This is one of my favorite strategies to teach my classes- and my life as a teacher has become so much easier since I implemented a few key steps. My teaching partner and I experienced our very first Turn and Talk as participants in a workshop by Bobb Darnell in 2008 and we’ve been using it with students and adults ever since.
I have taught this strategy to many many classes K-12, and adults, and these simple tweaks have made such a difference in participation, active listening and classroom culture. If you have tried a turn and talk before, and did not fall in love- I urge you to give these simple tips a try!
Stop & Jot Before Turn and Talk
This idea is rooted in respect for our students’ varied learning and thinking styles. I NEVER announce to students that we will be turning and talking until after I have protected time for them to independently ponder the question, work out he problem, formulate an opinion etc. This was a game changer. They also record that thinking. You might see this in my classroom right before we turn and talk: a thoughtful prompt projected on my whiteboard and students thinking and jotting ideas on a sticky note. I love this structure because everyone is truly prepared for a discussion. My students will not be full of anxiety or feel put “on the spot” when I ask them to turn and talk in a few minutes. Additionally, my students trust me because this is so reliable and predictable.
Tricky to teach at any age, I’ve found my students’ active listening skills soar with regular practice turning and talking.
Before students begin their turn and talk I give these directions: “Please be sure you understand your partner’s ideas clearly. Please ask clarifying questions if needed because, when we are finished, I will ask you to tell me what your partner said.” Students’ active listening skills develop, as does their ability to question and clarify. This happens because I announce this before every single turn and talk. I make this part of the structure because it means everyone is prepared for a quick class discussion. My students are not full of anxiety or feeling “put on the spot” when I ask them to share their partner’s thinking.
Additionally, my students build confidence because this is so reliable and predictable. This structure builds a community of respect as students use their partners’ names when they share their thinking. For example, Dan might share “Gianna said she likes the cafeteria hot lunches because on Tuesday they serve mashed potatoes and that’s her favorite food.” When he shares that, I will thank him and also Gianna for having such a productive discussion.
Turn and Talk Recipe for Success
- Share prompt or problem for independent thinking, or struggle time. Circulate to make sure everyone has something to share. Encourage a student who is stuck to jot down a question or confusion.
- Get class attention. “Next we will be sharing our thinking in a turn and talk. Please be sure you understand your partner’s ideas clearly. Ask clarifying questions if needed because, when we are finished, I will ask you to tell me what your partner said.” Give students 1-3 minutes to talk, depending on task.
- Get class attention, “please thank your partners. (Pause) Who heard something new or interesting from their partner and would like to share?” Facilitate discussion, prompting students to credit each other by using their names. Acknowledge both partners each time someone shares.
Do you want to know more about how I group students for a turn and talk? Would you like more tips and tricks that will make your life easier?Checkout Classroom Systems That Work!