Briony says:
Having good oral skills is something that will benefit you in life. Developing these skill not only begins in the home but in the classroom, this is one of the reasons it is important for teachers to keep in mind those students who already have good oral speaking skill and those who don't and to encourage the more timid student to speak up. However, in order to do this you need to ensure that he student knows that they are in a safe space and t hey will not get ridiculed if they get the wrong answer. It is for this reason that i personally would not encourage a timid person to call out a closed answer, rather i would have them either voice their opinion on a specific issue or i would encourage them to verbally answer an open question in which they are able to justify their answer.
Discussion in a classroom is a great way for students to learn, they not only tend to have more fun, they remember certain things better but it allows them to express themselves verbally (which is great for students who may be dyslexic) and improve on their oral skills. Doing these sorts of informal oral [[#|activities]] gives students confidence, but they also need to be able to develop and apply these skills under some pressure. It is for this reason that debates are great because there is some pressure of the students but not too much, and this kind of activity involves collaborate work in which all of the students will need to pull their own weight so to speak.
I have put up a youtube clip of some student partaking in a debate about catholic schools vs public schools. when watching this video i encourage you to really look at the students and see if you are able to pick the students whose [[#|public speaking skills]] need some more developing and if there are any students who are quite confident in speaking in front of their peers.

Sky says:

Here is my [[#|audio recording]] of the first paragraph from In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I actually had a song playing in the background but I had so ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍much trouble with saving etc. so I just ended up with this lame piece.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍

Reading aloud and public speaking from study texts, film/drama scripts, prose fiction and poetry

Jean says:
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook (1986) by Jim Trelease is an iconic text for teachers and parents for developing listening skills and effective reading strategies. This link leads to an extract of hints that may be worth a look: and there are many other links online that focus on the importance of reading aloud as an oral language skill and as a tool to develop [[#|comprehension]] in young readers.
  • TEDTalks [[#|offers]] some inspiring public speakers and this batch of young people encompass poetry performance and short stories. These short talks are useful to explore what makes an effective public performance of the personal voice. The themes they cover are also useful themes (such as mothers, bullying, being nervous) for young people to think about, speak about and write about in their own way and the expressive and structured way in which they use facial expression, gesture, pauses, emphasis and cadence of voice provides fabulous modelling of [[#|communication skills]]:

Michael says:

Ideas for developing oral language skills
There are a number of ways to develop oral language skills that can be the perfect way to encourage those who are not confident in speaking in front of people.
  • Famous Speeches oral presentation
    • Each class member chooses a famous speech from the list that can be found at For context, most of these speeches, or portions of, could be found on Youtube. This allows students to gain insight into the sense of emotion that is put into the words on the page, and allows them to practice speaking aloud. This exercise also allows them to investigate why the speech was important, and what the impact of that speech was in the time that it was delivered. For an added extra, you could encourage the students to come in character – you may have a classroom full of budding politicians, humanitarians, and authors.
  • 1 Minute Burst exercise
    • One student at a time, they are given a topic and must talk about that topic for one minute without using ‘um’, ‘ah’, ‘hmm’. The rest of the class will be listening for any of these utterances. Keep the topics as vague as possible – ‘cars’, ‘horses’, ‘shopping’, ‘sport’, ‘make up’, etc.
    • The exercise is designed to encourage all students to participate – and to work hard to eliminate the ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, and ‘hmm’ from their speech. Nearly all students will not succeed – and as it is only an exercise, there is no great bearing on the student should they not succeed. It is just an exercise for practice purposes
  • Debates
    • Debates are a great way to encourage students to develop their oral language skills, and particularly their persuasive and emotive language. As a teacher, you have the ability to fashion these debates in whatever way you think will work – and linking topics to discuss with what is currently an important issue to students will encourage them more to participate.
    • You could choose two students to open up the debate both for the ‘For’, and ‘Against’ sides, before opening up the debate to all students. It is important to include all students, and so a number of debates where different students produce opening statements may be useful.
    • Debate topics could refer to current affairs issues (such as cyber-bullying, marriage equality, or genetic engineering for example). The list of issues that could be debated are endless.
    • Sample debate topics, argument structuring worksheets, and speech structure worksheets can all be found on the Debating SA website -
    • Debating SA is the organisation through which many schools across South Australia engage in debating competitions.
    • Jean adds to this topic a unit of work developed around studies in the history of technology, called the Great TechWorld debate. The way this unit is structured and assessed may be of interest as it is an integrated study applicable also to HASS and PLP.

