Getting students to talk more seems like a very simple task. Students talk all the time, right?! Sometimes, it’s hard to get them to stop talking! The question is: are students using social language or academic language? Our goal should be to increase academic talk in our classrooms, while encouraging students to continue to develop their social language. Seems easy right? Not always true, as I have discovered in my teaching experiences.
Here is an example of a lesson that I learned a lot from:
Interaction is a key component of SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Promotional). We often say we want students to talk more and teachers to talk less. However, before we can expect students to interact and use academic language, we first need to teach them the procedures and routines to do so. The error I made was I wanted students to use the academic language, but I had not taught them how to do so in the Turn and Talk.
So, here are some eight steps to help you not make the same mistake by instead creating an environment that teaches students how to build the skills needed to interact with one another and to use academic language (Echevarría and Short).
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Teach students how to listen to each other.
If we want students to talk, we need to teach them also how to listen. What does listening to each other look like? Model for students what active listening looks like. Have students practice listening skills using social conversations first (i.e. tell each other about their favorite TV show) and then move into more content-rich conversations.
| 2 |
Teach students how to respectfully speak to one another.
What types of respectful words or phrases do you hear (I agree with you because…, I don't know that I can agree with you, and here's why...)? Provide sentence frames and model how to use them. Hang them up or write them on the board for students as a reference or to keep in a journal.
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Align the conversation to lesson objectives.
Make sure students know the goal of the lesson. That way they know if their academic conversations are on-topic or on-target. If they are not on-topic, remind them of the target or objective to help get them back on track.
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Pose questions that prompt high-quality discussions.
If you want students to increase their academic language, then make sure questions lend themselves to higher-order thinking skills. Questions should make students think, clarify, predict, or explain. A question such as “Tell your partner one fact about the Gettysburg Address” could be changed to “What do you think the reaction of the crowd was after President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and why would he have reacted that way?”
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Teach students to ask questions or expand their thinking.
Students often need to be taught how to keep a conversation going. Put question and sentence frames around the room that expand discussions, such as Tell me more about …, Why do you think… I heard you say…, That made me think of …, Do you think that …, or That idea connects to the story by …. These frames allow students to build on each other’s thoughts and create engaging conversations.
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Link oral discussion to reading and writing.
Academic speaking and listening are deeply tied to reading and writing. Student discussions that are linked to text bring forth deeper academic discussions.
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Set reasonable time limits.
Think about how long it will take students to talk to each other. Don’t let a turn and talk that lasts 1-2 minutes turn into 10 minutes. This creates wasted academic time and often leads to off-task behavior.
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Hold students accountable for their talk.
Let students know that you are listening to them. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Have a clipboard and write down what students say. Them, when the class is brought back together, talk about the great conversations you heard. Provide examples and discuss why these conversations were so powerful. This will motivate students moving forward because they know you are listening and sharing out their examples and ideas.
Consider using all of these eight steps to take your classroom conversations to the next level. I know they certainly helped my students.
If you would like to study these ideas future, consider reading the article "Student Interaction Gone Awry" by Jana Echevarría, and/or watching the Teaching Channel video "Talk Moves in Academic Discussions". Both provide great ideas on how to help students interact.
And, of course, feel free to connect with me directly. I would love to help you increase the academic talk in your classroom.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
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