Talk Moves Create a Culture of Talk: Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 3

Great discussions are one outcome of a classroom culture where students’ thoughts are welcome and where students are regularly expected to speak, listen and respond to one another. Talk Moves are strategies that help us build that culture. (Super helpful 2-minute video explaining Talk Moves) (Repeating, Adding On, Silent Signals, Change Thinking – LOVE the teaching channel! Don't’ you?)

These are some more of the best talk moves I’ve come across:

  • Don’t repeat what students say. Wow, that’s hard. It’s so automatic for many of us. But when we repeat students’ comments and answers it says two things:
    • Students don’t need to listen to each other. The teacher will always repeat and sometimes add, clarify or reinterpret so why pay attention to each other?
    • All information must pass through the teacher.
  • Let students repeat, add on, or clarify. Instead of you repeating, ask another student to repeat, clarify or reinterpret. Let students ask follow up questions, or ask for repetition if they didn’t hear or understand. We do this with comments like the one I heard Thompson School District in Loveland Colorado, a few weeks ago, “Let him know if you can’t hear him. What he’s saying is important for all of us,” and, “Who has an example of what Kiera is talking about?” or, “Can someone say more about this to help us understand?” Students apprehend that they have to stay tuned in--even when they are not raising a hand.
  • Answer with questions. Steven C. Reinhardt, in his article Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say! , asserts that questioning sends the message to students that their participation is essential. “Every time I am tempted to tell students something, I try to ask a question instead.”

Make them open ended questions, like another example I witnessed in Loveland, when the teacher simply passed a student’s question on to the class with, “What do we think about Jason’s question, gang?” Students quickly stop looking to the teacher for every answer and realize that they have a responsibility to do the thinking here.

  • Silent signals & strategies. We will always have students who are shy, hesitant to speak, or fearful about sharing their thoughts. Silent signals and strategies invite those students to stay involved, and to express themselves in unthreatening ways. They gradually build up confidence toward verbalizing.
    • “I agree/I’m thinking the same thing” signal
    • “Touch your nose if you had the same thing listed as Jonathon.”
    • “Thumbs up to Jalen if you’d like to hear more.”
    • “Write your questions on post it notes and bring them to our chart up here.”
    • Allow students to participate in discussion through Google Docs, Backchannel Chats, Knowledge Forum, Moodle or Blackboard. (watch for our upcoming blog on Enhancing Discussion Through Technology for more detail on these.)
  • Stop talking and embrace silences. Let’s be honest. We enjoy talking or we wouldn’t have become teachers. We’re excited about what we know and we like to share it. Backing off is hard and silence is so uncomfortable. The most important Talk Move strategy of all is definitely to leave increasing amounts of air space open for student voices. Wait time. Refusing to rush in and fill the silence with your voice.

Chose ONE Talk Move and test-drive it this week. Let us know how it went.


Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 1

What Can We Do About Those Cliches?: Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 2

Talk Moves Create a Culture of Talk: Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 3

Enhancing Discussion Through Technology: Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 4

The Teacher’s Role in Classroom Discussions: Fostering Student Talk and Classroom Dialogue – Part 5