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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners

Module 3 – Shifts in Our Understanding of Second Language Learning: From the Teaching of Oral Skills to the Development of Oracy: A Focus on the Conversation with Alice Stott

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |    PART 1    |     PART 2    |     REFERENCES

Part 2: Connecting to Teacher Work in the US and Abroad

Activity 2.1: Reading discussion and connections to teachers’ work

Participants will engage in: comparing traditional views on the development of oral skills with new deeper learning skills

Duration: Approximately 10 minutes


  • In groups of 4, participants will carry out an open discussion. It is important that participants listen attentively to their partners’ presentations so that they can respond or add to them. Participants should also be mindful and make sure that everybody participates. If a person does not speak, they should be invited to the conversation.

  • Focus on the following question, although other ideas are also important to share: Why is oracy important in the development of Deeper Learning?

  • After ideas have been shared, agree on two or three salient points that merit being explored further.

  • What questions did the group come up with at the end of the activity? Write down each question on a small Post-it note. These notes should be placed on a large piece of paper for everybody to view, under the title: “Questions we want to discuss in the future.”

Activity 2.2: Optional activity — Going deeper into EFL ideas to discuss why they do not apply to the education of English Learners in the U.S.

Participants will engage in: an elective activity through which they will gain deeper understanding of the notion of ‘task’ in language teaching

Duration: Approximately 15 minutes

Video: Rod Ellis - Using Tasks in Language Teaching

Rod Ellis is a renowned researcher in the area of teaching English as a foreign language. His publications are part of most curricula in language teaching. As we stated in the introduction to this module, educational work with English Learners has been heavily influenced by the teaching of English as a Foreign Language, a very different activity from the one required by English Learners in American schools, especially in secondary situations.


During this activity, participants watch a segment of a lecture that Dr. Ellis gave for Cambridge Live Experience on September 10, 2020. In the chosen segment (9:31–16:29), Ellis discusses the difference between a task and an exercise, and he provides four criteria for distinguishing between them.


  • Participants watch and take notes on the proposed segment of the video (9:31–16:30) and consider the criteria that defines a task.

  • Having watched the video clip and taken notes, they now consider what else is needed for English Learners in secondary schools in order for them to succeed and thrive academically, as opposed to what students learning English as a foreign language need to succeed academically.

  • Participants discuss the criteria for distinguishing between a task and an exercise; they should indicate what other criteria they would add (beyond those in the video) for their work with English Learners in American schools.

Activity 2.3: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

Participants will engage in: reflection of how some traditional tasks can be converted into highly interactive, generative tasks.

Duration: Approximately 40 minutes

Video: Oracy Book Club

Many tasks developed during the cognitive or communicative phase of language teaching can be adapted to deep subject matter content. We will see an example of a task that was originally developed for foreign language teaching, but can be used as a subject matter task that involves deep disciplinary content. It is called the Oral Development Jigsaw.


Participants will watch an excerpt from a January 2021 conversation between Alice Stott and Aída Walqui which was carried out as part of Voice 21 series of conversations with scholars.


  • Watch segment 23:10 to 43:18 of the conversation, focused on the Oral Development Jigsaw.

  • Delineate the steps of the task.

  • Discuss with a partner: How does a task that originated in ESL teaching lend itself to subject matter content teaching?

  • Each partner should suggest another adaptation of the Oral Development Jigsaw that could be used in the course that they teach.

Activity 2.4: Homework jigsaw viewing of conversation about oracy with Alice Stott

Participants will engage in: viewing a video conversation related to recent developments in oral language development in the UK.

Duration: Approximately 1 hour

Video: Oracy in the UK for All Students: Current Research

The oracy movement in the UK has gained tremendous momentum. In July 2020, Alice Stott from Voice 21 joined Aída Walqui in a conversation about oracy in the UK for all students. The viewing of the video and taking notes from the perspective of one in four participants is done as homework.


  • In class, divide participants into groups of 4 to assign their roles for the homework viewing of the video conversation.

  • In each group, decide who is going to view the video from the perspective of Participant 1 (oracy), Participant 2 (student voice), Participant 3 (metacognitive process), and Participant 4 (oracy framework) — as shown in the Viewing Questions chart below.

  • Once at home, participants review the questions in the Viewing Questions chart, which they will use as a focus for note-taking.

  • Watch the video and take notes.

  • Take your notes to class for group discussion.

Viewing Questions

Participant 1:


Participant 2: Student Voice

Participant 3: Metacognitive Process

Participant 4: Oracy Framework

How is this concept defined?

Do you see concrete examples of this concept’s development in action?

Any interesting details that you noticed that merit discussion?

Activity 2.5: Extending ideas — jigsaw discussion about oracy conversation with Alice Stott

Participants will engage in: presenting complementary ideas about oracy development

Duration: Approximately 10 minutes


  • Voice 21 uses discussion guidelines to develop students’ ability to become good conversationalists and presenters.

  • In their groups of 4, participants should each share their notes from the prior jigsaw.

  • Participants then work together to discuss and fill in notes in the Advantages of Using Discussion Guidelines chart, including the important issue of how oracy embeds Deeper Learning as a goal.

  • Compare your chart with the ones produced by the other members of your group of 4.

Advantages of Using Discussion Guidelines

Advantages for Students

Advantages for Teachers

Activity 2.6: Locating areas that need attention

Participants will engage in: assessing the state of the art to identify areas of growth in the profession

Duration: Approximately 15 minutes

After having focused on the importance of oracy and its concerted development in previous activities, in this activity, participants choose among four options and propose actionable solutions for them.


  • Instructor has placed in each corner, visibly, signs that have the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4.

  • All participants get a notecard.

  • Participants are told they will get 4 options and that they must choose one.

  • In the blank part of their notecards, and working individually, they write the number representing their choice.

  • Then, still working on their own, participants turn around their card and write three or four reasons why they think their chosen situation occurs. The prompts for the four situations are as follows:


PROMPT: The reason schools do not pay much attention to the development of oracy for English Learners and other students is:

  1. Because they are not aware of its importance

  2. Because teacher preparation programs do not prepare teachers to teach oracy

  3. Because professional development sessions do not focus on the development of oracy

  4. Because there is no time during classes to focus on the development of oracy

  • After 4 minutes, the instructor asks participants to move to the corner with the number of their choice, taking their cards along with them.

  • Once they are at their signaled corners, participants share and discuss the reasons that they wrote down on their notecards. Furthermore, participants together must come up with a possible solution to the problem chosen. The discussion subgroups in each corner should have no more than 4 people (unless there are only 5 people who chose a given corner) so that everybody gets to interact significantly.

  • After 5 minutes, the subgroups from each corner share their ideas and solutions with the entire class.

    • Representatives from each corner are assigned to share — from their corner — their corner subgroup’s ideas and solutions.

Additional Readings

We are including two chapters from an excellent book written by Amy Gaunt and Alice Stott on oracy. The first chapter defines oracy and traces its historical development and the second chapter discusses the oracy framework. The chapters are very readable and offer great ideas for teachers.

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