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What Does "Oracy" Mean?

By A. Gamm
Updated May 23, 2024
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Coined by Andrew Wilkinson, in the 1960s, oracy is used to describe a person’s ability to efficiently communicate with others via the spoken word as well as to fully understand oral communication. The British educator and researcher created the word to emphasize the need for school children to be able to fully use oral skills as an essential basis for learning and social integration. It is an analogy for the words numeracy and literacy, and aids in bringing the focus of oral skill on par with reading and writing in the classroom.

To incorporate oracy in the classroom, many teachers are combining several techniques. More classrooms now have discussions with the whole class to go over different subjects, share thoughts, and draw conclusions as a group. Many smaller group discussions with peers that are only lightly moderated by the teacher are also used. Many teachers prefer to combine these two techniques. More classes now require each student to perform an oral presentation with question and answer sessions at the end of class. Reading chapters and working together to solve problems is an increasingly popular technique used at all grade levels.

Oracy has several benefits for young people. It aids in making the learning process more interactive and engaging. Many believe it also combines learning social behaviors with education to fully develop a child for life outside the classroom. Oracy may also help in understanding different subject matters by encouraging and stimulating the thinking process. It also potentially helps in making subjects more practical instead of theoretical.

Although the term was not coined until the 1960s, the need for more oral learning has been emphasized since at least by the beginning of the 21st century. Many influential people of the time including Edmund Burke Huey and Cora Wilson Stewart emphasized the importance of reading and learning aloud. In fact, they both specifically noted the benefits of oracy with young children developing interest in the written word. Both highly recommended that adults frequently read to children.

As of 2011, oracy has become an important part of classroom learning in several countries. Since the need for children to polish their oral skills came to light with the help of this term, it quickly became integrated in many school curricula. Most children are now encouraged to speak and listen with one another and their teachers on a daily basis, with every school subject.

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Discussion Comments
By Contentum — On Jan 05, 2014
I can. There's oratorical, oratory, oration. Shall I go on?

The ability to transfer ideas through the spoken word is something that has to be cultivated. Not everyone can get up and speak in a way that will convey what they mean in a clear and concise way. There are people in positions of government, management, and supervisory positions, that are unable to speak in a way where they are not misunderstood. If more people concentrated on honing these skills, there would be far fewer misunderstandings in the world.

By Grinderry — On Jan 05, 2014

Can you give an example of a word that means almost the same thing?

By Realited — On Jan 04, 2014

Since there are other words that can mean almost the same thing, is the usage of this word still valid?

By Contentum — On Jan 03, 2014
I, for one, am a firm believer in this.There is nothing more gratifying than being able to confer your ideas and thoughts to someone else with the spoken word without being questioned as to what you mean. I have used books and other written materials to get my son on the path to being able to express himself verbally without confusing others. This should be required teaching material for all students of all grade levels within the educational system.
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