Student talk

Something I am struggling with in my class is having students talk with each other about topics we are discussing.  I find that even when I model how to buddy talk and we practice how to buddy talk, they never seem to stay on topic for more than a minute or two.

I realize the importance of talk in the classroom and I understand that as the teacher I should be the facilitator of this talk.  I have noticed that when I teach I will try to keep things moving and squash discussion on topics if they are not completely directly related to what we are talking about and if they last longer than 30 seconds.  My fear is that if I let them share for longer than 30 seconds than I will lose the other student’s attention.

I have also noticed that while I teach I will say things like ‘great job’ and ‘you got it’ instead of trying to probe further into their thinking and allowing them to verbalize their thoughts.  Practicing metacognition is an important skill to obtain, yet I find that it is difficult to find time to allow such one on one talk with me.  It is difficult for second graders to practice metacognition without proper prompting through questioning.

So then I try to formulate questions that allow them to think deeply and discuss with a partner for a few minutes.  I want students to be independent enough to discuss topics on their own and I am wondering how to prepare second graders to do so?

3 Responses to “Student talk”

  1.   wjjett Says:

    Michele –

    Keep modeling the type of talk you want to see! It sounds like you are heading in the right direction.

    Don’t worry so much about “controlling” their conversation – this was my first instinct as a teacher and a difficult habit to break. Through practice, experience, and patience, I have learned to step back and hold my tongue if the conversation wanders occasionally. Our everyday conversations ebb and flow on and off topic; our students’ conversation will, too. If your students are still struggling with straying from the topic, assign a specific goal or task related to their reading to help focus their conversation.

    Keep up the great work!

  2.   jbolen Says:

    Modeling is going to be key for second graders as it is for any age. I teach 8th grade and it is just as important to model the exact behavior you want from them as you would for younger grades. Students understand better once they see what is expected. At around 7 years old, it is also best for students to “mimic” your behavior, that is how they learn. As they are learning, I wouldn’t be so concerned with exactly what they are talking about as long as they are doing the correct behavior. Once they have the behavior down you can add another element of appropriate talk–on topic. Adding too much at one time can be overwhelming, take it slow and be patient.

    Best of luck,


  3.   eegarvey Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post about student talk. I have some of the same feelings as you and often times feel like I am silencing some of my students ideas due to time or out of fear that they will be off topic. This year my school is focusing on “math talk” during instructional time. We recently had a training on how to get this started in the classroom. The first thing we did was establish a list of norms to follow and model each one. For example, everyone needs to look at and listen to the student who is sharing his or her idea. Students should be thinking of questions to ask each other about their thinking, etc…
    These types of norms can be adapted for any type of student talk. We go over our norms every day prior to our math routines, and by now my students to really well with it. Establishing norms could be something that would work with your students and would be a resource you could constantly refer back to.

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