The Importance of Speaking and Listening in the Primary Classroom - Reflecting on Experience

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"We need to be much more aware of the learning potential of talk; of the ways in which teaching might assist children's spoken language development; of the best ways of gathering information and eventually making informed assessments of children's talk; and through all this, how our behaviour as teachers in our planning of the curriculum, in our interactions with children and our discussions with other colleagues, can best contribute to the kind of classroom and school climate most conducive to oracy." [Howe, 1997.]

In the 1970's, projects led by linguists and educationalists such as Wilkinson [1965,] Vygotsky [1978,] and Bruner and Bruner [1986,] recognised the importance of oracy in the primary classroom. It was not until The National Oracy Project; [1987-1993,] that the National Curriculum finally advocated the need for speaking and listening to be ‘an essential part of the National Curriculum for English.' Corden [2000, p1.] It represented a third of English in the National curriculum alongside reading and writing. However, in 1998 the National Literacy Strategy Framework [NLSF,] was implemented as a statutory requirement in England and as optional material in Wales. The framework focused on reading and writing, therefore, speaking and listening got overlooked by many schools. It was in 2003 through the Speaking, Listening and Learning [QCA/DfES,] materials that speaking and listening regained its status. It is ‘widely used in schools, the materials actively promote talk at all stages of the writing process.' Grugeon et al [2005, p87.] Alexander notes that his perspective on dialogic teaching, with the key aim to benefit teachers and learners through ‘children's deeper engagement with learning contexts,' as cited by Grugeon [2005, p9,] is prominent in the QCA/DfES publication. And now with the introduction of the ‘Primary Framework for literacy and mathematics' DfEE, [09/2006,] speaking and listening has confirmed it's status highlighting talk...
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