Teaching talk

Classroom strategies for the explicit teaching of spoken expression

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When we think about how to develop pupils’ talk in the classroom, it is natural to focus on the ‘opportunities’ we’re providing for pupils to practise speaking. We also know that developing vocabulary and subject knowledge, the raw material for talk, is key. These are essential, of course. But just as we actively and deliberately teach pupils how to write, we can and should also be teaching pupils explicitly how to be effective talkers – not just letting that develop.

And talk is complicated. This excellent schematic from Voice 21 sets out very clearly the multiple dimensions of talk – the physical, linguistic, cognitive, and social and emotional – and the various elements within these.

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Below are some suggested principles for the explicit teaching of talk and spoken expression, in any subject. Importantly, these approaches can mostly be woven into or made part of existing practice. They are not about extra activities, or extra curriculum: they are about good subject teaching.

Continue reading “Teaching talk”

Quick talk about texts

Short-burst pair or group talk activities which can be woven into reading lessons

Structure

In other posts, I’ve suggested that the most effective whole-class reading sessions allow for seamless weaving together of whole-class discussion, individual thinking time and pair or small group talk. below are some examples of typical, short pair or group talk activities (30 seconds to a couple of minutes) which can be woven into reading lessons so that pupils are required to retrieve and to rehearse knowledge, to develop and refine understandings, and to practise the articulation of these things, as well as develop their independence and their personal and social confidence as readers. Continue reading “Quick talk about texts”

Challenging responses: designing a successful teacher-led reading lesson

A reflection on some different ways to structure discussion of a text in the classroom. The example is from Key Stage 3, although the principles are applicable to any phase.

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The text below is one which we used to read with Key Stage 3 pupils at Parkside Community College, in Cambridge, when teaching about World War 1 poetry and propaganda. It is a personal letter from a soldier to his mother, which was published in the local paper as part of a drive to recruit more volunteers for the army.

Its local relevance made it particularly compelling to the pupils, all of whom knew “Gwydir Street” and the “Great Eastern” railway area, and some of whom lived there.

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Continue reading “Challenging responses: designing a successful teacher-led reading lesson”

Mini-whiteboard jigsaws

An organising technique and resource for discussion. Good for revision and for practising retrieval, synthesis, analysis…  (Good for all ages, too.)

Step 1

Using sharp scissors, cut up some mini-whiteboards to make a set of unique, four-piece jigsaws, like this. (This is surprisingly quick and easy to do, and oddly satisfying.)

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You now have a robust, re-usable resource.

Step 2

On each jigsaw, use a board pen to write four connected things which you want pupils to think about. These might be terms, facts, quotations, diagrams, concepts or any other fragments of knowledge. Each jigsaw should have a different theme or connecting principle. Like this. Continue reading “Mini-whiteboard jigsaws”

Making the investment

Reframing ‘engagement’ in the classroom

Any mention of ‘engagement’ in the education Twittersphere or blogosphere will create a flurry of emotive debate. To many, it is now a dirty word, summoning up caricatures of content-free, gimmick-laden teaching, in which the aim is simply to engage so that learning somehow follows. In fact, there is a strand of discourse in which even considering how to engage pupils, or to think that anything other than ‘learning itself’ or ‘the richness of the subject’ is motivation enough, is a failing – a sort of lowest common denominator approach.

Of course, this is in reaction to historical imbalance. In training, I use videos of exemplar ‘Outstanding’ lessons from just five or six years ago, to show how remarkably empty of learning a lesson can be when it is designed around activity and engagement. And the idea that pupils will ‘behave’ if only a lesson is made engaging enough is, of course, very dangerous. Continue reading “Making the investment”

Asking real questions in the classroom

Number #5 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

One of the main ways in which teachers ‘give’ feedback to pupils is through follow-up questioning. This is sometimes the case in written feedback, but is particularly the case in oral feedback, as part of dynamic classroom teaching, in which feedback is folded into learning and is indistinguishable from the discussion and exploration of ideas. It is one key way in which teachers insist on deeper thinking.*In English, it is one of the key ways in which we push analysis and explore response.

Continue reading “Asking real questions in the classroom”

Who is doing what in the classroom? A tool for planning and reflection

It is always risky to discuss something as complex as teaching and learning in terms of any sort of ‘model’. It is always reductive and probably wrong. However, at the moment I am finding it useful to think of classroom teaching working like this. (Click to enlarge)

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Based on well-rehearsed principles, this schematic might be a useful analytic tool for reflecting on planning, lessons and teaching over time, and as a focus for CPD. Continue reading “Who is doing what in the classroom? A tool for planning and reflection”

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