Oral rehearsal

I am about to put together a presentation on oral language so my next few blogs will explore the research that supports this area. There are many aspects to oral language and I have already explored  Konza’s work on oral language as part of the Big 6.

This blog will consider the importance of oral rehearsal, something that Lyn Sharratt (author of Putting faces on the data) paid a lot of attention to in her recent work with Metropolitan schools in Brisbane, Queensland.

It is interesting when you google ‘oral rehearsal’ – there isn’t much about it. Yet, oral rehearsal in writing is a necessary prerequisite for thoughtful writing pieces (Sharratt & Fullan, 2012).

Not only is it necessary for writing, but any speaker should be given opportunity to rehearse before sharing their thoughts in a public forum. This includes teachers in staff meetings and professional development and of course, students before they have to share orally in the classroom.

This makes sense – how many of us ‘rehearse’ what we are going to say prior to a formalised presentation. One of the reasons I sometimes avoid contributing in a public forum, is because I haven’t had the opportunity to rehearse what I would like to say. If I feel like this, how do some of my students feel?scared

Calkins (2001) stated that, ‘In schools, talk is sometimes valued and sometimes avoided….and this is surprising – talk is rarely taught…Yet talk, like reading and writing, is a major motor – I could even say the major motor – of intellectual development’ (p.226).

A search in the United Kingdom of the term, Oral Rehearsal, undertaken by the Department for Children, Schools and Families found ten references:

  • Using writing partners and oral rehearsal, 
  • After oral rehearsal, write explanatory texts independently from a flowchart or other diagrammatic plan, using the conventions modelled in shared writing. 
  • Rehearse sentences orally before writing and cumulatively reread while writing
  • The trainer repeatedly models rehearsal of sentences in speech before committing them to paper…
  • The importance of oral rehearsal and cumulative re-reading
  • Oral rehearsal before writing 
  • Rehearse sentences orally before writing and cumulatively reread while writing 
  • A range of drama and speaking and listening activities that support appropriate oral rehearsal prior to the written outcomes. 
  • Oral rehearsal prior to writing…. In pairs, children rehearse phrases and sentences, using some of the ideas suggested. 
  • Scribe the sentence, modelling its oral rehearsal before you write it. 
  • Oral rehearsal: in particular, those children who have poor literacy skills; for children with poor language skills.

All of these refer to rehearsing orally prior to writing. I would go further and promote oral rehearsal before speaking informally and formally.

A study by Myhill and Jones noted that a teacher employing oral rehearsal practice in her classroom observed improvement in the use of imaginative written text and in low-attaining writers. She attributed improvement in her student’s writing to the fact that oral rehearsal allowed the children ‘to think about before writing it down’ and that oral rehearsal made it ‘easier to change it [writing] in talk than when it had been written down.

oral rehearsalGive students the opportunity to talk things out prior to speaking publicly or to written responses!


Reading and writing go hand-in-hand

Writing the previous blog on Preparations to read has inspired me to quickly blog about how I have used David Rose’s Reading to Learn (R2L) pedagogy in my own teaching. I like this pedagogy as it takes my eclectic approaches to the teaching of reading and writing and sequences and integrates them into one process. It also allows for the gradual release of responsibility from teacher to the student.

Simplistically, I think of the process as a cone that spirals from the big picture of a chosen text supporting the curriculum.R2L 001 Through reading, the text  is explored at a text and paragraph level, a sentence and word group level and a word and syllable level. Through writing, the cone then spirals back out from the syllable and word syllable level, to the word group and sentence level to the paragraph and  text level connecting again to the big picture of the curriculum. I love the reciprocity between reading and writing as the two go hand-in-hand.

I have had success applying aspects of the R2L pedagogy with multi-age classes (Prep – 2 and years 3-7), with small learning support groups and with individual students. I have used the pedagogy in learning areas other than English. I have also incorporated aspects of the pedagogy when planning with teachers.

The following is a brief outline of how I applied this pedagogy to an English unit for year 7 students.

Aspect of Australian Curriculum Y7 English Achievement Standard: Creates a structured and coherent recount combining language features for effect. Creates and edits recount using appropriate grammar, accurate spelling and punctuation.

Text: Black Snake The Daring of Ned Kelly by Carole Wilkinson.IMG_1140

Day 1

Preparation to read:  I made a powerpoint presentation that had a photo of the author Carole Wilkinson, built up field knowledge of Ned Kelly, the time in Australian history and a map of where the events took place in Australia. I mentioned that the text is a hybrid text – one that combines factual information with imaginative first-person eye witness accounts and that we would be focusing on writing an imaginative recount. I then gave a brief overview of the structure of an imaginative recount.Ned Kelly

Modelled reading: I read the first few chapters aloud to the students.

Day 2

Detailed Read: I took one of Wilkinson’s imaginative recounts and did a detailed read.  Students were supplied with their own copies and highlighted word groups and words as I progressed through a scaffolded analysis of the text.  I pointed out how Wilkinson used things such as embedded clauses for effect.Capture

Paragraph level: I had the students work in pairs, cut the text into its paragraphs, mix them up and reassemble.

Day 3

Sentence level: I then directed them to a particular paragraph. In pairs, students would cut this paragraph into sentences and reassemble the paragraph.


I  directed students to a particular sentence (I chose a focus teaching point eg a sentence with an embedded clause). They chopped these sentences into word groups and reassembled, then into individual words and reassembled. In pairs, person A would close their eyes and person B would turn some of the words over in the sentence. Person A would then read the sentence, working out the missing words.

Word level: The students selected words from the sentence that they wanted to take to fluency or had difficulty with and analysed their structure. They wrote these words.

Sentence level:  Students then rewrote the sentence.

Day 4

Joint rewriting: I selected one of the paragraphs ie introduction and with the class rewrote the passage from another character’s point of view but using the sophisticated patterns and language like Wilkinson (I practised this prior to the joint rewriting so as I could use scaffolding questions if necessary)

Individual rewriting: Students then had a go at rewriting the paragraph on their own.

I repeated this process for other paragraphs in that particular text and then other imaginative recounts in The Black Snake, over the following weeks. It gave the students daily repeated reading and writing experiences with the genre of imaginative recount, so by the time it came to their assessment, students were well and truly ready to compose their own. This approach also fits beautifully with the gradual release of responsibility, with independent practice being the ultimate goal.

NB This is my personalised and brief interpretation of using the R2L pedagogy and it is not the only pedagogy I adopt when teaching reading and writing (as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I have a very eclectic approach). If R2L is a pedagogy you are interested in, I would recommend you are trained in its use.