use the ideas from the children to create shared pieces of writing. This enables the children to see the writing process in action as well as having pride and ownership over the finished piece.
● Comparing, Analysing and Evaluating – Children review written texts, speech and drama and compare, analyse and evaluate them. They establish the strengths and weaknesses of different examples and incorporate these ideas into their own work.
We believe it is vitally important to increase pupils’ vocabulary, ranging from describing their immediate world and feelings to developing a broader, deeper and richer vocabulary to discuss abstract concepts and a wider range of topics. Vocabulary consists of the words we understand when we hear or read them (receptive vocabulary) and words we speak or write (expressive vocabulary). We build vocabulary by picking up words that we read or hear and through direct instruction. Knowing a variety of words is important for language development and reading comprehension.
Most children begin school with about 6,000 words of spoken vocabulary. They will learn 3,000 more words per year. However, not all words have equal importance in language instruction. So, how do we know which words we need to teach?
Tier one consists of the most basic words: book, girl, sad, run, dog, and orange.
Tier two consists of high frequency words that occur often in mature language situations such as adult conversations and literature, and therefore strongly influence speaking and reading. Tier two words are the most important words for direct instruction: examples of tier two words are: compare, fortunate, industrious, measure, hilarious and endure.
Tier three consists of low-frequency words that include words that occur in specific subjects in school, occupations, technology etc. We usually learn these words when a specific need arises, such as learning continents during a geography lesson. Examples of tier three words are: economics, atom, sedimentary, respiration, and Neolithic.
We teach vocabulary explicitly with a 'triple coding' approach, word class, definition and image - for more details see our vocabulary page.