Supporting and evaluating speaking and listening  … for global learning in primary schools

Global learning calls for quality speaking and listening, and offers a huge range of contacts for quality talk. It engages with real-life issues and debates which touch on children’s lives: some of these are controversial; many will be things which children have passionate views about.

If language, in all of its guises, is the main tool we have for making meaning of the world, then speaking and listening is crucial for imagining and enabling change, and for working with others as learners.

This article offers ideas to support in-school CPD on supporting and evaluating speaking and listening in primary schools, including:

  • Creating an environment for talk;
  • The value of talk;
  • Valuing diversity in language;
  • Activities for speaking and listening about issues;
  • Assessing speaking and listening.

Creating an environment for talk

Children are most likely to respond thoughtfully and carefully if issues are raised in a classroom where they feel free to share their ideas and confident that their contributions are valued.

It takes time and careful planning to develop this kind of atmosphere. Games, group activities and stories which support children’s self-esteem and encourage co-operation can help. It also involves creating an environment for collaborative learning, and where children are actively involved in decision making.

Through collaborative group work, children talk together and learn:

  • to listen to other perspectives and points of view;
  • to appreciate others’ contributions;
  • to accept and respect others;
  • to talk about their own thoughts, feelings and ideas;
  • to value their own points of view;
  • to express their own opinions.

As part of a staff meeting or CPD session, teachers could work in small groups to share their current strategies for enabling talk in groups. What is working well? What could be improved?

There are further prompts for developing groupwork in the article Supporting groupwork … for personalised and global learning in primary schools.

The value of talk – what are your priorities?

This activity uses the PDF The value of talk

Speaking and listening activities can be used for many different purposes, such as exploring ideas and experiences, weighing up different points of view or exploring issues.

We suggest using the list we offer as follows:

  • Each teacher is given three small coloured stickers.
  • They identify which of the ideas are the highest priority for their class at present.
  • They then ‘vote’ individually with their stickers – they can use all three if there is one single high priority, or divide them between two or three statements.
  • The whole group then reviews the list: are clear priorities emerging from the team? Are their other patterns emerging [eg priorities for particular classes, year groups or phases]?
  • They then discuss the lower-priority statements. How do they fit in with the priorities which have been identified? Are there statements people would like to amend, or others they would add?

The PDF Talking for a purpose invites teachers to develop these ideas further, by identifying different ways in which children use talk, and using them as a starting points to plan related speaking and listening activities which support an exploration of issues.

Valuing diversity in language

This activity uses the PDF Valuing diversity in language. The diverse range of languages in our communities offers us both opportunities and challenges.

  • How are we organising groups: when will bilingual children get the most from working in home language or mixed groups?
  • Are there opportunities we can create, where communicating to an audience validates expertise in home languages?
  • How can we encourage all children, including those in mostly-white schools, to value linguistic diversity?
  • We offer prompts on the downloadable stimulus sheet. We suggest that teachers look at the following questions in pairs, and then feed back to the whole group.
  • How can we incorporate opportunities such as these into our planning?
  • How might such activities contribute to children’s global learning?

Activities - speaking and listening about issues

Speaking and listening to explore global connections and Talking about photographs offer a wide range of teaching activities to support speaking and listening about issues.

As part of your CPD session you could:

  •  Split up the activities among the group you are working with, so that each small group has two or three.
  •  Ask them to try out two of the activities [at their own level], and feed back to the whole group about:

      - what they did;

      - some of the thinking processes involved in each activity;

      - how they would use the activities to stimulate thinking about issues.

Assessing speaking and listening

This activity uses the PDF Assessing speaking and listening.

One of the advantages of children having space to think, talk and work together, is that this frees us up as teachers to observe and assess them.

The stimulus sheet offers ideas for collecting evidence from speaking and listening work.

  • We suggest that teachers work in pairs, with one statement from the sheet for each pair.
  • Each pair should consider the advantages and difficulties of using that strategy as part of their own teaching.
  • Pairs feed back to the rest of the group with one advantage and one potential difficulty.
  • The group discusses: which strategies seem most helpful? How might difficulties be overcome?

The downloadable sheet Children evaluating their groupwork offers prompts for children to think about how well they have worked together as a group.

Material for this article has been drawn from the Tide~ publications, Fat felts & sugar paper ~ activities for speaking and listening about issues and Start with a story – supporting young children’s exploration of issues.