Plentiful opportunities for student talk are a critical component of literacy learning. Student talk reflects and expands their thinking. When students talk about what they are reading and writing, they uncover and reveal their understandings and perspectives, communicate and refine their ideas, and make connections to their own experiences. Intentional talk also provides teachers with a treasure trove of information that will help inform teaching.
Intentional talk means going beyond casual sharing. Students need robust opportunities for varied talk structures within many different instructional contexts. Here are some ways you can foster intentional talk throughout the day.
Turn and Talk
Turn and talk is a conversational routine in which students turn toward one or two other students to discuss a text or part of a text that they have just read or listened to. Turn and talk gives all students a chance to share their thinking and to listen to their peers. This mini-discussion allows students to refine and sharpen their ideas, which in turn enriches whole-class discussion.
Students can turn and talk during interactive read-aloud, reading and writing minilessons, guided reading discussions, book clubs, shared reading, and during lessons in any of the disciplines. Start with partners and move on to groups of threes and fours. Teach them to use the social conventions of discussion right away, to look at each other in the eyes, and to listen attentively. Provide students with an open-ended prompt to focus their conversation and lead their thinking forward. You may find the Prompting Guide, Part 2 helpful for supporting student conversation as needed.
Reading and Writing Conferences
Conferences provide you with an opportunity to have genuine conversations with students about their work and identity as readers and writers. Students’ talk during conferences reveals their understandings and thinking. Your role is to provide brief, individualized support and responsive teaching that enables them to more efficiently and effectively process and create texts.
Conferences are conversational, with the student doing at least as much or more talking than the teacher. Pull up a chair and sit next to the student, or call them to sit with you at a table or desk tucked away from the rest of the classroom activity. The conference is a chance to observe readers and writers and an opportunity for students to learn something they can apply to their reading or writing in the future.
Book clubs allow students to apply literacy behaviors and understandings that they have learned through other instructional contexts. The experience of exchanging ideas with their peers and co-constructing richer, deeper understandings of texts is genuinely rewarding.
A book club is an intensive instructional context, not simply an activity you assign. Your careful facilitation is required. Over time, students will be able to take the lead.
Talk builds community, expands students' understandings about texts and about themselves, and reveals thinking. When students talk seriously and in-depth about books, the benefits are enormous for students and teachers.