Accountable Talk

Students love to talk and some students love to talk more than others. That isn’t a bad thing! Talking is and should be an essential component of every classroom. The key is to help students understand the different types of talk that will take place at school. I teach my students the term ‘on task talk’. That means that if it is math we are working on, then it is math we are talking about or if it is science then scientific conversations are taking place in my room. This creates a win-win situation as humans are social beings and talking is a huge part of both the socialization and learning process. This is part of the routines and expectations that are established at the beginning of your year.

A second type of talk is question and answering or as I phrase it ‘inquiry talk’. This is different in that there is a key person who is explaining or justifying their solution or work to a group of peers. The students asking the questions need to be taught what thinking questions are, how to create them and what respectful dialogue looks and sound like. The person receiving the questions needs to understand that the questions are not meant to be negative but rather to evoke thoughts and express opinions.

The final type of talk in the classroom is social talk. This is just friend-to-friend conversations that take place. I will often interject these sessions as transitions in the room. For example we have just wrapped up our writing and I will tell my students to take a two-minute social break. During that time they can get up and move or talk with a friend or friends.

The key is to help students develop an understanding of what each type of talk is as well as when and how to use it. This is specific to each teacher and their style of teaching. Embrace the power of talk in your classroom


The Author

Mike Beetham

I am currently entering my 32nd year of teaching and work with the Waterloo Region District School Board in an area behaviour class. I am actively involved with ETFO at both the local and provincial level. My passions are my family, teaching, the outdoors and personal fitness.

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