TECHNIQUE # 43: Turn and Talk
This is a tried and true, “old school” Teach Like a Champion® technique. It is what it proclaims and implemented effectively, promotes great discussion and writing activity in the classroom. ‘Turn and Talk: ‘Encourage students to better formulate their thoughts by including short, contained pair discussions.’¹. Used consistently, the task is a great kinesthetic change from traditional, direct instruction and it’s purpose is generative. Well designed pairings and careful “un-packing” can generate great discussions and writing prompts. The pitfalls of asking a group to discuss a given topic with a neighbor common: “They could be talking about anything. They could be silly; they could be off task. One student could do all the talking while the other doesn’t talk at all…Other times, the information and ideas that pass between students are wrong-misinformation that doesn’t go corrected…or [discussions] steadily peter out.”,(p.324)¹. Here’s a solid video clip from the Teacher Toolkit, featuring public school Science teacher, Michael Sandu, (YES! TLAC® strategies are not just for use in private/charter schools) that shows the efficacy with which Turn and Talk can be used in the classroom:
Turn and Talk Efficiency Tips:
- Setting Pairs: I’m always thrilled to hear other educators recommend the seating chart or assigned seats. Natural selection seating (students picking their own seating) is NOT a responsibility that they can objectively handle. Choosing your own seat at a basketball game, in the cafeteria, or the movie theater; this is the appropriate time to let personal choice for young folks enter, sometimes. Prearranged partners should be unmistakable, sitting side by side so conversations can begin with out shuffling chairs, moving around the room or discussion. At the very least, partners remain partners throughout the class period; ideally, maintaining consistent pairs through out a unit or grading period.
- The In-Cue: Here is yet another instance for the need to Brighten Lines #28, as you transition to this activity. The discussion prompt should be stated with enthusiasm, puzzlement,suspense, etc. Teachers should make students aware of the stopwatch/timer and state: “Ok, now Turn and Talk. Go!”. Marking the beginning of this task with “GO!” always adds import and expectation. To ensure that both students are engaged, at the midway point, insert and “OK, Switch” to signal the pair that whomever started speaking is now going to the listener. Some teachers use a clapping or snapping cue to manage the switch. Students should perceive the Turn and Talk to be relevant, rigorous not just obligatory.
- The Out-Cue: Again the omnipotence of the stopwatch! Ending a Turn and Talk with as much efficiency as it began is critical as well. The end of a Turn and Talk should be signaled with a timer, you may insert a very short verbal countdown and immediately delve into unpacking the paired sessions. “…Your use of specific [time] increments shows that your time allocation is careful, specific, and intentional. It tells students that time and its careful use matter to you, and should matter to them.”,(p.329)¹. I don’t care for the contradictory section ‘Crest of the Wave’ that the editors poorly decided to insert. This “relevatory” piece of evidence encourages the teacher to instinctively time your Out-Cue “so that the Turn and Talk “…ends at the crest of interest and energy, not as it peters out.”¹. Replete with a curved line graph and image of a tsunami-like cresting wave. What is the point of the timer!? Should the teacher renegotiate when the stopwatch goes of when he or she gets the feeling that the conversation is waning?! I’m confused. I will most certainly stick with the stopwatch and appear consistent toward the parameters I’ve given the class to Turn and Talk.
Engagement and Accountability: In order to establish engagement between partners, there are a few helpful tasks that can be prescribed during and after the Talk and Turn. “…think about Turn and Talk as a prelude, a catalyst to some other activity.”,(p.333).¹
- Notify students that they will be accountable for summarizing their partner’s key talking points. You can designate whether this will be verbal report out or if students are able to jot down some notes while listening.
- Students sit “Knee to Knee“; perpendicular to their partners knees, facing each other; as opposed to a half twist, slightly facing forward.
- Cold Call #33 students after paired discussion to summarize in one sentence what their partner communicated.
- Assign an Art of the Sentence #38 task immediately after paired discussion. Students must synthesize in one written statement the overall idea or opinion that their partner expressed.
- To reduce the “spread of low-quality ideas – or erroneous ones”, initiate a charting and comparison of ideas that were generated.
- Whole class analysis or discussion. “Let’s test a few of our ideas to see if they were accurate” or “Let’s put a couple of these on the board and list the evidence that seems to support or does not support our ideas.”
- Whole class note taking. This can be used in tandem with Standardize the Format #3, once statements are universally accepted as true or meaningful, everyone writes down these synthesized ideas in the allotted place.
- Assign synthesized discussion ideas as a Build Stamina #40 task. Allow individuals 5-8 minutes of non-stop writing about the ideas discussed in pairs.
I like concept of Turn and Talk; it would be an ideal addition into the rotation of in class activities in any World Languages classroom; like wise in any content area. I would most like use smaller chunks of time if student were attempting to discuss in the target language or new material. Peer to peer communication, truly needs to be regulated and have tons of structure in order for it to be done responsibly and not digress. The one major, critical piece of methodology advice best gleaned from here is assigned seating, assigned seating, and again, assigned seating. But here, I digress.