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Top tips for improving speaking and listening skills

There are many reasons why a learner might struggle with speaking and listening skills – whether it’s down to their vocabulary, a lack of ‘thinking time’, or if they’re missing social cues. We’ve collated our tips for supporting and improving oracy for learners with literacy difficulties, speech, language and communication needs or SEND. 

1. Break it down

There are four different strands to oracy – physical, linguistic, cognition and social & emotional. Try explaining to the learner how the different strands work together, with examples of when they might need to use each. 

2. What's the focus?

Clearly explain which strands of oracy the learner needs to be using for the task – for example; “we’re going t to focus on vocabulary and try to use as many new words as possible in our speech” or “I want to hear you project your voice and see you make eye contact with me while you talk”. 

3. Work with someone else

Pair the learner with a more confident speaker who can model conversation and highlight good speaking and listening skills, including body language and mannerisms. 

4. Explore synonyms

Help the learner to build a broader vocabulary and stop relying on over-used words. Try using our synonym activity to build their confidence. This is especially useful for learners with literacy difficulties who may be afraid to use complex vocabulary in the classroom.

5. Start small and build

Start of by pairing the learner with one other peer or teaching assistant for speaking and listening activities. Gradually increase the group size so that they slowly get used to speaking in front of larger audiences, as well as speaking for longer periods.

6. Thinking time

Allow plenty of thinking time so that the learner can process questions and formulate an appropriate response. You also encourage them to write down their initial ideas so that they can organise their response and refer back to their notes if they start to lose confidence while speaking.

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