The Importance of Oracy and P4C
Oracy training gives our pupils opportunities to develop vocabulary, listening and reasoning skills, as well as the confidence to speak loudly and clearly, and respectfully challenge their peers.
Philosophy for Children (P4C), helps our children to become better thinkers. They constantly reflect upon and improve their abilities as critical thinkers, collaborative thinkers, creative thinkers and caring thinkers. We call these the 4C's.
We have made oracy and P4C a key priority. We believe that communication is essential for learning, and the foundation of positive relationships. Ultimately good communication gives children better life chances.
We are delighted to announce that our efforts in establishing P4C have resulted in Lewis Street being awarded the bronze award standard from SAPERE.
Oracy at Lewis Street Primary
Too much talking in class has traditionally been regarded as negative – a sign of disruption or lack of focus. But at Lewis Street children’s talk is at the centre of everything we do. We believe that classrooms should place more emphasis on children’s talk than teacher talk.
This impacts positively on all children, but it has a significant impact on prior low-attaining children.
Of course, it is not just any talk; it breaks away from the question-answer and listen-tell routines that typify traditional teaching practices. In our classrooms, the teacher acts as a facilitator to encourage children to think deeply and justify their responses, enabling them to build on each other’s ideas.
As a staff team, we have engaged in research to identify how best to develop a learning environment that values and promotes children’s talk. Here are the key principles we identified:
1. Give children confidence and opportunities to ask questions
Children need to experience good quality spoken language, and this includes asking plenty of questions. If we want our children to be talking about their learning and pose questions, we need to provide them with the opportunity and the skills to do so.
2. Allow time for paired and group discussion
We believe that it is essential for children to have opportunities to work collaboratively and to learn from each other. We plan time into lessons where children can use discussion to summarise, link learning and challenge ideas.
3. Use a range of questioning strategies
Lessons should provide a range of questioning strategies:
Thinking time – all pupils are given the chance to think before answering a question.
The traditional raising of hands leads to a small number of the same children dominating the discussion; instead, the teacher selects pupils to answer or uses other methods to ensure contributions are fair and wide-ranging.
Pupils are encouraged to discuss with a group or a partner to help them formulate an answer.
The teacher involves a number of pupils in the answer to a single question, creating the opportunity for discussion through phrases such as “What do you think?” and “Do you agree with that answer?”
Incorrect answers are discussed to develop an understanding.
Time is given for pupils to formulate questions.
4. Ask children how they feel
It is always important to ask our pupils how they feel about their learning, as this gives us an idea of how they see what they do and don’t know. Regular reflection points in lessons are invaluable to support pupil progress.
5. Ask open-ended questions
Teachers should ask open-ended questions that have more than one possible answer. These deepen children’s understanding and require them to reflect, rather than restricting them to searching for the "right answer".
We can use the following:
What do you think?
Why do you think that?
How do you know?
Do you have a reason?
Can you be sure?
Is there another way?
6. Promote a balance of talk between teacher and pupils
Traditionally, in most situations in the classroom, either the teacher or the pupil is passive. But we encourage our pupils to actively engage and teachers constructively intervene.
7. Discuss misconceptions
Pupils need to be able to identify their own misconceptions and be given the opportunity to talk these misconceptions through. This must be within a climate where all pupils feel safe to make mistakes and develop from these.
8. Model thoughts out loud
It is essential that we act as role models for our pupils, demonstrating critical-thinking skills and effective use of language. Pupils especially benefit from the modelling of inter-thinking between adults in the classroom.
P4C (Philosophy for Children) at Lewis Street
It is well-documented that P4C has an impact on children's cognitive, social and emotional development. The underlying principle is for children and young people to experience rational and reasonable dialogue about things that matter to them and their teachers. All participants work together, the aim for each child is not to win an argument but to become clearer, more accurate, less self-contradictory and more aware of other arguments and values before reaching a conclusion.
We embrace P4C as an exciting and successful approach to learning and all children from Reception to Year 6 will benefit from weekly P4C enquiries.
P4C builds higher order thinking, questioning, speaking and listening skills and supports the development of children's thinking skills, concentrating on the 4Cs of philosophical thinking – Caring, Creative, Critical, and Collaborative.
Children are taught how to create their own philosophical questions. They then choose one question that is the focus of a philosophical enquiry, or dialogue. For example, the question might be “Is war ever okay?”. The teacher, as a facilitator, supports the children in their thinking, reasoning and questioning, as well as the way the children speak and listen to each other in the dialogue.
Our TALK Promises and TALK Prompts
As a school community, we have decided upon five essential TALK Promises. These are pledges or agreements that we all follow in order to ensure high-quality discussion that is fair and inclusive. TALK Prompts are there to help everyone improve their oracy, thinking and questioning skills.
Our Talk Promises help to develop effective pupil talk within the classroom. The Talk Promises were developed by staff and pupils across the partnership. They are:
All our children from Nursery to Year 6 use our Talk Promises.
“Have you done your homework?” can be a thorny question. However, learning at home really matters, especially when it comes to talk. That’s why we have introduced “Sticky Questions”.
Every Tuesday, children at Lewis Street will come home with a Sticky Question stuck to their jumper. There’s no writing. Just take the time to talk with them about it and see what you each think and why. (Talking Tuesdays)
What makes Sticky Questions “sticky” is that you can keep on debating. For example:
If you were bigger than your parents, who would be in charge?
Is it ever unfair to treat people the same?
If you could look inside your brain, could you see the thought, “I’m looking inside my brain?”
It’s not like a maths worksheet where the teacher wants to see a particular answer. What matters is that you and your child get to talk and think together. If you disagree, so much the better! In fact, if you think alike, you might play at disagreeing for the sake of a debate.
On Friday, the class will carry on the talk, bringing in ideas heard from home (Feedback Fridays). Other relatives can be part of the conversation too, and it could be a nice way to involve them if they live a distance away.
We have developed our Talk Project and P4C with local trainer Topsy Page. www.topsypage.com