  • Radio Programs
    • Students could complete a book review by conducting a radio interview that could be recorded using computer programs such as Audacity.
    • Students are then responsible for the script writing, and also for the recording of their piece.
    • The audio file is what is then handed up as the final product.
    • This type of assessment can be good for those students who need a few opportunities to pronounce their words correctly, and who might feel threatened by speaking in front of the class.
  • Situational conversation exercise
    • To help students understand the differences in communicating depending on the situation, you could put students into groups of four, and then give them different circumstances (e.g. meeting the Queen, sitting in the Principal’s office after damaging school property, a football coach talking to his players, friend conversations, a job interview)
    • All of these situations require different levels of formality in speech and body language. It is important for students to understand the differences in context, and the appropriate changes they must make in those circumstances.
    • It can also be a good opportunity to explore with the students why these changes happen – what purpose do these levels of formality have? Why are they important, if they are even important in the first place?

These are just a few ideas – but they can all be used either as practice for students, a filler exercise in classes, or they can be used as assessment items for all students. Ultimately, spoken word will become of greater importance as students progress, and they need to be able to converse understanding different social cues and expectations. Hopefully these types of exercises can create an atmosphere in your class where it is okay to express yourself with spoken word, and it is okay to practice and practice - none of us are perfect at it anyway!

Kristen Barnett says:
This is an oral presentation assignment that I will be working on with my year 8 students on prac. Lucky me I didnt have to plan this one - my mentor teacher just gave it to me! I am looking forward to doing this one because I think because they are able to talk about themselves and their own experiences they are more likely to be confident with the content of the oral presentation. I think it is a good way to introduce year 8 students into highschool and other students in the class will learn more about their peers

Adam Broughton says:
Getting students to be confident in presenting material is one of the biggest challenges I have seen so far. Something I have stumbled upon is TED talks, TED talks are quite possibly the most amazing presentations have ever seen. Its uses in teaching English skills are unparalleled for kids in today’s society. The presenters are usually highly skilled individuals with strong oral presentation skills that speak on a wide variety of issues/subjects. The following are just a few examples of subjects TED talks look at:

All presentations are modern and solve what I feel is the biggest problem question we face from students; How does this relate to me?

Daniel Abbott discusses:

Using Court Room Drama to Develop Public Speaking and Argumentation Skills

Those who have done Drama with me should be aware of my passion for court room scenes. I find that court room drama is a great way to draw several different emotions out of performers. As I am studying to become a secondary school Drama and English teacher, it is only natural that I would look at the links between the two disciplines, and consider aspects that I can include in both.

Oral presentations are a component of English that many students fear, but why is this? There are many students who will talk amongst themselves about their weekend during class, but ask these students to present an oral presentation on the class text, and they freeze up. This can be very common with students who are nervous about public speaking.

Some students are better writers than speakers, while other students are better speakers than writers. In teaching English, we aim to develop students’ skills in both written and oral language. If students develop their oral language skills through regular public speaking exercises, they will be more prepared and comfortable when they present oral presentations. As we have learned in the topic ‘Literacies Across the Curriculum in the Middle and Secondary Years’, it is beneficial to implement an authentic curriculum; that is, a curriculum that relates school experiences to the real world, giving students a sense of purpose in their learning. Court room drama allows students to practise their public speaking and argumentation skills in a simulated ‘real world’ environment.

The language used in court is much different from everyday discourse, so when introducing court room drama to the English classroom, I would first provide my students with some essential terms, or ‘legal lingo’. I found it difficult to find a single source for the definitions I wanted to use, so some of these definitions are from the online Oxford English Dictionary (, while others are my own understandings of the terms.

‘Legal Lingo’

Acquittal - A judgement or verdict that a person is not guilty of the crime with which they have been charged. (OED)

Adjournment - Court is adjourned when the trial is suspended until a later time.

