How do you teach oracy?

Warden House hold an Oracy Week in September each year and the key principle of the week is for teachers to engage pupils in the spoken work and encourage them to talk about story. 

They used the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death as the focal point of the week and the key objectives were to focus on extending the children's reading comprehension skills.  

A local theatre group supported the week by providing a range of artists who could bring story alive and embrace Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (a poet and literary critic) ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ as Mr Shakespeare was to travel through time to visit the school. 

Headteacher, Graham Chisnell of Warden House Primary School, shares what they got up to…

The Reveal:

The stage was set.  It was a normal Monday morning in September; the children entered the school hall ready for the morning assembly.  The music faded and the Headteacher introduced the assembly and then.....

Behind the Headteacher, from the depths of the school kitchen, pots and pans went flying (Bev, our school cook nearly needed CPR!) and William Shakespeare appeared from behind the curtain. He had arrived mysteriously from the past while formulating an idea for a most magical play about a dream in the heat of a midsummer night.  

Shakespeare told the children he needed inspiration for this most magical play as the play was to be performed this very week on Friday to no other than Queen Elizabeth.  The children were engaged.  William Shakespeare then spotted one of the teachers and took a shine to her, offering her a rose, to the children's delight and the teacher's embarrassment. Then, as swiftly as he arrived, William Shakespeare was gone; leaving the children with the challenge to create the play.”

The following activities were arranged through the week for the teachers to carry out with pupils:

  • Dance of the Fairies – a dance was created with Year 1 children involving woodland creatures and fairies coming alive
  • Elizabeth Dance – year 3 & 4 explored a range of arts genres, were introduced to Elizabeth Dance and were taught how to have poise and structure when dancing
  • Stage Combat – year 6 were led through the key skills of combat and were shown how to remain safe which was then practiced in two scenarios
  • Body of the play – year 5 pupils learned and rehearsed the main storyline of the play and learned about voice projection, stage presence and were taught to understand the use of mime

All activities were combined to form one impressive play and at the end of the week they performed this to an audience. 

Here’s Headteacher, Graham Chisnell’s summary of the fun-filled Oracy Week:

‘The week was great fun and engaged our pupils in a range of art disciplines.  The key question we were left with was "So what was the lasting impact of this project?"

It is early days, but from our pupil's perspective, the activities drew out the confidence of our children, with some of our most shy pupils projecting confidence in their activities.  The richness of Shakespearian language encouraged our children to be playful with their words, impacting on their ability to use adventurous and expressive language in their writing. 

The stage combat allowed our children to develop the joy of entertainment and those involved thrived on the audience's reactions. While the play itself cemented the idea that both composition and performance was rooted in understanding the importance of the audience.  The engagement in the arts made a tangible impact on the quality of writing and reading comprehension for all our children.

The week also taught our children to suspend their disbelief, and thoroughly immerse themselves in another world.  A quality that Ken Robinson would call 'Finding their Element' , we certainly saw children and staff lose themselves in the arts during Oracy Week and for some pupils, their experience allowed them to meet a new passion that they were keen to explore further, be it acting, mime, art, dance or a love for a 400 year old playwright.’

You can read the full version of the week’s activities here on Graham's blog page. 

Have you experienced anything similar as a teacher? Why not share your teaching experiences with us.

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