TALK STRATEGIES

. . . if literature is anything, it is an invitation into dialogue, into the ongoing conversation about the big issues. . . love, hate, justice, revenge, hope.

Robert E. Probst


We know that students’ learning is enhanced when they have many opportunities to elaborate on ideas through talk. However, it takes time to create a classroom environment where students are respected and their ideas are valued. This requires a climate of trust and risk-taking. As well, students need to develop the skills and strategies that will lead to deeper and more productive discussions.

TALK REALIZATIONS

A short video that highlights some of the misconceptions about classroom talk, the importance of teaching talk explicitly and the value of scaffolds to support learning.



These are a few examples of the many ways we can group our students to facilitate talk in the classroom.

In the traverse, students talk to the partner they are facing, and then one line moves along so new pairs are formed.

The onion is composed of two circles, an inner and an outer circle, with partners facing each other. To change partners, one circle rotates while the other remains in place.

FACILITATING CLASSROOM TALK

Provide multiple opportunities and contexts for practice

  • For example; talking with a partner, working in small groups, participating in whole class discussions, engaging in conferences with peers or teacher

Include routines and learning contexts that encourage talk

Establish norms and guidelines

  • With students, co-create a list of reminders of what makes for a good discussion. (e.g. take turns speaking, be polite when you disagree, listen when others are speaking, etc.)

Increase wait time

  • Give students time to think and formulate an answer before you call on them.

  • Use strategies such as "turn and talk" and "think pair share".

Provide time for reflection

In a whole group debriefing at the end of a group activity or discussion students can reflect on what they did well, and what they need to work on. For example:

  • Did we give good reasons for our opinions? Did we stay on track? Did we listen to each other? Did everyone participate?

Students can reflect on their individual progress, e.g. using the (Student) Developmental Continuum in learning logs, using checklists, etc. For example:

  • I contribute to the discussion. I listen carefully. I ask for clarification. I am able to build on other’s ideas. I give good reasons for my opinions. I disagree politely.

Encourage active listening

  • Teach students to listen carefully before they reply to each other’s responses. Model using prompts such as "This is what I heard you say..." and ask for clarification from other such as "Do you mean . . .?"

  • Ask follow-up questions such as, "What do you think about that?" or "Do you agree with this?" or to build on each other’s ideas and comments, "Adding on to . . ." or "In addition . . . ".

Ask and teach students to ask the kinds of questions that foster dialogue

Types of questions include:

  • Factual questions that have one correct answer. These questions can make some of the best inquiry-based projects, as long as they have some depth and room for exploration.

  • Interpretive questions that have more than just one correct answer but must be supported with evidence. E.g. "Why did Ahab chase Moby Dick?" "Is Goldilocks a good person?" Interpretive questions can generate engaging discussions, and may lead to good inquiry-based learning projects. For example, the question "Should There Be Zoos?" may lead to an interesting inquiry.

  • Evaluative questions that ask for some kind of opinion, belief or point of view. They have no wrong answers but do require students to call on prior knowledge and experience. These kinds of questions can lead to good discussions.

Organize the classroom to facilitate and encourage participation

  • Set up the classroom to accommodate discussion in small groups or in a larger square or circle; ensure everyone in sitting in a position where they can see everyone else.

  • Students should be able to see one another to encourage responding to each other.

Model and practice using Talk Moves

  • Talk Moves can be used to focus a conversation (e.g. "I wonder if...?") or synthesize a conversation (e.g. "So you are saying that...?").

  • Talk Moves can be used to press students to extend their thinking during classroom discussions (e.g. "Can you tell me more?") or for specificity (e.g."What makes that a good example?").

Encourage deeper more thought-provoking discussions

  • For example: require justifications, recognize and challenge misconceptions, ask for evidence from the text, build on the ideas of others, ask for clarification

TALK IN THE ELA CLASSROOM

How does the ELA talk competency, Uses language to communicate and to learn play out in the classroom? What types of scaffolds can I use to help students? Do my students have a variety of opportunities to practice talk? What are the skills students need to become proficient communicators? And, what kids of purposeful oracy tasks will get my students talking? View the video to learn more.

CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

We know that students’ learning is enhanced when they have many opportunities to elaborate on ideas through talk. However, it takes time to create a classroom environment where students are respected and their ideas are valued. This requires a climate of trust and risk-taking. As well, students need to develop the skills and strategies that will lead to deeper and more productive discussions. Click here to view the view.

RESPONDING TO TEXTS

This video demonstrates how reading aloud and the discussion that surrounds the reading deepens understanding through talk.

WHAT DO YOU NOTICE?

In this video clip, we go inside an elementary Cycle Two classroom, to see how students gain a deeper understanding of texts through the use of talk.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Jeff Zwiers from the Stanford Graduate School of Education maintains a website that offers many learning activities and resources for cultivating classroom discussions.

Exit tickets help students reflect on their small group discussions and are a tool that facilitates teacher feedback on student-centered discussions.

Enough with the Teacher Talk- Ideas for Getting More Student Talk by Pernille Ripp offers practical ideas and strategies for student-centered talk.

Teaching the Talk, Not the Text discusses practical ideas for introducing more student-centered talk in the classroom.

In Literature as Invitation Robert E. Probst considers the potential for dialogic talk about literature.

Accountable Talk Sourcebook: For Classroom Conversations That Work is an excellent document put out by the Institute of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh (2010).

Accountable Talk: Instructional dialogue that builds the mind

Barker, L.M. Under Discussion: Teaching Speaking and Listening. English Journal, Jan. 2015. p. 97-100.

Barnes, D. (1993) Exploring the potential of talk in learning, Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH

Cazden, C.B. (2001) Classroom Discourse: the Language of Teaching and Learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Editorial: Douglas Barnes revisited: If learning floats on a sea of talk, what kind of talk? And what kind of learning? English Teaching: Practice and Critique. September, 2010, Volume 9, Number 2, pp.1-6.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1962) Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT

LITERACY TODAY IS UNDERSTANDING THE WORD AND THE WORLD.

© 2022, Literacy Today