Three Innovative Ways to Get Students Talking

I have recently observed some impressive strategies that have cleverly engaged every student in the classroom.  They have provided a comfortable format for students to participate in discussion with each other and become totally involved in the topic of the day.  Here are my three favorite:

1.  Think/Pair/Share

This first strategy is not new to the education scene; it has actually become common practice among many teachers. It has, however, become a bit watered down in some cases and the potential effectiveness of the strategy has often been lost.  By using all of the steps in the process, the use of this strategy can be maximized.

1. Student are provided with a key question and given a few minutes to think about, and write down their answer or their opinion on their own.

2. Students share their answers with one partner.  They see if they agree or disagree with each other.

3.  The pair then joins another pair, becoming a group of four, and shares their discussion or conclusions with the other pair. The four students compile their ideas.

4.  Each group of four presents their best ideas with the entire class.



This strategy has just recently come to my attention.  It may be a shortened version of the SMART Reading practices that English teachers have been using.  My fascination with the strategy stems from the effectiveness of the sentence starters that assist the more timid students to formulate their thoughts.

This method begins with a piece of literature or any article that students are reading as a class.  Students read only the first paragraph or the introduction of the document, then they pause.  In pairs, or in groups of 3 or 4, (groups of 3 would work well) students are asked to make a prediction about what is coming next. Then, they continue reading to a certain point and pause again for clarifications.  The third pause allows all students to ask questions, then at the end of the article, the groups try to make connections.

Sentence starters for Predictions:                                                      

  • I wonder. . .
  • I think this author is going to tell us . . .
  • The next thing that will happen is . . .
  • This article will probably . . .
Sentence starters for Clarifications:
  • This makes sense because. . .
  • This must mean that . . .
  • What the author is saying here is that . . .
  • What they said before makes sense now because. . .
Sentence starters for Questions: 
  • What does this part mean?
  • Why does the author say . . . ?
  • How does this part fit with . . . ?
  • Could this word/sentence be replaced with . . . ?
Sentence starters for Connections:
  • This reminds me of . . .
  • This part is similar to . . .
  • What’s different here is . . .
  • This article makes me think of . . .
The sentence starters above can also be put on card shaped slips of paper and the students can draw a card to choose the sentence they must finish. 


3. The Socratic Circle

There are various ways to structure a lesson using the socratic principles but the one that I recently witnessed used two circles. The Socratic method of teaching begins with a list of quality questions about the topic of the day.   All students are provided with a copy of these questions.   Students are divided into two groups, A & B.  To begin , group A must be placed in the inner circle; group B forms the outer circle.  Group A begins by discussing and attempting to answer the list of questions.

Group B is silent at this time, but actively observing what Group A is saying.  They are also keeping track of who is contributing the best answers and whether or not they agree.  When Group A has completed the questions, everyone in Group B must comment on what was said by Groups A.

The beauty of this format is that the teacher is merely observing, and can take note of the effort and quality of the participation of the students.

The students do all the talking.


About kbarnstable

Educational Leader
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