First the bad news –
Most classrooms don’t provide nearly enough opportunities for students to talk in meaningful and engaging ways.
Now the good news –
Doing so, starting immediately, would be SO simple and impactful.
Let them talk!
Whether it is a job interview, a social gathering, a social issues debate, or a group brainstorming session at work, talk makes the world go ‘round.
For adults, reading and talk naturally go hand in hand.
- My husband reads the newspaper and pauses periodically to comment on an article, read a snippet aloud, or ask my opinion on something.
- We go to dinner with friends, someone is sure to ask, “Did you see that piece in last night’s paper about…”
- I read a book I love, and can’t wait to recommend it to the people in my life that I think would love it, too.
- A colleague reads about an innovative idea in the workplace and shares the information with me, wanting to brainstorm hear my thoughts.
- We carve out time in our busy lives to join book clubs, because the social act of talking about a book deepens both our understanding and our connectedness with others.
Discussion is a natural outcome of reading in the real world and our kids need to get into and even lead these conversations.
Let’s face it. Our classrooms are too quiet altogether, too dominated by the voice of the teacher, or some combination of both. Research indicates that we need to let our children talk much, much more. Not in random or unorganized ways, but in purposeful and accountable ways.
Accountable talk happens when students are taught to:
- Be Respectful – In order to participate in accountable talk, students need to develop skills for respectfully listening to others, connecting their own thinking to the ideas of others, sharing the floor, and being open to shifts in thinking.
- I listen carefully to the ideas of my peers.
- I connect my ideas to theirs, by agreeing, disagreeing, adding on, asking for more information.
- I make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
- I am open to the idea that my thinking might shift as I listen to others.
- Stay Focused on Content – Students don’t just need more chances to talk, they need to talk in meaningful ways, focused on content. Teachers start by providing reasons for students to talk that are clearly focused on content. Students, in turn, learn the following skills for holding each other accountable and sticking to the topic at hand.
- I keep my own conversation focused on the topic.
- I respectfully say, “We need to stay on the topic” if my classmates start to talk about other things.
- Stretch their Thinking and Provide Evidence – Students and teachers help each other engage in deeper thinking by asking for evidence and proof of the claims being made in conversations. Learning to stretch our thinking and back up claims with evidence is a foundational theme of the Common Core Standards for ELA. Practice in the classroom is how students will learn these skills.
- I do my own best thinking before I talk.
- I ask others for clarification when I don’t understand.
- I link my own thinking back to evidence from text as often as I can.
Bringing more talk into our classrooms doesn’t cost a single penny.
It doesn’t create any additional paperwork for teachers.
And best of all it helps our students grow in ways that will positively affect their life outcomes.
In the coming weeks you can expect several posts focused on SIMPLE ways to raise the level of accountable conversation in your classrooms this fall including:
- Simple shifts in teacher language
- 1-1 Conferences with students
- Book talks
- Simple instructional techniques including;
- Turn and Talk
- Think, Pair, Share,
- Think, Ink, Link
- Heads in the middle