The Noisy Classroom : Developing Debate and Critical Oracy in Schools book cover
1st Edition

The Noisy Classroom
Developing Debate and Critical Oracy in Schools

ISBN 9781138496927
Published September 18, 2019 by Routledge
120 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Debate and critical oracy allow students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of academic subjects while simultaneously developing their communication and critical thinking skills, which can be hugely effective in increasing attainment. This book, written by an experienced teacher and founder of The Noisy Classroom, aims to help students learn to argue, disagree and debate in a constructive manner. Packed with resources and engaging exercises, it shows teachers how to develop an argument culture in the classroom that promotes open-mindedness and encourages students to explore new perspectives, defend views and challenge others.

The Noisy Classroom includes:

  • A reflection on critical oracy and why it is important.
  • A step-by-step guide for teachers to set up and encourage debate across the curriculum, highlighting how to get the most out of a noisy classroom.
  • Advice for teachers on how to overcome barriers to building and using critical oracy in the classroom, including troubleshooting when things go wrong.
  • Practical ideas for sharpening pair, group and whole-class discussions, ranging from small starter and plenary activities to full parliamentary-style debates.

The book brings together activities gathered and tested over 20 years of working in debate, oracy and education. It is intended for school teachers, including both NQTs and more experienced practitioners.

Table of Contents



Part one: The case for critical oracy

1. What is critical oracy, and what is the state of oracy in our schools at the moment?

2. Why is critical oracy important?

3. Overcoming barriers to using critical oracy in the classroom. 

4. The role of senior leaders and teachers in a school of noisy classrooms

5. Troubleshooting

Part two: What to do in your classroom: the activities

6. Parliamentary debate

7. Other forms of debate

  • Balloon debates
  • Boxing match debates
  • Table debates
  • Public meetings
  • Conscience alley

8. Shorter activities

  • Rebuttal tennis
  • I couldn't disagree more
  • Where do you stand?
  • Hat debates 

9. In character

  • Hot seating
  • Mock trials
  • Question time
  • Chat show
  • News broadcast

10. Structures for critical group or whole-class work

  • On that point
  • Dragon's den
  • Fishbowl discussion
  • Expert groups
  • Argument stations

11. Formats for critical pair discussion

  • Teacher-Pupil Pairs
  • Rotating Circles
  • Quiz and Switch
  • Question and answer pair up.

12. Activities to build oracy skills

  • The um-er game
  • Defending the indefensible
  • Giving and following instructions
  • How are you feeling?
  • Expand-contract


  • The Noisy Manifesto
  • Key vocabulary for debates
  • Sentence starters and connectives for critical oracy
  • Argument and speech structure
  • Examples of topic-based vocabulary for pre-teaching
  • Assessment
  • List of topics for debate and discussion
  • Debate speech scaffold sheets
  • Oracy in the National Curriculum

Bibliography and useful links

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Debbie Newman has been involved in oracy education for 18 years, firstly as the Head of the Centre for Speech and Debate at the English-Speaking Union and then as a secondary English teacher and whole-school lead on the spoken word. She was the coach of the England Schools Debating Team from 2006 to 2009, winning the World Schools Debating Championships in 2008. Debbie founded and developed The Noisy Classroom, an organisation that trains teachers, produces resources and runs workshops and programmes for students in debate and critical oracy.


"The Noisy Classroom is a short text but one that it is substantial in terms of argument and enthusiasm... A copy in every school and department will undoubtedly help promote and encourage more productive talk and noisier English classrooms."

- Mick Connell, Teaching English (NATE)