“It is through language, especially spoken language,
that teachers teach and children learn”. (Alexander, 2006, p. 5). Talk for
learning is one of, if not the most, important parts of children’s learning;
this makes sense as it is part of their “everyday life” (Alexander, 2008, p.
2). For many years, especially in the 1960’s and 70’s talk and questioning was
discouraged in the classroom, and pedagogy was influenced by Piaget’s ‘lone
scientist” whereby a child “develops cognitively by interacting with
stimulating materials” (Alexander, 2008, p.1). Thankfully, there has been a
shift from the 1980’s onwards to pedagogic practices ensuring that dialogue
take place in the classroom between educators and students and between the
pupils themselves. This in part has been thanks to the Vygotskian view that
“the child’s cognitive development also requires it to engage, though the
medium of spoken language, with adults, other children and the wider culture”.
(Alexander. 2008, p. 1) Collaborative learning is now seen as a powerful tool,
and as Alexander suggests “if we want children to learn – as well as learn to
talk – then what they say probably matters more than what teachers say” (2004,
p. 6) Vygotsky (1962) believed a child’s language ability determines the
development of thoughts, in this way the greater a child’s linguistic talent,
the better their aptitude is likely to be to learn efficiently and also to
understand through talk.
At Wolsey Academy collaborative
learning is a key focus, and it is therefore why I have decided in this essay
to explore primary children’s level of engagement with talking to enhance their
learning in the classroom. If pupils in the classroom do not get a chance to
use talk they can lose out on the benefits of it (Grugeon et al. 2012). In this
essay, I explored how talk in the primary school classroom can be used; (i) to optimise
pupil learning; and (ii) as a means of assessment (i.e. listening to their talk
to check for understanding). I argue that when used in the right way talk in
the primary classroom between children is a powerful tool that enables children
to gain a deeper understanding of the subjects being taught.