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Setting and developing ground rules for speaking and listening

The teacher defines 'ground rules' as 'the conventions which language users employ to carry on particular kinds of conversations' (Mercer 2000). Teachers sometimes assume that pupils will know how to operate in different talk contexts such as small group discussions or interviews. However, it is usually best to assume that they don't and to explain and devise a set of ground rules for particular speaking and listening contexts and activities.


  1. Working with a partner, look at the golden rules for talk and golden rules for listening.
    • Agree on the six that you think are the essential ground rules, three for talking and three for listening.
    • Put your rules in order of importance.
    • You may wish to design your own customised poster for use in your school.
    • Attached are examples of posters displaying ground rules for talk and listening in the classroom.
  2. With a colleague, discuss how you or teachers could use one of these posters with one of the classes you support.