Why it could be even better to talk

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
Primary pupils may be giving presentations and attending mock interviews to improve their speaking and listening. Sarah Cassidy reports

PRIMARY pupils should spend more time on drama and debate, according to new guidance from government advisers.

Officials want children to spend eight hours a term studying how to become confident speakers and listeners, and hope this will boost pupils' skills in the same way as the National Literacy Strategy has improved reading and writing.

The report comes after concerns that the literacy strategy had marginalised speaking and listening in the primary curriculum.

Children should be taught what makes a successful speaker in a wide range of situations including interviews, giving presentations and group discussions, according to the advice from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Sue Horner, the QCA's principal English officer, said: "Teachers told us they would like something to help them to teach speaking and listening. This new framework will complement the literacy framework for speaking and listening. The overwhelming message from teachers was that they were not confident teaching these techniques. An awful lot of kids are being left to pick them up by trial and error."

Meanwhile, teachers will be advised how to assess pupils after concerns that shy children were being marked down.

The QCA advice, Teaching speaking and listening in key stages 1 and 2, said: "The assessment of speaking and listening poses particular difficulties. It is not always easy to separate children's skills and achievement from the social dimensions of groups and preferred behaviour in the classroom.

"Recognising the oral achievements of the child who only speaks confidently to the teacher on a one-to-one basis, or the child who is verbose in all situations, can be difficult. Unlike writing, talk does not leave permanent evidence, unless it is tape-recorded, so it is difficult to confirm assessments or to agree standards with colleagues."

Officials hope speaking and listening techniques can be taught across the curriculum without increasing teachers' workload.

Dr Horner said: "Speaking and listening skills can be taught in any subject. Teachers need to recognise where talk is already happening in the classroom and how they can use this time to teach children explicit techniques."

The report sets out teaching tasks for five to 11-year-olds. It also includes sample activities showing how subjects such as geography, science and ICT can be used to teach speaking and listening skills.

The report is available from the QCA's orderline on 01787 884444, pound;6

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