Look Who’s Talking!


 Think Pair Share in action, by Maggie Daly 

                   “The person who talks the most in the classroom is the person who learns the most!”

This is a concerning thought, when you can consider how much time teachers spend talking in the classroom! How can we constructively increase students talking about their learning in the classroom? Here are four great strategies you can use in your classroom to increase productive student to student talk.


Think-pair-share is the simplest strategy to increase student participation during lessons. Ask students a question and then, rather than choose one of the waving hands, ask them each to turn and discuss their answer with a predetermined think-pair-share partner. This is a great way to encourage less than confident students who feel nervous to speak out in front of the whole class. Also vocal students now all have a chance to answer the question, so no more groans of disappointment! Finally select one or two pairs to report back their discussion to the class. I often take the opportunity to call on one of my less vocal students who, having now confirmed her answer with a friend, feels more comfortable in responding.
Teach OK!
Teach OK! is a strategy I have learned from Whole Brain Teaching. Teach your students short chunks of memorable material using exaggerated hand mime gestures to reinforce understanding. After you present the concept with students mirroring your gestures, then you ask students to turn and teach to their partner. First A’s teach B’s, then B’s teach A’s. Confident students reinforce concepts for the less confident who then consolidate their own learning by teaching in their turn. Brilliant!


Checking comprehension answers can be a nightmare when young students are unskilled at judging if their answer is sufficiently correct. It seems as if every student wants to give their answer, frequently repeating one another. Does this sound familiar?

Here is the solution! Everyone stands. You choose a volunteer to answer the comprehension question. Anyone who had the same answer should sit down. Anyone who has more to add stays standing. Repeat the process until all students are seated. This way you can deal with misconceptions, discuss the relevance of details, have listeners take notes to improve their answers and finalise the best response! 

This handy strategy comes from Joyful Learning by Alice Udvari Solner.

When teachers give students notes from the textbook, they do all the intellectual work themselves!

If you are tired of working harder than your students, here’s a strategy to shift the load. To jigsaw, divide the assigned reading into sections. Give groups of students the responsibility to read and take notes on their section and teach it back to a student from another group. Students read independently and take notes, then meet with a group of other students who have read the same topic. They discuss and determine the main ideas and eliminate extra details. Then each student is assigned to a group of students who have studied the other assigned sections. They take turns to teach each other explain the material and share their notes. Students love this activity because they take over responsibility for their own learning. They enjoy the challenge of creating their own notes but are reassured by the safety net of confirming their comprehension with the group before taking the on the responsibility of peer teaching.

As students talk through their understandings with their peers they construct and refine their mental models of concepts by a series of approximations. In allowing our students these opportunities we are apprenticing them as knowledge masters who can become architects of their own learning, as opposed to passive recipients to whom the curriculum is delivered. Using these strategies transforms a classroom into a hive of student learning!  

If you have other favorite strategies you use to increase productive student to student talk, please share!

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