Affidavit - A written statement, formally confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court. (OED)

Bailiff - One charged with public administrative authority in a certain district. (OED)

Charge - The accusation upon which a prisoner is brought up for trial. (OED)

Cross Examination - To subject (a witness who has already given evidence on behalf of one side in a legal action) to an examination by the other side, with the purpose of shaking his testimony or eliciting from him evidence which favours the other side. (OED)

Defence Attorney - The lawyer appointed to represent the defendant.

Defendant - A person sued or accused of a crime in a court of law. (OED)

Deliberation - The process in which the members of the jury discuss the evidence presented in court and collectively decide whether the defendant is ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ (the verdict).

Direct Examination - The process of a prosecutor or defence lawyer questioning their own witness.

Exhibit - Any document (or, more recently, any material object) produced in court and referred to and identified in written evidence. (OED)

Judge - A public officer appointed to administer the law; one who has authority to hear and try causes in a court of justice . (OED)

Jury - A group of people chosen to decide whether the defendant is ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ based on the evidence presented to them in court.

Objection- A written or oral statement of (reasons for) legal opposition to an argument or piece of evidence. An objection can be sustained or overruled by the judge. (OED)

Plaintiff - The party that brings a suit in a court of law; a complainant, a prosecutor. (OED)

Prosecutor - A person, especially a public official, who institutes legal proceedings against someone; a barrister or other lawyer who conducts the case against a defendant in a criminal court. (OED)

Trial - The examination and determination of a cause by a judicial tribunal; determination of the guilt or innocence of an accused person by a court. (OED)

Verdict - The decision of a jury in a civil or criminal cause upon an issue which has been submitted to their judgement. (OED)

Witness - One who gives evidence in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; one who gives or is legally qualified to give evidence upon oath or affirmation in a court of justice or judicial inquiry. (OED)

Setting up the court room

The teacher can either set up a fictional scenario in which one or more people are on trial for a crime, or set up a mock trial based on the text that is being studied in class. The length of the mock trial will depend on how much time is set aside for the exercise. This is how I would set up a mock trial in a double lesson of approximately 100 minutes. I imagine doing this exercise with a Year 10 English class, with the objective being to develop students’ public speaking and argumentation skills.

1. Introduce students to the criminal justice system and explain legal terms. [15 minutes]

2. Assign the following roles to students: defendant, defence attorney, prosecutor (plus an assistant), bailiff, jury members, court clerk, reporter. It may be useful to refer to the following document when explaining the roles to the students.
I would probably have the teacher play the role of the judge because much like it is the teacher’s role to maintain order in the classroom, it is the judge’s role to maintain order in the court. [5 minutes]

3. If possible, set up the tables and chairs in the classroom to somewhat resemble a courtroom. [5 minutes]

4. Give the prosecution and defence teams time to plan their arguments. If the mock trial is based on a class text, the students should be looking for textual evidence that supports their argument. They can also call on other students to be witnesses. While this is happening, the teacher would work with the jury to discuss their role in considering the evidence and testimonies they will soon observe. [15-20 minutes]

5. Have the prosecution and defence each present their case to the jury, calling in their witnesses. While the students will have prepared notes, there will be lots of improvisation involved. [20 minutes]

6. Jury questions – Each member of the jury will have the opportunity to ask questions to the prosecution and defence. [10 minutes]

7. Closing arguments – The prosecution and the defence will each make their closing argument to the jury. [10 minutes]

8. Jury deliberation and verdict – This will obviously be a short deliberation compared to real trials, and it does not matter if they do not all agree. Ask each member of the jury to explain his/her verdict. [10-15 minutes]

Learning outcomes

Playing court room drama scenes in English is an effective practical activity that can lead to some clear learning outcomes, which I have outlined below.

Students will:

  • develop an understanding of how the criminal justice system works.
  • develop oral language skills through improvised performance.
  • develop argumentation skills by using persuasive language and drawing on evidence to support their arguments.
  • work collaboratively to develop and present an argument to their peers.
  • engage in critical and rational thinking to draw conclusions based on the evidence presented.

