Frames for oracy in primary school in Norway

Submitted by: Arne Olav Nygard
Abstract: Oral communication is one of three main areas in L1 Norwegian and the competence aims after the second grade emphasise core aspects of oracy and dialogue. Yet, oral communication has gained far less attention than reading and literacy in the Norwegian curriculum. This study is rooted in sociocultural theory about dialogic teaching (Alexander, 2008) and our aim is to investigate the frames for the pupils’ oracy in primary school, with a particular focus on L1 Norwegian.

The study is based on qualitative observations from 6 primary school classes, with field notes and pictures from one week in grade 1 in L1 Norwegian in addition to interviews with teachers and staff, and field notes from one week in grade 2 across all disciplines plus additional video recordings of the L1 Norwegian lessons. All 6 classes have two teachers in the 8 L1 Norwegian lessons per week.

In our analysis, we categorise events starting from Alexander’s (2008) categories to describe a repertoire of forms of organisation and speech. The field work from grade 1 gave an overall impression of silence in class, which we experienced as a paradoxical contrast with the oral culture in kindergarten. The class environment was largely characterised by silent individual work and the IRE structure, with small glimpses of discussion and dialogue (Skaftun & Wagner, submitted).

The material from grade 2 lays the groundwork for extensive analysis of both lesson organisation and oral interaction, especially in L1 Norwegian. We wish to investigate how the lessons are organised and narrow in on forms of speech within these organisational frames. The result is discussed with reference to Rupert Wegerif’s term dialogic space (Wegerif, 2007) and Segal and Lefstein’s (2016) model for understanding the realisation of the student's voice. Circle time is described and discussed as a particular productive activity with great dialogic potential.

Some may claim that there are necessary differences in the transition from kindergarten to the academic culture of school. The process of socialisation in primary school, however, seems to imply taking away the child’s voice and thus undermining important ideals. Herein lies a big challenge for both researchers and teachers.

Keywords: Oracy, primary school, repertoir of talk and organizational forms

Alexander, R. (2008). Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk (4th edition edition). Thirsk: Dialogos.

Segal, A., & Lefstein, A. (2016). Exuberant voiceless participation: An unintended consequence of dialogic sensibilities? L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature,16, 1–19.
Skaftun, A., & Wagner, Å. K. H. (submitted to L1: Educational Studies in Language and Literature). Oracy in Year one: A Blind Spot in Norwegian Language and Literature education?

Wegerif, R. (2007). Dialogic Education and Technology: Expanding the Space of Learning. Springer Science & Business Media.