The magic of 30-30-30-10

Normally I shy away from posts like this. Ever since creating TeachFX, teachers have continually asked me what their student talk and teacher talk percentages “should” be. My response is usually something like: “It depends on what your goals are for the class” or “What do *you* think they should be?”

But today I want to go out on a limb and make a suggestion — highly effective classes often have a talk ratio something like this:


Let’s break it down:

  • 15 minutes of Group Talk – Putting students in groups is a powerful way to give *all* your students an opportunity to talk and explore their ideas aloud. Most classes should include a meaningful group activity, even if that activity is something as simple as posing an open-ended question and having groups discuss their responses.
  • 15 minutes of Student Talk – Students need a chance to debrief from their group conversations so they can practice synthesizing and presenting their ideas, and so you and your students have a chance to provide feedback on those ideas. Full class discussions allow students to leverage learning across multiple perspectives. Make time for them in your lesson plans!
  • 15 minutes of Teacher Talk – Anything you’re doing with your full class should be at most 50% you and at least 50% them. Your role in facilitating discussions and guiding students through new concepts is critical. That’s what these 15 minutes, scattered throughout the period, are for.
  • 5 minutes of Silence – Using wait time gets more students involved in the discussion, and it elevates the level of discourse. It even helps students respond to each other’s ideas (Rowe, 1986). So, a good class will have plenty of Wait Time 1 and Wait Time 2.

Teachers of high-achieving students spend about 12.5 fewer minutes talking each class than teachers of low-achieving students (Fisher, 2008). Remarkably, this is also something we observed in our TeachFX pilots; teachers who used the TeachFX tool improved their talk ratio by about the same amount — 12.6 minutes per class (TeachFX, 2017).

This is the magic of the 30-30-30-10 class. It may not be the right goal for everyone in every class, but, in general, it’s a good target to shoot for, and maybe it’s the right goal for you. 🙂

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