Learning through talk


Girls readingDeveloping good listening skills and encouraging purposeful talk are vital to learning.

Children learn to interact with others and build relationships through talking to each other. Talking also plays an important role in helping us to clarify thoughts.

Teachers recognise this and include opportunities for talk in their lessons, ranging from paired talk to whole-class debates or dramatic productions. The aim is that children become confident speakers and active listeners.

Different aspects of speaking and listening are incorporated into all areas of the school curriculum, so children have opportunities to:

  • Talk with others — this may be in a science session when the group is involved in an investigation
  • Talk to others — this may include making short presentations, perhaps sharing thoughts about a book
  • Talk within role play — this will range from young children co-operating in the 'role play' area to older children taking part in a drama activity
  • Talk about talk — helping children develop an awareness of different types of talk (eg speaking more formally to a teacher than to a friend)

General talk activities

These may include some of the following:

  • Children working in pairs/talk partners — asking children to turn to a partner and share their thoughts before answering a question. This gives time to think and rehearse an answer.
  • Working in a group and using technology — for example to create a radio advert using a digital recorder.
  • Using role play and drama for 'hot-seating' — a child is 'in role' as a character from a story or history and the rest of the class ask her/him questions. This develops an understanding of the story and the character.

Talk for writing

During literacy sessions, recent initiatives have included a focus on talk for writing. This has meant setting up a range of activities that encourage purposeful talk before writing.

This includes:

1. Storytelling and story-making

Children learn stories orally and retell them. Gradually, they learn to change and adapt the original story and write their own version. This helps them to build up a repertoire of familiar stories which they can use as a basis for their own writing.

2. Word and language games

Teachers often start literacy sessions with short games that help to develop vocabulary and imagination. An example would be 'The teacher's cat' when the children are invited to change the description of the cat (the adjective).

First child — The teacher's cat is a magnificent cat...
Next child — The teacher's cat is a careful cat...

3. Book talk and writer talk

Young children are asked to talk about how they feel about a book.

Older children are encouraged to 'read like a writer', to discuss how a writer creates an effect on a reader and to talk about how they feel about a book. Following this discussion the children may use some of the writer's techniques in their own work.

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Last updated: about 3 years ago