Approaches to court room drama

There are several approaches to using court room drama or mock trials in the English classroom. I would use it for one double lesson of English to give students an opportunity to develop their oral language skills. However, if you are interested in a more detailed approach to this exercise, the following link provides an eight lesson unit dedicated to a mock trial of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It is an American unit plan so it includes learning about the U.S. judicial system, but you can use it as a guide to creating your own mock trials.

This link provides an outline of a mock trial of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Hamlet is on trial for the murder of Polonius.

The following document contains an approach to teaching William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Part II outlines a mock trial exercise in which the class is divided into three groups: Team Jack, who consider time on the island from Jack’s point of view; Team Ralph, who look at the time on the island from Ralph’s view; and Judges, who ask each team questions and make a judgment based on the responses.

I hope you find these links useful. J



Charlotte Lehmann Says:

The use of oral language is important in the classroom and across subjects. It is also important for student growth throughout school from reception to year twelve. As a teacher it is important to help students expand on these skills and help them build confidence in public speaking because once they leave school these skills will become vital for them in everyday life like when they go for job interviews, in their work place or even in university. Oral language doesn’t need to be something that is graded but it can be used daily in the classroom whether it is in group discussion or just asking and answering questions. Also these concepts are very important in helping ESL students to develop their literacy skills. Generally these students will not have as strong literacy skills as other students in the class and it is important that teachers are aware of this. By getting ESL students to read sentences out loud, read their own work out loud or by talking it through with a teacher, it will help develop their grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and their ability to use different terms and concepts. I have found a document from The Internet TESL Journal for Teachers of English as a Second Language called ‘Teaching Speaking: Activities to Promote Speaking in a Second Language’ regarding some activities using oral language that can be implemented in the classroom. Kayi, Hayriye (November 2006) ‘Teaching Speaking: Activities to Promote Speaking in a Second Language’, Internet TESL Journal for Teachers of English as a Second Language, Vol. XII, No. 11,

Takeda M says:
Oral language is extremely important in the classroom as a social function. It’s an important part of communicating with people, building relationships and sharing how we feel. In the school setting oral language plays a major role in the development of literacy skills (Scarborough, 1998). The oral language pie is a useful resource for developing oral language in the classroom:
oral language pie.jpg

Diagram 1: The inner areas show four parts of oral language and the outer ring has instructional strategies that teachers can use to develop the inner areas (Scarborough, 2003) .

Listening and responding
To properly understand what someone is saying students need to be able to listen, but to also comprehend what is being said. In a typical conversation we need to be able to engage, listen, comprehend and then respond. The need to listen at school is very important, students need to be able to listen and respond to their teacher all the time. Important areas of the listening process include:
  • Recall – or repeating what a student says e.g “what did you say?” or repeating what their peers say “what did they say?”
  • Following instructions
  • Understanding questions – the ability to listen to a question and respond using their knowledge (McCandlish, 2012)

Growing words in talk: Vocabulary & Concepts
Words are the starting points of oral language and using words is needed for conversation. For students to be able to build their vocabulary they need to hear, be attentive, and be exposed to words all the time. Vocabulary is learnt through conversation, listening to their parents and hearing things on the news or through the media. Vocabulary plays a major role in the development of children in literacy areas. There is also a clear relationship between vocabularies and the ability to read, and so having access to wide range of words allows students to better learn.

Talking about my world: recounts, retells, and other genres
Giving students the chance to talk about their lives and what is happening around them is an important way to connect with others. When students have the ability to share what they did on the weekend or share what happened at the football they are essentially telling a story. Research has found that students who practice retelling stories are more prepared for many of the literacy tasks they are required to do at school (Dickinson & Tabors, 2011). This clearly proves that teachers need to include tasks where students can retell stories and write recounts.

