Step by Step Guide to Teaching Students How to Have Quick Chats and Meaningful Collaborative Conversations
Kids talk all the time!! In fact, we spend a good part of our day trying to teach them when it’s appropriate to talk and not to talk. How many of you have used noise monitors or stop light posters trying to keep the talking under control? We may not have to teach most kids how to talk to their peers; however, in order for our students to have great collaborative conversations about grade-level topics, we do need to explicitly teach, model, and provide students with opportunities to practice strategies, sentence stems, protocols, and speaking and listening social skills. We have been using these different components with our students for years, and it has made a huge difference in their collaborative conversations.
What is a COLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION?
Collaborative conversations are a discussion where there is a give and take of information. Students are actively listening and continuing the conversation or discussion about the topic with their responses by asking and answering questions and giving other feedback and comments.
Why should I teach COLLABORATIVE CONVERSATIONS?
There is also a lot of evidence to support that having the skills to participate in collaborative conversations increases student engagement, increases participation of students that are learning English as a second language, prompts higher-level thinking, and aids in comprehension to name just a few of the many benefits. They are also part of the Common Core Listening and Speaking standards.
4 Different Ways to Have Students Interact During a Teacher-Led “Discussion”
- Thumb Signals: These are great to use when you want a quick yes or no response. During a read aloud, you may say, “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down – Pete seems to be lost. Do you think he will find his way home? Show me.” You can also use a sideways thumb for I’m not sure, maybe, or I don’t know. This is a great way to see at a glance what the entire class is thinking.
- Think – Thumbs Up: Ask the students a question or give them a prompt, have them think about it, and then put their thumbs up when they are done. You may call on a few students to share if you would like. This works well when you want to make students focus on a particular point or idea.
- Quick Chat: This is a quick response with a partner to a question or prompt you have given. During a Quick Chat, partners just turn their heads towards their partners and each give a quick answer. “Look at the illustration on this page. Based on this picture, how do you think Wimberly is feeling now? Think – quick chat!” You can follow up with, “I heard Julian and Ethan say that they thought Wimberly was sad, because she looked like she was going to cry. Do you agree? Show me thumbs up or thumbs down.”
- Turn and Talk: This is where students are going to use all of the components of a collaborative conversation. They are going to turn to their partners, use whatever physical signals you have taught them, use the language stems if needed to continue the discussion, and follow the Turn and Talk protocols. This is best used when you want students to have deeper discussions. During a 15 to 20 minute lesson, we may only use a Turn and Talk two or three times – sometimes only once or twice.
Teaching Students How to Do Turn and Talks (Have Collaborative Conversations) Step by Step
- The first step is to make sure each student knows who his or her partner is. We strategically assign partners and set up our carpet (or desk or table) seating arrangement so that partners sit next to or close to each other, so they can “turn and talk.” We keep the same partners for six to eight weeks. You can also assign partners randomly if you choose. We do this for other situations, but have found it is much more time efficient to have established partners.
- Establish a way to identify partners and designate who will speak first. Just like many other teachers, we have used peanut butter and jelly partners, milk and cookies, ones and twos, eggs and bacon, and the list goes on and on. Click HERE to grab a FREE set of “Buddy Chat” cards and teacher cards. We alternate who starts and remind students who goes first. One way we like to do this, is to hold up (glue the Buddy Chat card to a craft stick) or put on the whiteboard a larger version of the Buddy Chat card of who will be talking first. You can also use the “Buddy Chat” cards when you would like to randomly assign partners. Just place the cards in a container and have kids choose one. Then, they can find their “matching” partner.
- Teach students how to listen to the prompt/question, think about their answers and then turn and talk when they get the signal. We snap our fingers. They will need lots of practice with this (ours do anyway LOL).
- Provide and practice sentence stems, so that the conversation can be sustained and collaborative. We adapted frames based on Jeff Zwiers’ work. These sentence stems include starters that are appropriate when a speaker agrees, disagrees, or needs clarification from his or her partner.
- I agree and would like to add…
- I understood it this way…
- Can you tell me more about…
- Teach conversation “manners”
- Look at the speaker
- Actively listen
- Wait to speak until your partner finishes. You may want to create signals for students to use to designate speaker and listener. We have the speaker put a fist to their chest while the listener has his or her hand out and palm up.
- Teach “what to do when you finish” before the come-back signal is given. We have our kids turn and face the front with their hands in their lap. We have various call and responses (for example – Class, Class, Yes, Yes) we use to get the students back together.
We promise that it is ALL worth it!
Training all of this especially at the beginning of the year (we do it with four and five year olds) is not the easiest lesson you will ever teach, BUT we PROMISE; it is well worth it. The opportunities for students to use language in a low-stress environment, to make meaning through guided discussions, and to express ideas while talking with peers is so beneficial. It really is worth every minute you take to train it and every tear you shed (just kidding – no teachers were harmed during the training).
Please let us know if you have any questions or if you give it a try by commenting below or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.