One of my consuming passions is fighting against a lack of initiative and autonomy in the classroom. The idea that a teacher’s role is to spoon-feed students information to regurgitate in an exam, either pass or fail and move on, in my opinion, is still far too common. In my last post “Taking coaching into the classroom,” I mentioned some of the ways inside and outside of the classroom I am trying to help students become the protagonists of their own learning.

Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to facilitate this. I am a keen advocate of flipped learning, cooperative learning and gamification to promote student autonomy and mastery. Over the years, the advent of new technologies has made my job a lot easier. Google Classroom, Google Drive, Kahoot, Quizizz, Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Wizer… are all great tools for engaging learners and promoting student-centred learning. Another tool in my toolbox which I wouldn’t be without, is Chatta.

Chatta is an approach to developing oral narrative competence based on the theory of dual coding, which suggests we learn more effectively when information is presented verbally and visually simultaneously. It links experiences with images, modelled language and oral rehearsal/redrafting of spoken language (leading to better writing.)

The Chatta learning cycle

Chatta is being used widely across schools in the UK with pupils from 3-18 and in international contexts, where the benefits of using this approach are being recognised for teaching and learning another language (I have also used Chatta effectively with adult learners of English in Spain.) Chatta helps learners understand, memorise and use language appropriately to communicate in authentic contexts, accelerating the development of speech and language skills.

The approach uses audio-visual technology to support language development. Images of memories, events, experiences and situations are uploaded by the teacher or student to create a “chat” of up to 6 images. The teacher records powerful models for students to listen to, imitate and build upon. Audio recordings of students’ responses provide opportunities for feedback, self reflection, evaluation and oral redrafting.


My favourite thing

Some things you should know about me

The “chats” created in the chatta app can be revisited regularly to review, consolidate and recycle language. The images act as a powerful memory prompt and playing back the audio reinforces the language. “Chats” provide a record of students’ progress in the target language and can be used as a tool for formative assessment to guide future teaching and learning. Revisiting “chats” can be extremely motivating for students to see the progress they are making.

Chatta combines a number of key elements, supported by evidence of impact on learning and that I found to be a perfect fit with a brain-friendly approach to teaching and learning.

Some of these are:

• Starting point or stimulus based on real experiences, stories or subject content.

“Children first need to represent their experiences, feelings and ideas as thoughts in order
to be able to express them to others.” (Sutton Trust, Sound Foundations, 2014)

As our very own Rachel said “Coaching believes in, and we know that the brain prefers real and personal relevance to the learner, which in turn, enhances the learning capacity” (Neurolanguage coaching, Brain friendly language learning; Rachel Paling 2017)

This approach allows us to bring the real world into our teaching context. Learning is personal and relevant and therefore more motivating.

• Modelled Language

“As children learn to speak, adults support their development through informal
conversations, through songs and rhymes with movements, through shared reading and
through the use of narrative. Asking children to discuss stories or real events (describing
what happened, what comes next and what other possibilities might be) helps children to
develop their language skills, their thinking and understanding of the world, and lays the
foundations for higher planning skills.” (Sutton Trust, Sound Foundations 2014)

We model language to learners all the time but speech is transient, it disappears! Being able to revisit the spoken model is empowering for our learners; Chatta strengthens memories, provides scaffolding and helps build confidence.

• Oral Rehearsal

“Oral rehearsal supports the transition from talk to text by reducing the cognitive cost of
formulation and oral rehearsal is the ‘ideal bridge’ between the creative, spontaneous,
content-forming talk used to generate ideas and the more ordered, scripted nature of
Writing” (How talk becomes text: Investigating the concept of oral rehearsal in early years’
classrooms. Debra Myhill, Susan Jones – University of Exeter, 2009)

Vygotsky said “Talk is the halfway house between thinking and writing” (Vygotsky, L.S., 1986. In: Kozulin, A. (Ed.), Thought and Language. MIT Press, Cambridge,Mass.)

Not only does oral rehearsal aid memory and help build confidence, it is the way to better writing!

• Repetition of language

“Short repetitive exposure to novel words induced a rapid neural response increase that is
suggested to manifest memory-trace formation.” (Rapid formation and activation of lexical memory traces in human neocortex. Kimppa, Lilli,University of Helsinki, 2017

• Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning

“People learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone.”

Applying Science of Learning in Education, American Psychological Association, 2014 Research-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Instruction, Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Linking images and modelled language in the Chatta app has helped even my weakest students first recall language and then build on that language to create their own responses. One boy with severe learning difficulties actually found his voice using Chatta; the first time I heard him speak in English was when I received his “chat.” One week later I showed him his “chat” again and asked him to tell me about his daily routine and he could!

Chatta also allows me to deliver a personalised, 21st century learning experience, developing essential global skills. As well as providing opportunities for communication to develop oral narrative competence, it is a perfect tool for promoting collaboration; listening to and (re)telling personal stories, students share knowledge, information, opinions and experiences. Chatta also encourages the development of critical thinking skills. “Chats” facilitate discussion and provide opportunities for analysing and evaluating evidence and beliefs, decision making and problem-solving. Ongoing self evaluation also encourages students to think critically about their own learning. Students are encouraged to be creative using the Chatta app to share their own “stories”, their passions and their interests… Personalisation of the learning experience provides a more relevant and meaningful context. Using Chatta, my learners are engaged, curious and motivated as they are challenged to talk, think and explore…

Speaking is often the skill that most learners find difficult and stressful. Chatta helps keep the brain calm, providing models and scaffolding, the opportunity for self-paced oral rehearsal/redrafting, opportunities for making social connections and choices. Chatta has empowered my learners, and helped them develop the skills they need to find their voice and stand up and tell their stories…

No wonder it has been voted one of the world’s most inspiring education innovations for 2019 and 2020 by Helsinki based non-profit education pioneers HundrED

To find out more about Chatta contact [email protected]