The basic intellectual skill children need is to be able to listen. Listening doesn't mean being quiet and hearing, it is much more than that. It involves intellectual engagement, trying to make sense of what is being said. We need to give children the opportunity to practice listening and making sense, asking them what they think it means and exploring their reasoning.

We need to explain and show how that reasoning was arrived at by looking for the clues and making links to other knowledge and experience that may help them to understand.

Children need to know they are allowed to work in this way and that this is often preferred to being the first person to shout out the correct answer. Share this lesson objective with the children, make your expectations clear. Try to feed the learning criteria back to them in the same way that we give feedback about the ' criteria of good pieces of work when we are trying to raise standards. We are trying to give the message that this is what your thinking should look like in the same way as we say that this is what your work should look like.

It is about being consistent in applying the same good practice to 'thinking skills' as we do to the content of the curriculum.

The first thinking skill is being able to listen.

The next requirement for many children is to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly, which is what is meant by 'speaking'. It is not just opening their mouths and making sounds; it should involve intellectual engagement, where children try to make sense of what they want to say before they say it.

The second thinking skill is being able to speak.

Children need practice in marshalling their thoughts and sorting them into a logical order and then articulating them in simple clear language. We don't need to get hung up on 'audiences'; we need to give children the confidence to say what they think and why to others, be it in a conversation or a group or to a whole school.

'Speaking and listening' is a key aspect of the English curriculum. However, we need to consider this aspect as a more general thinking skill used throughout our teaching rather than the specific NC outcomes of the Literacy Strategy. It is more helpful in this sense to think of 'Listening and Speaking'.

We need to teach children to use more precise language and thought.

Make Listening and Speaking into a theme that pervades a half-term's work and look for evidence of the progress, the 'before and after'. It will be very rewarding to you and the children to see how far they have come. It follows the same psychological process as Operant Conditioning, i.e. when first learning the behavior it needs to be frequently rewarded and emphasized and as it becomes embedded we can reduce the emphasis and move on to another intelligent behavior that they need to learn.