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Plain English speaking in the curriculum

The Plain English Speaking Award provides students with the opportunity to build self-confidence and extend their skills in researching, speechwriting and public speaking.

Participation in the competition supports student learning and assessment in VCE English/EAL by providing further opportunity to learn the key knowledge and practise the key skills. Participation in the Plain English Speaking Award also supports learning and assessment in VCAL Literacy (Oral Communication) and VCAL Personal Development Skills.

The Award supports learning and assessment in the Victorian Curriculum F-10, in a range of learning areas and capabilities.

VCE, VCAL and Victorian Curriculum F-10 links to the Plain English Speaking Award are detailed below.

VCE English/EAL

Students' success in the Award depends on their ability to use the same kinds of key knowledge and skills as those described in the VCE English/EAL Study Design .

Unit 1, Area of Study 2  Analysing and presenting argument

  • the conventions of discussion and debate such as active listening, checking for understanding and questioning
  • develop sound arguments using logic and reasoning and identify bias and reasoning in the arguments of others

Unit 4, Area of Study 2 Presenting Argument

  • understand how authors construct argument to position audiences, using sound reasoning, evidence and persuasive use of spoken language
  • apply the conventions of discussion and debate
  • develop reasoned arguments in oral form

In preparing and assessing students for VCE English/EAL teachers can use the Plain English Speaking Award as a context for task-oriented, authentic activities.

In preparing students for public speaking, teachers can involve the whole class in a range of related activities such as brainstorming ideas for speeches, delivering speeches in various class formats, and listening for a speaker's effectiveness.

Those students who may be reluctant public speakers can participate in significant supportive ways by providing 'critical friends' for speakers and by assisting in research and the writing of speeches.

VCAL Literacy Oral communication

In this unit learners will be able to use and respond to spoken language across a broad range of contexts.

The Plain English Speaking Award could be used to meet a number of the learning outcomes form either the Intermediate or Senior Literacy Oral Communication unit.

The research and writing of the presenter’s speech may also meet Literacy Reading and Writing learning outcomes.

VCAL Personal Development Skills

The purpose of the Personal Development Skills strand is to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes that lead toward:

  • social responsibility
  • building communities
  • civic responsibility
  • improved self-confidence and self-esteem
  • valuing civic participation in a demographic society.

The Plain English Speaking Award could also be used to meet outcomes from Intermediate Unit 1 Personal Development Skills or Senior Unit 2 Personal Development Skills.

Victorian Curriculum F-10

Students participating in the Plain English Speaking Award are able to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding in various learning areas and capabilities of the Victorian Curriculum F-10, particularly in learning areas such as English and The Humanities, as well as capabilities such as Ethical capability and Critical and Creative Thinking.

While public speaking is the main focus of the Award, students also practise and demonstrate research skills, observe and apply the strategies of effective speakers, refine their thinking and reflect on the benefits of working together.


The Level 10 Speaking and listening mode of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 English describes knowledge, understanding and skills closely related to the preparation and delivery of formal speeches.

Content descriptions

  • Understand how language use can have inclusive and exclusive social effects, and can empower or disempower people (VCELA483)
  • Reflect on, extend, endorse or refute others’ interpretations of and responses to literature (VCELT484)
  • Identify and explore the purposes and effects of different text structures and language features of spoken texts, and use this knowledge to create purposeful texts that inform, persuade and engage audiences, using organisation patterns, voice and language conventions to present a coherent point of view on a subject (VCELY485)
  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements to influence a course of action, speaking clearly and using logic, imagery and rhetorical devices in order to engage audiences (VCELY486)

Achievement standard

Students listen for ways features within texts can be manipulated to achieve particular effects. They show how the selection of language features can achieve precision and stylistic effect. They explain different viewpoints, attitudes and perspectives through the development of cohesive and logical arguments. They develop their own style by experimenting with language features, stylistic devices, text structures and images. They create a wide range of texts to articulate complex ideas. They make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions building on others' ideas, solving problems, justifying opinions and developing and expanding arguments.

Other learning areas

Student speeches in the Plain English Speaking Award frequently reflect knowledge gained in other learning areas of the Victorian curriculum. In particular, the speeches require students to demonstrate their social awareness and perspectives gained from Civics and Citizenship.

 Speeches also draw on students' knowledge of:


The Victorian Curriculum F–10 also includes four capabilities, which are a discrete set of knowledge and skills taught explicitly in, and through, the learning areas. The four capabilities are Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical, Personal and Social, and Intercultural. The Ethical and Critical and Creative Thinking capabilities are particularly important in the development of students’ speeches in the Plain English Speaking Award.

Ethical / Critical and Creative Thinking

Student speeches often involve ethical issues. Grappling with ethical issues involves drawing on knowledge and skills from a range of learning areas and capabilities, including the Critical and Creative Thinking capability and Ethical capability.

Ethical capability content can assist students in the following ways:

  • Identity what has ethical significance and why
  • Identify, analyse and evaluate ways to respond to ethical problems
  • Engage with ethical concepts and principles.

This content will assist students, for example, to pose an ethical issue, make nuanced claims, and to identify and respond to contestabilities that may shape the speech topic and its direction.

Critical and Creative Thinking capability content can assist students in the following ways:

  • Questioning and possibilities content, will, for example, assist students to construct a speech topic for the prepared speech and to analyse the impromptu topic
  • Reasoning content will assist students to present a coherent speech and to evaluate sources.
  • Metacognition content will assist students in strategies for learning, both in relation to the prepared speech and in planning how to approach the impromptu.

Participation of reluctant public speakers

Many people are reluctant and fearful of having to speak in public. It is often said that next to death, giving speeches is the most feared event.

In any public speaking activities in schools, teachers consider the needs of all students and provide positive, alternative roles or 'comfort zone' speaking situations for students who are fearful of speaking in some public situations.

In relation to the Plain English Speaking Award, reluctant speakers will obviously not benefit from being coerced or cajoled into a public speaking role. However, all students can be involved in some way in the event by providing input for preparatory activities such as group discussions and research. Participation of all students in writing and editing speeches can also be encouraged.

Some reluctant speakers are encouraged to speak and gain confidence when they see that thorough preparation and practice makes a difference, and when they see their peers improving and gaining confidence in highly supportive settings.