Teaching reading is one of the most important jobs a teacher has. One of the most powerful ways we can help students increase their comprehension is by inviting them into rich discussions centered around a text. But getting students to talk can be hard! I’ve gathered some of my best secrets to classroom discussions and they are all yours!
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One of the first things I tell my teachers is: do NOT assume that students even know how to have a conversation. Social conversations and academic conversations are different from one another! There are many important social skills that play into conducting strong classroom discussions. These skills need to be taught! I repeat, these skills need to be taught!
Regardless of what grade you teach, always begin your year by teaching these conversational skills to your students. What do conversations look like and feel like? What is ‘eye contact’ and why is it important? How do you properly and respectfully disagree with someone?
It may seem like you’re taking time away from your normal academics to discuss these skills, but if you want the true and deep discussions that will mean something to you and to them, teach those skills!
Before you begin having regular classroom discussions, make sure you also take time to outline your very clear and specific expectations what what you want to see and hear during these ‘discussions’.
Do you want every student to contribute at least one question? Make sure they know that! Do you want your students to take notes during the discussion? Again, make sure they know!
One of the best activities I’ve done is to create a rubric WITH my class as to what I and we expect of each other during discussions. I add my ‘nonnegotiables’ and then they add theirs!
Want even MORE secrets & strategies to help transform your classroom discussions?
I’ve put together an amazing ( and *F*R*E*E*) resource just for you! Even MORE secrets to help continue to build your classroom discussions into exactly what you’re envisioning! It come with 10 unique discussion strategies, accountable talk bookmarks for your students, AND classroom discussion job descriptions! Just put your name and email below and it’s all yours!
Every discussion needs to have a clear focus. Talking for the sake of talking won’t get us anywhere! What is your objective? What are you trying to accomplish?
Your questions you ask during this classroom discussion need to be aligned to that objective and students also need to be told the objective! This will make your discussions a lot more focused!
A successful discussion is all about the questioning! Like I mentioned above, your questions need to align to the objective of the discussion – but it doesn’t stop there!
Your questions need to be open ended, meaning there needs to be actual ROOM for discussion – multiple possible answers, lots of evidence to support, maybe even room for debate! Close questions will make your discussion die – and fast!
Deep – open ended pre-planned questions that are focused around the objective will be your key!
Students sometimes just need help getting started with their conversations. They have ideas in their heads but don’t know how or what to say to start talking. This is especially true when students are trying to disagree! What’s the solution? Accountable talk!
Using accountable talk means that you’re giving your students support in the form of sentence stems. These sentence stems can then be used to help students converse throughout the discussions – to add in more value, to ask questions, to make connections, and to even disagree!
Ok, so 5 secrets is a lot – but I’ve got more for you! Scroll back up and grab that *F*R*E*E* Classroom Discussion Guidebook to get even more secrets AND your 10 unique discussion strategies!
If at the end of a lesson, you can say that your students talked more than you did – it’s a job well done! Students need to talk to be able to process everything that they are learning. Classroom discussions are one of the best engagement strategies you can try! If you’re looking for other awesome engagement strategies, I’ve got more! Engagement is the key!
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