Developing meaningful child-led class discussions: centring children in classroom dialogue to motivate learning and encourage oracy development

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Connolly, Liam
Issue Date
Educational Level
ISCED Level 1 Primary education
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: This inquiry was designed to move away from a teacher-led classroom discussion model and to centre the children, allowing them the opportunity to develop their oracy and dialogue skills.
Aims: The aim of this inquiry was to accentuate such dialogue while embedding purposeful child- led learning in different subject areas. Self-assessment was carried out following each discussion for the children to metacognitively engage with the development of their skills and the impact of oracy across their learning.
Study design or methodology: I carried out this action research project with my year 3 class. Each week, I showed the children a statement or question. I sat and observed without participating. The pre-established talk rules and teacher-created sentence stems applied. The whole class then completed a self-assessment through further discussion.
Findings: The children leading their discussions with certain scaffolds made the outcomes purposeful and the children were motivated to carry implications of the discussions to their learning. The talk was mostly meaningful and diplomatically-organised. In the context of the child- led discussion, some individual children who previously were less vocal in classroom talk became talk leaders, while others chose to participate more subtly. The children were more likely to respond to each other than when the discussion was teacher-led and used the sentence stems more robustly.
Conclusions, originality, value and implications: The inquiry helped me as a practitioner to shift from a tightly-managed, adult-led talk model to one that empowers children to respond to and share ideas with one another and then apply those ideas to different areas of learning. This latter point is one I have so far seen in limited amounts, but could be developed further with carefully chosen talk stimuli and the continued embedding of child-led learning. Moving forward, I aim to embed this child-led discussion seamlessly within classroom learning.
Keywords (free text)
T-SEDA , oracy , dialogue , group work , reasoning , metacognition , motivation , agency , child-led discussion
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