2. Tips for primary school teachers


Get pupils to think actively about what makes a good discussion. Before asking pupils to begin group work, decide on some rules together. For example, ask them to consider how they can make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

Try giving pupils clear roles, expectations and responsibilities during group work, for example one might be the director, one might be the summariser, one might have the responsibility for feeding back to the rest of the class etc.

Allow sufficient time for feedback and debriefing following group work, so that pupils can process what they have learnt and how. Ensure that feedback and debriefing is structured, using a framework such as: 

  • Remembering: Information discussed
  • Summarising: Key points
  • Understanding: Conclusions and answers
  • Evaluating: What was considered and how
  • Creating: Anything made or resulting from group discussions  


It is helpful to consider children’s language abilities when asking them questions. 

  • Closed questions or forced alternatives (e.g. “Is he happy or sad?”), place less demands on children’s language skills, and so will be best for children who require more support with their language and communication. 
  • Open-ended questions (e.g. “How do you think…”, “Tell me about…”) are helpful when asked to children who have more advanced language skills, as these questions will help to extend their thinking.

Be aware of the complexity of the question that you’re asking. A ‘what’ question (for example, ‘what’s happening here?’) is much simpler to answer than a ‘how’ question (for example, ‘how do we know he’s feeling like that?’).

Engage older pupils in questioning each other's ideas by asking "What do you think of that?", "Do you agree with that?" etc. 

Try to get everyone in the class involved in sharing their ideas, not just the confident speakers. Encourage differences in opinions and viewpoints. 

Prompt pupils to elaborate on their answers. Asking ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ in response to what they say will help them to develop problem solving skills and extend their thinking using language.


Teach key behaviours that make up listening. Often, we say ‘listen’ but don’t always explain to pupils that good listening means:

  • Sitting still  
  • Looking at the person who is speaking
  • Thinking about what that person says
  • Waiting their turn
  • Look out for behaviours that demonstrate good listening and praise the pupil and pupils involved


Introduce new vocabulary in context (rather than in vocabulary lists) to support pupils' understanding. Encourage pupils to put the new word into practice by using it in a sentence, acting it out, or including it in a story.  

Get pupils to think about what a new word means:

  • Is it similar to any words you already know? (It means almost the same as...)
  • Have you heard the word before? 
  • What do you think it means?
  • Describe it (What do you do with it? Where might you keep it? What does it look/smell/taste/feel like?) 
  • What category does it belong to?

Get pupils to think about the structure of the word:

What the word sounds like – what does the new word:

  • begin with?
  • rhyme with?
  • sound like?
  • How many syllables does it have?
  • What different parts are in the word?

Repeat new words often to help students remember them:

  • Repeat the new word throughout the lesson
  • Prompt pupils to use the word in class discussions/small group work/paired tasks
  • Review new words at the end of the lesson/week