Strategies to increase student talk time
By Lucas Richardson, High School History Teacher

Does anyone remember Ben Stein’s part as the boring economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Anyone? Anyone? If you have no idea what I’m talking about — or even if you do remember but you want a quick laugh — watch this short clip. If you’re like me, you can (painfully) recall moments from your own classes when, perhaps, you felt like Mr. Stein, asking low-level questions in one breath and answering them in the next, boring the entire class.

As a history teacher, I worked hard to engage my students and bring them into the conversation. But inevitably, my own voice would rise to fill the space in the discussion — I wanted to make sure the right information was out there. Continue reading >> 

Content-Area Conversations
By Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Carol Rothenberg

Classroom talk is frequently limited and is used to check comprehension rather than develop thinking. Consistent with the example from the beginning of the chapter, researchers have found that teachers dominate classroom talk. For example, Lingard, Hayes, and Mills (2003) noted that in classrooms with higher numbers of students living in poverty, teachers talk more and students talk less. We also know that English language learners in many classrooms are asked easier questions or no questions at all and thus rarely have to talk in the classroom (Guan Eng Ho, 2005). Several decades ago, Flanders (1970) reported that teachers of high-achieving students spent about 55 percent of the class time talking, compared with 80 percent for teachers of low-achieving students.  Continue reading >>

By Rachel Lotan, Emeritus Professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education

Many science educators have placed great importance on the role of discourse and discussion in science classrooms over the last two decades. They seem to agree that students should be ‘‘talking science’’ (or at least school science) as a means of not only appropriating the particular register, or dialect, but also as means toward conceptual understanding and meaning-making (Mortimer and Scott, 2003). Essentially, this is a shift in emphasis from talk as an instrument of teaching to talk as a conduit to learning. Continue reading >> 

Visible Learning
By John Hattie, Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne

Classrooms are dominated by teacher talk, and one of the themes of Visible Learning is that the proportion of talk to listening needs to change to far less talk and much more listening.

Yair (2000) asked 865 Grades 6–12 students to wear digital wristwatches that were programmed to emit signals eight times a day – leading to 28,193 experiences. They were asked to note ‘Where were you at the time of the beep?’ and ‘What was on your mind?’. Students were engaged with their lessons for only half of the time; this engagement hardly varied relative to their ability or across subjects. Most of the instruction was teacher talk, but such talk produced the lowest engagement. Teachers talk between 70 and 80 per cent of class time, on average. Teachers’ talking increases as the year level rises and as the class size decreases! Across the grades, when instruction was challenging, relevant, and academically demanding, then all students had higher engagement and teachers talked less – and the greatest beneficiaries were at-risk students.

Teacher talk also follows a typical pattern: teacher initiation, student response, and teacher evaluation – often referred to as ‘IRE’ (Meehan, 1979).This three-part exchange leads to teacher-dominated talking… Continue reading >> 

The Power of Feedback

Visible Learning: Feedback
By John Hattie and Shirley Clarke

Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement – if you get it right. In the new book “Visible Learning Feedback” John Hattie and Shirley Clarke dive deeper into this core message of the Visible Learning research and switch the conversation from the giver to the receiver of the feedback message. It seems the art of teaching is the ability to listen more and talk less. Continue reading >>

Slowing Down May Be a Way of Speeding Up!
By Mary Budd Rowe, Teacher and Education Researcher

The wait time concept has become a significant dimension in the research on teaching. When teachers ask students questions, they typically wait less than one second for a student response. Further, after a student stops speaking, teachers react or respond with another question in less than one second. The concepts of wait time 1 (pausing after asking a question) and wait time 2 (pausing after a student response) are discussed in this article by Rowe. Continue reading >>

Opening Dialogue

Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning
By Martin Nystrand, Education Theorist

Ms. Lindsay is writing on the board, trying hard to keep up with John, one of her students in this ninth-grade class, who has just read aloud his plot summary for a chapter from Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My CryContinue reading >> 

Teaching Teachers to Build Equitable Classrooms

By Rachel Lotan, Emeritus Professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education

Academically and linguistically heterogeneous classrooms have become a prevalent phenomenon in the US and in other parts of the world. Whether they are the outcome of global immigration trends, residential living patterns, or educational reform efforts such as detracking, many classrooms today include students who have a wide range of previous academic achievement and different levels of receptive and productive proficiency in the language of instruction. Such classrooms pose considerable pedagogical challenges for teachers and administrators who aim to support the learning of all their students. Many parents worry that their children are not challenged academically or, alternatively, that the children’s learning needs are not adequately met in these contexts. Many students struggle as well. Some cannot keep up with the content or the pace; others become uninterested and feel that the school is holding them back. Continue reading >> 

Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say

By Steven Reinhart, Middle School Math Teacher

After extensive planning, I presented what should have been a masterpiece lesson. I worked several examples on the overhead projector, answered every student’s question in great detail, and explained the concept so clearly that surely my students understood. The next day, however, it became obvious that the students were totally confused. In my early years of teaching, this situation happened all too often. Continue reading >> 

How Student Voice Can Transform Your School
By Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter

We say, “Student voice matters,” but are we really listening? Student voice. The phrase seems ubiquitous these days. But for all the talk about student voice at conferences and professional development meetings, the adults’ voices are still the only ones being heard in too many schools. Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter hope to change that with Let Them Speak! In this powerful and inspiring book, you’ll learn how to find out what your students really think, feel, and need; why it’s so important for students to feel like you care about them; what to do with the feedback you get from students; and how to use student voice to improve education and school culture. What do your students have to say about grading, homework, bullying, schedules . . . life? Be willing to ask, and then Let Them Speak! Continue reading >> 

Designing Groupwork

Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom
By Elizabeth Cohen & Rachel Lotan, Professors Emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education

“Children learn by talking and working together? I wish someone had shown me how to actually accomplish that in my classroom,” said a 3rd-grade teacher who tried to engage children at learning stations with limited success. Have you noticed that you learn more about concepts and ideas when you talk about them, explain them, and argue about them with others than when you listen to a lecture or read a textbook? Although many of us as adults realize that this is so, often not enough class time is spent allowing students to talk and work together. This is a book for teachers who want to know how to make this principle of learning work for students of all ages. If a teacher wants to produce active learning, then groupwork, properly designed, is a powerful tool for providing simultaneous opportunities for all class members. Continue reading >> 

The free and easy way to help kids develop language skills, according to MIT research
By Jenny Anderson

The number of adult words and conversational turns were both correlated with children’s scores on standardized tests measuring their skill with language. But the relationship between adult words and test scores was fully explained by socioeconomic differences. Conversational turns, however, were linked to language scores even after accounting for income and education. High-income children with fewer conversational turns had lower language skills and brain responses, performing worse than their incomes would predict. The reverse was true of low-income kids with more conversational turns. Continue reading >>

By Deborah Farmer Kris

When Kasevich works with schools and educators, she shares several strategies for creating temperament-inclusive classrooms, including the following. Continue reading >> 

By Martha Rush

Are your students bored in class? According to research, a majority of American high school students report being bored in class and fewer than 5% claimed that they were rarely bored during a typical day in school. Former journalist and veteran teacher Martha Rush decided this would not do for her Minnesota students. Moving beyond asking open-ended questions and making connections to their own lives, Martha began to engage her government, journalism, and economics classes in meaty discussions, competitions, simulations, and authentic work, like running a newspaper or starting a business. Building on her more than 800 interviews with high school graduates, she offers up strategies in all subject areas for active engagement. Continue reading >>