The following article comes from Daniel Bull, Head of History at a secondary school in the United Kingdom.
In today’s fast-paced world, where communication skills are paramount, oracy holds a crucial place in the curriculum. As a history teacher, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of enhancing students’ oral communication abilities on their progress and outcomes. In this article, we will explore the significance of oracy in the classroom and delve into how it can profoundly improve the learning experience for your students.

Oracy as a Vital Skill:

Oracy encompasses the ability to express oneself clearly, fluently, and confidently through speech. In an ever-evolving society, the capacity to communicate effectively is essential for academic success and future career prospects. Encouraging oracy in the curriculum empowers students to articulate knowledge and critical insights with clarity, thereby fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Fostering Critical Thinking:

Research conducted in the past decade highlights the strong correlation between oracy and critical thinking skills. When students engage in verbal discussions and debates in the classroom, they actively analyse, evaluate, and synthesise information. Such verbal exchanges encourage a higher level of thinking and lead to enriched learning experiences, propelling students towards better academic outcomes.

Strengthening Historical Narratives:

History is not merely a collection of facts; it is a narrative that evolves through different perspectives. By integrating oracy into the curriculum, students can engage in lively discussions, role-playing, and storytelling, breathing life into historical events. This approach cultivates empathy, understanding, and the ability to construct coherent narratives, enhancing students’ historical literacy. Even if you’re not a history teacher, being able to add wider contextual knowledge will aid in pupil progress regardless of your subject.

Nurturing Collaborative Learning:

Oracy promotes collaborative learning, where students work together to share ideas and construct knowledge collectively. Research suggests that this type of cooperative learning environment fosters creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Classrooms that encourage oracy become dynamic spaces for open dialogue, creating a positive impact on students’ self-esteem and motivation to excel.

Developing Effective Presentation Skills:

As teachers, we understand the significance of effective presentations in our student’s academic and professional lives. By integrating oracy in the curriculum, students gain valuable experience in public speaking, honing their abilities to deliver compelling and well-structured presentations. These skills will serve them not only in their classrooms, but also in various aspects of their future endeavors.

Bridging the Gap in Achievement:

Research studies indicate that oracy has a positive influence on closing the achievement gap among students. When students from diverse backgrounds are given opportunities to engage in meaningful oral communication, their confidence, language skills, and overall academic performance improve. This inclusivity strengthens the learning community and ensures that every student has a chance to succeed.
You may be thinking ‘well I understand the theory, but how on earth do I embed oracy into my lessons’. So, here are 5 quick and easy techniques to use in your classroom:

1) Socratic Seminars:

Organise Socratic seminars, sometimes referred to as Philosophy 4 Children (P4C), where students engage in guided discussions about events, debates, or ethical dilemmas. Encourage students to take turns as facilitators, enabling them to ask thought-provoking questions and moderate the discussion. This approach fosters critical thinking, active listening, and respectful communication. Some examples I have seen or used in the classroom are:
– “Was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima justified?”
– “What is the meaning of life?”
– “Is Shakespeare still relevant?”
– “Is there more past or present?”

2) Collaborative Group Projects:

Assign collaborative group projects that require students to work together to research and present topics. Incorporate elements like role-play, debates, or multimedia presentations to encourage students to communicate their findings effectively. This approach nurtures teamwork and problem-solving skills whilst promoting oracy.

3) Storytelling:

Create opportunities for students to engage in storytelling. Whether through creative writing, dramatisation, or narrating historical accounts, storytelling helps students connect emotionally with historical events, strengthening their ability to express ideas with clarity and passion.

4) Public Speaking Opportunities:

Integrate public speaking opportunities into the curriculum by having students present their research, analyses, or reflections in front of the class. Provide constructive feedback and encourage peer evaluations to build students’ confidence in their oral communication skills. A nice easy way of building in peer evaluation would be the use of What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI).

5) Classroom Debates:

Organise structured debates on controversial historical topics, encouraging students to research and defend their positions. Assign students to represent different historical figures, perspectives, or ideologies, promoting empathy and a deeper understanding of complex issues.

By incorporating these five strategies into lessons, teachers can effectively increase oracy skills among their students, enabling them to become proficient communicators, critical thinkers, and engaged learners in the subject matter. Oracy is a potent tool that teachers can harness to revolutionise the learning experience for their students. By encouraging open dialogue, critical thinking, and collaborative learning, educators can instil a deeper appreciation for their subject and empower students to become effective communicators in a rapidly changing world. As we embrace oracy in the curriculum, we pave the way for students to forge meaningful connections with the past, transforming them into well-rounded individuals with a bright and promising future.


Daniel Bull BA, PGCE, MA, MCCT, MSET.
Daniel Bull BA PGCE MA MCCT is a Head of History at a secondary school in the United Kingdom.
Originally from Southampton, Daniel graduated with a degree in History from the University of Southampton, he went on to study a PGCE at the University of Chichester, before studying MA Education at the University of Portsmouth.
Daniel is passionate about improving the life chances of young people and supporting teachers to develop their research-informed classroom practice.