Primary Primary Literacy

Primary Literacy – Fresh Ideas for Speaking and Listening

In the past I considered this to be all about drama but since the introduction of thinking skills and philosophy into the curriculum, I’ve realised that there are a lot more ways it can be practised and developed.

Activity 1: The Voice of the School   

Schools are all about children but we often try to keep them at arm’s length from visitors.

In our school, we recognise that children can naturally be shy around adults they don’t know but try to help them feel more at ease in these situations by allowing them to be the face or voice of the school. This can range from showing parents and visitors around the school, answering the telephone, visiting the elderly in the community and helping out at school events. Don’t worry, we don’t just throw them into the situation, the head teacher organises role plays for them to think about and practise what they may say and what they might hear from the adults. Whilst it seems a little scary to some, they will need these skills soon in life so we help them to develop them.

We often underestimate the ability of children when placed in unfamiliar situations and we found that whilst initially reticent about taking on such roles, soon many were volunteering, gaining greater confidence along the way.

Activity 2: Who Am I?

OK, so this is more drama but I like to think of it as a combination of a bit of research, a bit of drama and practise for speaking.

Tell the children they are going to be famous people giving a speech. Aim for only thirty seconds – that will still seem like an eternity to them!

They need to research what that person may talk about and how they might do it.

You can let them choose but to begin with it’s often better to get them to select from a list you’ve chosen so you don’t get an obscure one. I chose the US President, an actress, a footballer, a pop star and person from history. They then had to research their person to find out what they spoke like and what they talked about and then practise 30 seconds of something similar.

When we came to performing this it was huge fun. Some had decided to dress up as their speaker so the ‘guess the celeb’ aspect was completely lost but they really tried their best and in the fun of the experience forgot that they were being assessed for speaking skills and were naturals.

This is very useful as a introduction to taking on a character role in drama. We follow this activity in drama by asking the children to investigate their character, build up an idea of their personality and use what they find out to make their performance more realistic. It’s a skill often not practised until secondary school but we had some success with it, especially amongst those who are keen on their acting.

Dave Lewis, Primary teacher

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