Incorporating Oracy in Key Stage 2 Maths.

Oracy in Maths

If you haven’t read my first blog, Everything you Need to Know about Oracy and Dialogic Teaching I recommend you go back and give it a read. My second blog ***Incorporating Oracy in Key stage 2 Science**** might also be handy if you have wound up here!

In this blog, I am going to talk about how I engaged pupils in dialogic teaching in Key Stage 2 Science. I have a few ideas but I would love to hear from others about how they are supporting oracy across core subject so please leave a comment or question below.

My Maths Classroom Context.

So, if you have read my previous blogs you will know I teach a Year 5 class with significant differentiation between higher and lower attaining Pupils. Fifty percent of the class are working below expected national levels so it can be challenging at times.

1. Introducing the Maths Topic

Whilst observing other teachers  and evaluating myself I noticed we all use a lot of questioning during Maths lessons to achieve objectives. On the surface, questioning appears to create opportunities for pupils to talk throughout the session… Right?

Well… sort of…  I realised that certain types of question had a significant impact on the quality of pupils’ verbal responses.

If a pupil was asked ‘ what is a quarter of twelve’ the response is inevitably closed, ‘ 4’. The answer is only accessible to those pupils who already understand various concepts:

  • What a quarter is
  • How you divide 12 by 4
  • Understanding that 12 represents a whole.

This lead me to look at different levels of questions and specifically to look at research Blank’s model of language use which encourages the person who is asking questions of a child to simplify and restructure their language to a level at which the child can understand (Blank et al 1985). This is at the core of dialogic teaching.

2. Think about Levels of Questioning.

Blank, Rose and Berlin devised a language analysis based on four levels, ranging from basic skills at level one to more complex reasoning skills at level four. The emphasis in this model is on how the adult talks to the child.

Level 1: Matching Perception

Pupils at this level respond to things in their immediate environment. The teacher must use short questions and statements that only require a response to key items and events including matching, identifying and naming objects.

Level 2: Selective Analysis of Perception

Pupils at this level are able to focus more selectively on aspects of the question to reach a conclusion. Questions asked by the teacher expect the pupil to undertake such tasks as identifying objects by function, describing and making basic classifications.

Level 3: Reordering Perception

At this level, pupils must consider and evaluate certain facts before responding. The student needs to focus on the context in which the objects or events occur, describe a sequence of events and generalise about a set of objects.

Level 4: Reasoning about Perception

Pupils at this level must problem-solve at a higher level of abstraction. They must go beyond the concrete and talk about logical relationships between objects and events. Demands at this level include a prediction about events, explanations and logical solutions.

3. Use Pop Sticks!

In order to practice dialogic teaching, I used the teaching strategy ‘Pop Sticks’.  Pop Sticks ensure all students have an equal opportunity to participate and share their responses in class. I randomly drew a pupil’s name for selection.

I tailor the amount of information I’m asking for depending on the child’s attainment level. If they are a higher ability child I expect them to clearly explain each step they took to solve the equation. I often probe for further explanation to assess their level of understanding through various levels of questioning.

When I had chosen a lower ability child I would initially require less information in response. I would perhaps ask them to talk about the “first step” they would take in order to solve the equation. All the Pupils would understand what the first step was: “To make both the denominators the same”

4. Talk about Problem Solving and Maths.

Throughout the week, I continued the factions topic. I created a lesson where pupils were put in groups of four based on their attainment levels. In the middle of the table I placed one written instruction that said “find 1/2” or “find 2/3”. I also placed a variety of items: a circular clock, some ‘Payday’ money notes, a stick of dowling, a cup of water and some weights.

Pupils were left to explore the items and use their existing knowledge of fractions to problem solve in a creative way. The session also aimed to promote a love of learning and intellectual curiosity through exploration and dialogue.

I spent the rest of the lesson spending time with each group listening, watching and recording how they investigated fractions of real quantities and amounts.

All the Pupils were genuinely engaged in solving mathematical problems, which generated different types of talk including negotiation, rationalising, predicting and use of verbal reasoning, which are all parts of dialogic development.

5. What’s Next?

This is the end of my Oracy series but please sign up for the Mable Newsletter for lots of fantastic blog content. Sometimes working on oracy can draw your attention to pupils that might be struggling with Speech, Language and Communication. If you have any questions about speech and language or want to hear more about the services offered by Mable. Make sure you get in touch with a therapist at Mable. 

Want to Find Out More?

If you have a question about speech skills and need ideas about what you can do to help in school please leave a comment and I will get back to you. Alternatively, email me at

If you just want to know more about Mable, give me a call on 0800 024 8646 or email

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Belinda Currie

Belinda Currie

Primary Teacher

Belinda is a teacher working at key stage 2. She has a special interest in oracy and its impact on learning. She is also fascinated by speech, language and communication development and how it links to the curriculum.

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