Less Teacher Talk, More Class Discussion

 Do you ever feel like whacking yourself on the side of the head and saying, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”

Reading Aloud

While sitting on a chair reading aloud to the class one day with all the students traditionally huddled on the floor at my feet I noticed something. All the interesting  exchanges were happening between a student and me, the teacher. It was like a game of ping pong and I was always hitting the ball.

Teacher-student-teacher-student-teacher-student-teacher, etc.

I was having a great book discussion! But what were most of the students doing when they weren’t talking to me? They were picking at their shoes, trying to get a friend’s attention, staring blankly ahead. No engagement. They were waiting patiently for us to finish our conversation.

More than just Reading Aloud

From that day on we decided to sit in a circle when I read aloud. Reactions to the story, comments, questions, and discussions are now directed at each other not at me. Of course, I can’t help but jump in occasionally when I feel like I can’t resist!

Now our ‘ping-pong exchange’ sounds more like this:

student-student-student-teacher-student-student-student-student

What have I noticed?

  • students are expected to listen to and respond to each other, and they do
  • students answer each other’s questions, disagree with each other, build upon each other’s predictions
  • students work cooperatively to construct meaning from the story
  • students govern themselves, reminding each other to be respectful
  • students feel like they have an equitable learning community where the voices of the students and  teachers are equal
  • students take ownership and drive the discussions, allowing them to practice critical and creative thinking skills.

Very much like a Socratic Circle.

More Than Just Reading Aloud

2 thoughts on “Less Teacher Talk, More Class Discussion

  1. Awesome stuff! “Minimize Teacher Talk” is a mantra I have been hearing since I began my teaching career. Perhaps this was a prehistoric version of the flipped classroom model? In any case, I have found that maximising student talk = maximising student engagement. Students are interested in each other and what they have to say. Do you think you could extend this student-student interaction to their writing? Could seeing 20 models of writing “at their level” (+/-) that they offer feedback on be beneficial?

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  2. I like this idea. I am imagining one student reading their piece of writing and the rest of us, sitting in a circle, reacting to it, discussing it with each other as the author listens. What great feedback for the writer.

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