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Classroom suggestions


Working with primary school teachers in Hull, I am often asked whether I have any ideas for improving children's oral skills.  Teachers identify a variety of reasons why their pupils' speaking skills are not as well developed as they might be.

  • The home circumstances of some of our pupils do not encourage lucid communication.

  • Some pupils have speech impediments that have not been previously identified.

  • The local accent makes it particularly difficult to differentiate and accurately articulate the vowel sounds.  (No doubt, similar difficulties are encountered throughout the UK.)

  • Some pupils lack confidence when faced with speaking in front of an audience - even of their peers.

  • Some pupils are simply "afraid of the sound of their own voices."

  • The paucity of their life experience means that some pupils have "nothing to say".

Having previously designed a range of classroom activities designed to develop creative thinking - see BrainBites - I was challenged to address the issue.  It occurred to me that a similar type of classroom activity with a particular focus on developing oracy skills might not go amiss.


I have been particularly impressed with the work of Jennie Beasty, a colleague whose creative blend of music-making, singing, tongue-twisters and literacy activities (underpinned by an understanding of multiple intelligences theory) has been warmly welcomed by local primary schools.  Consequently, I set about investigating whether classroom chanting could be a vehicle for addressing some of the difficulties identified by teachers.  The rhyme and chants contained in Voice-box are the result.


Suggestions for using the rhymes and chants.


Although pupils may be interested to comment on the structure and metre of the rhymes, the chants are not primarily intended to be analysed as poetry.  They are intended to be recited aloud and enjoyed for their simplicity.



Although the rhymes can be copied for distribution, it is easier - and more beneficial - to display the relevant web-page on the interactive whiteboard.  This allows for easy annotation using the coloured "pens" and marker tools.



To encourage everyone in the class to take part, certain sections (or verses) of some rhymes can be allocated to be spoken by the boys / girls in the class.  Alternatively, different verses could be allocated to different sub-groups.



Another idea for ensuring participation by all is for the teacher to ask for a small group of 2 or 3 pupils to take responsibility for chanting the "chorus" or final line of certain of the rhymes.  In this way, less-confident pupils can be encouraged to play a part.



Some of the rhymes lend themselves to being used as an accompaniment to various of the "BrainBites" activities - particularly the "crossover"-type and other physical activities.


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The teacher could "block out" certain words of some rhymes (using the IWB's black marker tool) - thus encouraging the class to guess, memorise or suggest alternatives to the missing word(s).