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

The Noisy Classroom

Developing Debate and Critical Oracy in Schools, 1st Edition

By Debbie Newman


104 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138496927
pub: 2019-09-20
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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 or challenge others.

Divided into two parts, 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 twenty 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

2. Why is 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. Trouble Shooting

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

1. Parliamentary debate

2. Other debate formats 

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

3. Shorter activities

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

4. In character

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

5. Formats for critical group or whole class work

  • On that point
  • Dragon's den
  • Fish bowl
  • Expert groups
  • Argument stations

6. Formats for critical pair discussion

  • Rebuttal tennis
  • Ask and switch
  • Rotating circle
  • Teacher-pupil pairs
  • Question and answer pair up.

7. Activities to explicitly develop oracy skills

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


  • The Noisy Manifesto
  • Glossary
  • Sentence stems and connectives to aid effective critical oracy
  • Examples of vocabulary to pre-teach
  • Assessment criteria
  • List of debate and discussion topics
  • Debate speech scaffold sheets
  • Oracy in the National Curriculum

Bibliography and useful links

About the Author

Debbie Newman has been involved in oracy education for 18 years, firstly running 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 2006-2009, winning the World Championships in 2008. Debbie founded and developed The Noisy Classroom, an organisation training teachers, producing resources and running workshops for students in debate and critical oracy.

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