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Speaking and Listening

Speaking and Listening at Rowsley CofE Primary School

Our children love to share their ideas. We help them to think about how they communicate with others, and how to express themselves effectively. Listening to others and developing ideas through the spoken word is a key part of effective learning. Children need to be able to articulate their thoughts using a wide range of vocabulary, in order to write well. Reading is a key part of this, as well as the knowledge they acquire across the curriculum. Parents play a hugely important role in the development of their child’s spoken word. Reading and conversation at home, as well as talking about experiences can really enhance a child’s vocabulary and confidence.

Speaking and Listening 

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (Timothy 4:2)

At Rowsley CofE Primary School, it is vital that our children have experience of and develop a rich command of spoken vocabulary and language so that they express their opinions and articulate their feelings in a wide range of situations. We intend to develop their listening skills so that they can soak up the many forms of language and literature around them and respond appropriately in conversations, discussions, in answering questions and following instructions. Good speaking and listening will help develop their group participation and social skills and develop their confidence to speak audibly and present their ideas in front of different audiences. 

An effective command of speaking and listening feeds directly into effective reading and writing and all forms of meaningful communication. 


How it is taught

  • Regular speaking and listening activities are embedding in the planning of our English curriculum including our whole class reading session
  • Challenging and appropriate vocabulary is at the forefront of all our teaching 
  • Teachers model formal language, high level vocabulary, good sentence grammar in all interchanges with children 
  • How to listen and active listening is taught and modelled throughout each lesson in each day but also using fun activities to develop good listening 
  • Discussion time is promoted in Collective Worship, particularly through our weekly ‘Picture News’ 
  • Discussion through foundation subjects i.e. art appreciation, singing in music
  • Explanation and discussion in mathematics
  • Regular Flashbacks in all subjects
  • Children are encouraged to work in groups and use collaborative speaking and listening skills 
  • Drama and performances (KS2 end of year performance and EYFS/KS1 Nativity)
  • Pupils are given an additional voice through school council and Collective Worship group
  • Retelling stories through Talk for Writing
  • Poetry reciting – linked to our reading challenges

How it is assessed: 

  • Teachers make formative judgements within lessons and give feedback to children during lesson time.

What makes a good listener?

Helping children to listen and not just hear what someone's saying is incredibly important. Having good listening skills means that children are more likely to become good communicators, tackle school easily and build deeper personal relationships.

While it may sound simple improving listening skills takes time and energy. At Rowsley CofE we believe that with practice, dedication and fun, our children can master the art of active listening and benefit from it for the rest of their lives. That is why we promote good listening from the moment the children start school.

 What are active listening skills?

Hearing what someone tells you is one thing, actually listening to it is another thing altogether! Active listening skills for children include paying attention to what others say, focusing on both the words and their meanings, and understanding the verbal text.

When actively listening, we devote our full attention to someone, not just their words. Facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice all contribute to fully understanding someone and what they’re saying. 

At Rowsley CofE we work hard to make sure that each child shows active listening skills through:

  • Looking at someone as they speak.
  • Giving the speaker time to finish their thoughts.
  • Not interrupting the speaker’s train of thought.
  • Not predicting what the speaker is about to say.
  • Paying attention to the speaker’s and other listener’s body language.
  • Responding with relevant questions.
  • Being able to repeat what was said.

Why listening skills are important at Rowsley CofE Primary School?  

Listening to something doesn’t necessarily mean understanding it right away; but without actively listening to something, it becomes really hard to actually understand it.

But once we do, listening leads to easier, quicker and better communication, learning and interacting with one another. We believe that children with great listening skills are better communicators and find it easier to comprehend more complex subjects, and not just on an academic level.  

Hence, promoting listening skills in children is so important to help them build personal relationships, become more empathetic, and offer real support to their peers.

How do we improve and develop our children's listening skills?

First and foremost, we lead by example. When a child is speaking to a member of staff, the staff demonstrate good active listening skills.

But we also practise and improve the children’s listening through various fun activities and exercises.

These may include ideas such as those listed below:

1. Show the Difference - Start by simply showing children the difference between hearing something and listening to it. Tell them the same story but in two different scenarios. First, let them walk around the room, play with their toys, or look out the window to explore the outdoors. Then sit them down and make sure they look at you to truly listen to the story. Can they see the difference between the two?

2. Change the Story - Tell a short story multiple times, but change a small detail in it. See if the children can pick up on the changes. They can either let you know right away if they think something has changed, or write a list of the changes down.