Building talk for thinking
For students to be successful in today’s society they need to be able to comprehend, apply knowledge, analyse, evaluate and create as described in Blooms taxonomy (Anderson, 2001). A highly important part of oral language is questions, they give students the ability to better understand certain topics. Questions can also be used to test students’ knowledge, and a way to help students is to instead of ignoring them once the question is wrong but to keep asking until they get the right answer (McCandlish,2012).
Some ways to engage students with oral language could be:
  • Inviting a story teller to visit the school
  • Engaging the students more by getting the story teller to dress up or have a story themed day
  • Have a news time, recount of the weekend, puppet show or drama performance
  • Use picture books or big books
  • Create a rap using rhyming words
  • Have a prop box in the classroom and pick three props for groups to make up a short act
  • Getting students to be speakers at assemblies
  • Use stories from a different culture (understanding a different language)

Children should be able to be able to:
  • Have receptiveness to oral language
  • Develop competence and confidence in using oral language
  • Develop cognitive abilities through language
  • Develop emotional and imaginative life through oral language

References (useful resources)
  1. Anderson, L. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon (Pearson Education Group)
  2. McCandlish, S. (2012). Taking a “slice” of the oral language Pie: An approach for developing oral language in schools. DECD SIla project. pp. 1-5.
  3. Primary Curriculum Support Program. (n/a). Oral language and story. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from __<__>
  4. Scarborough, H. (2003). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (Dis)abilities: evidence, theory and practice. In Neuman, S & Dickinson, D (eds.), handbook of early childhood literacy research, Vol 1, New York: The Guilford Press.

Travis H says:

Here is a brilliant guide to help students with developing persuasive oral presentations. It could easily be summarised for a lesson but as a whole the guide offers a plentitude of do's, dont's and suggestions that will get your students presenting riveting oral presentations in the way you always knew they could.

Also, here is a guide to persuasive techniques that students could either identify in an argument, use in their own arguments or both. As a resource this could provide a lot of fun, especially if you were to have students attempt to use as many techniques as they could effectively in a speech.

Renee Moon says:

Julie Coiro, a special-education teacher and contributing editor for Suite, ties reading aloud to a curriculum theme. To give her students a broad perspective, she collects nonfiction and fiction related to particular themes.
"I like to pull in books at many different reading levels," Coiro told Education World. "This way readers will appreciate the occasional book that's too easy, but informative, and the book that's way too difficult to read but has great pictures."
Other ways teachers use reading aloud to enrich the curriculum include the following:
Read aloud for comprehension.
Repeated reading not only helps children learn to read but also has an impact on school success. Lifelong enjoyment of reading is directly related to daily reading. Children see the pictures and print up close, ask questions, and make comments.
"I read aloud to share wonderful stories, poems, and factual texts with children," wrote Sharon Taberski in an Instructor magazine article, "Motivating Readers" (May/June 1998). "Sometimes I select chapter books that are slightly above the children's independent reading level or picture books that lend themselves to stop-and-start discussions."
Daily read-alouds help children "internalize language and structures they'll apply to their own reading one day. My daily read-alouds also demonstrate how to understand what's being read."
Taberski suggests three comprehension strategies for class read-alouds.
  • Strategy 1: Think about the story. "When I read the story, I stop at various points. My students and I then discuss what's happening and what we think will happen next."
  • Strategy 2: Map the characters. "As we read the story, we continually refer back to what we already know about the characters and add new information. The children make predictions based on this information."
  • Strategy 3: Map the story. The story map includes information about the characters, setting, problem, main events, and resolution. The students review the story map before reading a new chapter.
"Because I introduce these strategies during read-aloud, the children support one another and become confident enough to try strategies on their own," Taberski added.
Read to highlight math concepts.
"When I plan for reading aloud during math time, I choose books that invite my students to think and talk mathematically, that pose a problem, or that highlight a particular math concept or strategy," said Donna Maxim. She works at the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine. (See "Math Reading Aloud," The NERA Journal, Volume 34, Number 1, 1998.)
"Children's literature plays an important role in confirming the notion that math is more than computation on paper and provides opportunities for learners to develop the language of math," Maxim explained.
To help students predict the outcome of a book, Maxim asks what the title might mean? What problems might be posed? "I teach math concepts and strategies during math class and use literature as a resource when teaching math concepts," she said.
Two examples of books she uses to teach children to think and talk mathematically are:
  • Counting on Frank by Rod Clements (Garth Stevens Publishing, 1991). The main characters are Frank, a dog, and his master. The young boy and dog make wild calculations and share bizarre information about many things. The book gives students opportunities to solve problems as a group.
  • How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz (Scholastic, 1985). The author explains large numbers to children by comparing the numbers to concepts familiar to children. "If you wanted to count to a million, it would take you about 23 days."
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