The Right Kind of Talk

The Right Kind of Talk

Do you ever feel like you do too much talking in the classroom? If you do, well then, you probably are! It is definitely time to turn control over to the students. Let your students lead the discussion. Yes, it is our job, as teachers, to make sure the class is focused on the topic. But, we can absolutely let the students do the majority of the talking.

Speaking comes naturally to most of us. We all learn to speak before we can write anything. It is the first way we learn to express ourselves. So why do we often limit classroom talk to just short discussions and quick checks for comprehension? Allowing students more opportunities to talk to each other and to share their thoughts and ideas will create a more purposeful learning environment.

With more talk in the classroom, it does not mean that we are expecting students to become completely independent learners. As the teacher, we are the first leader in communication. We want to scaffold students’ conversations. As the gradual release of responsibility suggests, we want to lead students to increase their responsibility of communication.

Creating a classroom with more meaningful conversation can mean that we have to strategically plan the conversations. Here are some strategies for increasing conversation:

  • Start with an open-ended question
  • Create strategic time in a lesson for student talk
  • Open a classroom debate on a topic of interest
  • Divide the class into smaller conversation groups
  • Have students pose questions for discussion to the class
  • Provide students accountable talk sentence stems to support their language

Finally, it is important to remember that in order for successful classroom conversation to begin there must be clear rules and structures for conversation. Teach students how to respond to each other in respectful ways. Inform students on ways to approach a topic with empathy. If the students feel safe in the classroom, they are much more likely to engage in conversation. 


Author bio

Sam Williams

Sam Williams, Educational Consultant

Sam Williams, M.S. Ed., is an educational consultant who uses his over ten years of experience in education to train and coach teachers all across the country. He has delivered workshops on reading, mathematics, running records, assessments, writing, science, and the Common Core. Sam is a former elementary teacher, who also served as a reading coach, and district resource teacher for kindergarten/VPK. Sam was awarded Teacher of the Year twice. He was  also senior curriculum consultant for Rourke Educational Media, where he published children’s books. Sam holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Portland State University, OR, and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Saint Leo University, FL.