3.Art & DT Activities – In order for children to follow instructions, make sure every step of the creative way is detailed thus improving listening skills, alongside their concentration and fine motor skills.

4. Read Together – For our EYFS children we encourage them to look at the pages of a book and create their own story verbally.

5. Repeat the Story - Ask children to repeat what they have just heard. Can they repeat certain details or full parts of the story to truly challenge them?

6. Summarise the Story - Retell the story in a shortened version to aid listening skills' development, this encourages children to pay attention in order to summarise what's been said or read.

7. Listen & Colour - Print a simple or intricate colouring page (depending on the age of the child), and give instructions as to how they should be coloured. You can have one ready to use as a reference in the end.

8. Story Chain Game- Start a story and get children to add a sentence each after one another. Children are asked to come up with unexpected turns and surprising twists.

9. Predict the Story - Read a book or watch a short animation, but stop after each page or every 20 seconds to see if learners can predict what's going to happen next.

10. Role Play - Role play can also be used to improve listening skills as children need to be present and react to what the others do and say during the play. Improvisation is one of the best ways to improve listening skills.

11. What's That Sound/instrument?  - Have children listen to various sounds or noises, and guess what they can hear. It'll help them focus on one sound and shut the world out a bit around them.

12. List of Questions - While you're reading or telling a story, ask them to write a list of questions about the characters, places, or the storyline itself. It'll have them pay more attention.

13. Doodle board – provide a sheet of paper for children to draw images from the story as they listen.

14. Play 'Simon Says' - 'Simon Says' sharpens children's listening skills while they have a lot of fun. It's also a great way to reinforce left and right, colours, shapes, numbers, and more!

15. Fill in the Gaps - Choose a children's rhyme or song. It could be one they know or a new one. Sing the lyrics, but leave some of the words off. Children need to fill these gaps as they listen to the pieces.

16. Repeat and Add to the Story - Take children to the ‘market’ – I went to the market and I bought …   Start the list with one item, then the next child needs to repeat yours and add theirs to the list. The game goes on and on until someone forgets one of the items off the list.

What makes a good speaker?

At Rowsley CofE Primary effective communication is fundamental to engaging young learners and laying the foundation for their academic journey. A good speaker in our setting embodies the objectives outlined in the National Curriculum for English, which emphasise the development of speaking and listening skills tailored to the needs of early learners. We work on engaging minds, fostering understanding, and inspiring curiosity.

We encourage our children to become proficient speakers by developing and honing key communication skills as outlined in the National Curriculum for English. Here's how they can achieve this:

1. Speaking audibly and fluently: The National Curriculum emphasises the importance of speaking audibly and fluently. A child can practice this by paying attention to their volume and pace when speaking. They achieve this by reading aloud regularly, gradually increasing the complexity of the texts as they become more confident. Class teachers encourage participation in classroom discussions and presentations and also provide opportunities for the children to refine their speaking skills.

2. Participating in discussions: Engaging in discussions allows children to express their ideas and opinions while practising active listening. Children at Rowsley CofE are encouraged to contribute to group discussions by sharing their thoughts, asking questions, and responding to others respectfully. Through collaborative activities, they learn to articulate their thoughts effectively and develop empathy by considering different perspectives.

3. Adapting speech to different contexts and purposes: Children learn to adjust their speech according to different situations and purposes. For instance, they might use more formal language during a presentation but conversational language during group activities. Role-playing various scenarios helps our children understand how language can vary depending on the context. Children are encouraged to reflect on the audience and purpose of their communication before speaking.

4. Using language creatively: The National Curriculum encourages children to use language creatively, including storytelling, poetry, and drama. At Rowsley CofE we encourage the child to explore different forms of expression by writing and performing/reading their own stories or poems. Engaging in drama activities helps them develop confidence in using language to convey emotions and ideas effectively. Drama conventions can also be implemented in other foundation subjects i.e. PSHE

5. Listening attentively: Effective communication involves active listening as well as speaking. Teachers at Rowsley encourage children to listen attentively to others, demonstrating respect for their peers' perspectives and ideas. They are taught strategies for active listening, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding to show understanding, and asking clarifying questions. Practising these skills regularly in class helps children become more empathetic and collaborative communicators.

By following the guidelines outlined in the National Curriculum for English and engaging in regular practice and activities that promote communication skills, children can develop into confident and proficient speakers in the primary classroom. Through consistent support and encouragement from our teachers and their peers, Rowsley pupils can cultivate a lifelong appreciation for effective communication.