What is Turn and Talk? Turn and Talk is a simple structure for focused conversation between two people. Two students, sitting close to each other, turn to face each other and exchange ideas on a topic designated by the teacher. The teacher moves around to listen in on the thinking of many students and then after just a few minutes brings the group back together. The big idea is that rather than the teacher posing a question and calling on only a few students to answer (usually those raising their hands), turn and talk gives everyone in the room a chance to exchange thinking with a partner.
The benefits are enormous. Here are just a few:
- Everyone is held accountable – not just a few willing students.
- Everyone has an opportunity to express his or her thinking through talk without requiring any additional classroom time.
- By moving around the room, the teacher can hear the thinking of many students in just a few minutes.
- Students who are hesitant to speak up in front of the whole class are given a lower pressure setting to practice verbalizing their thinking.
“Turn and talk to your partner about some ways you can help create an environment of respect in our classroom this year.”
Keys to Success
- Consider assigning partners in the beginning.
- Teach procedures for respectful listening, turn-taking, and conversation connectors.
- Choose prompts that are open-ended and focused on meaningful content.
Simple Steps to Getting Started with Turn and T alk
Not only is Turn and Talk incredibly powerful on it’s own, it is also the foundation many other structures for bringing more talk into your classroom. So, taking the time to carefully think about and teach the turn and talk routine in your classroom will pay off big dividends throughout the year.
1) Consider using strategic partners. Although you’ll eventually want students get to be able to turn and talk with anyone in the room being strategic about partner choice in the beginning will increase success and eliminate lost time, hurt feelings, etc. Many teacher assign partners that are maintained for a week or two at a time.
2) Post the partners in a visible spot in the room. A two-column pocket chart works well for showing who’s with who. You can also use a sheet of sturdy tag board and clip partner names across from each other the outside edges. Partners will need quick and easy access to each other, so you may want to have them sit near each other.
Some teachers Assign an A partner and a B partner (or blue/red, cookies/milk, hamburger/fries). This makes it possible for you to easily assist with which partner goes first each time. For example, “Blue partners, be the first to share.”
|A – Partners||B – Partners|
3) Start small, with topics that all students contribute to easily. You’ll want to be able focus more on teaching the routines the first several times, as opposed to content. Eventually, you’ll use turn and talk across all content areas.
- Sit across from each other, face to face.
- Do your own thinking before you talk.
- Take turns.
- Listen carefully to what your partner says.
- Try to connect your thinking to your partner’s by saying things like:
- I agree and . . .
- I disagree because . . .
- I had a different idea . . .
- You made me think about . . .
- Stay focused on the topic.
Check out this Turn and Talk Visual for Students.
5) Choose prompts that are both focused open-ended. Turn and talk is not just a time to visit with a partner. It is a time to explore, extend, and solidify thinking. Choosing quality prompts will increase the quality of interactions students have. Some stems that you might want to try until you get more comfortable include:
- Talk with your partner about a time . . .
- Talk with your partner about what you think is the reason . . .
- Talk with your partner about what you noticed. . .
- Talk with your partner about the connections you are making. . .
- Talk with your partner about why you think . . .
Notice two things about the example stems.
- All of the stems start with the word talk, rather then tell. Using the word talk indicates to children that a connected conversation is going to take place, not just two partnesr blurting their unconnected ideas to each other!
- They call on students to do their own thinking. None of them ask students to regurgitate facts or to know a “right answer”. Instead, they all encourage students to bring their own thinking to the content at hand.
6) Stay in control of the experience. Keep the time frame short – given too much time kids will not be able to succeed with staying focused. Move around the room and listen in as kids are talking. Listening in lets you in on the thinking, and helps you make decisions about when to pull kids back together and what skills they need you to reinforce, introduce, or expand.
7) Celebrate success as a class. Recognize what went well. Continue to refine the routine until it is smooth.
Amazing Resources that Support Turn and Talk
Check out this website New Teacher Center’s Oral Language Development Page. It has incredible and explicit videos and resources about routines, environment, expectations, signals, flexibility and prompts for Turn and Talk. Definitely worth checking out!