Why Kids Need More Talk Time in the Classroom

We know—they are ALWAYS talking. 🤪 But those focused conversations really do matter.

talk time in the classroom

Sometimes, for the sake of classroom management, we spend so much time trying to manage noise level that we forget that talk time in the classroom is actually an important element of learning. In fact it’s really important. Here are four reasons why, followed by tips to make space for learning conversations in your classroom.

1. Talk time helps students process their learning.

Thinking and talking about content helps students integrate information into personal knowledge. In other words, talking about and explaining concepts out loud to someone else solidifies the learning in our minds.

2. Talk time allows students to learn from one another.

Listening to how a peer thinks about a concept or uses language around a certain topic is beneficial for learners. And sometimes talking to a partner, rather than the whole group or in response to an adult, feels safer to kids.

3. Talk time encourages students to practice using academic language.

Having meaningful academic conversations takes lots of trial and error. Talk time gives students the opportunity to use specific language and explore specific topics that don’t usually occur outside of the classroom.

4. Talk time builds connections between students.

For most teachers, providing a safe learning environment for their students is one of their ultimate goals. Guiding students to practice their oral language skills with other students allows them to form relationships with one another and strengthens classroom community. 

How teachers can make space for learning conversations in the classroom:

According to Maryellen Weimer, PhD,“Teachers have the power to add form and substance to discussions.” In other words, teachers can plan for and implement explicit strategies and structures for oral-language development. When students engage in purposeful talk, it sets the stage for all learning across the content areas. Here are some tips:

  • Lay the foundation for students by introducing and repeatedly modeling academic language.
  • Explicitly teach oral-language development skills and give students lots of opportunities to practice and hone skills. One excellent strategy to use is turn and talk.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of asking yes or no questions. Ask rich questions that elicit deeper responses. Frame questions so that students need to elaborate when they answer. Here are seven open-ended questions you can use in your classroom. 
  • Create scenarios for the students to apply and integrate new knowledge. For instance, ask students to consider how and why a concept would apply to a particular situation. 
  • Provide supplemental lessons and assign readings that will give students a strong foundation for deeper conversations. The more knowledge students have about a topic, the more articulate they can be in conversations. 

How do you make space for talk time in the classroom? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook

Plus, 10 fun alternatives to think-pair-share.

Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a passionate teacher, writer and mom who loves learning new things, traveling the globe and everything Zen.

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