Students frequently engage in energetic chatter within the classroom; however, that chatter is often idle. A wise teacher will channel student energy and dialogue in meaningful ways. Authors Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey suggest the following to create a classroom that is “driven by discussion, rather than distraction” (Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2014). Speaking Volumes. Educational Leadership, 72(3), 18-23):
- Offer meaningful and complex tasks. Students need clarity regarding the task itself and why it is important as it relates to overall learning goals. If students understand these matters, they are more likely to remain on task.
- Model behavioral clues. Nonverbal communication is a valuable part of the communication process. Gestures, body position, eye contact, and nodding invite and foster communication.
- Encourage argumentation, not arguing. Teach students to provide evidence to support and justify their claims. Teach students to question in ways that offer disagreement without being disagreeable. Hold all students accountable for what they bring into the discussion.
- Provide language support. Students often have ideas and struggle to express them. Providing sentence frames, word walls, audio devices, and/or peer support can help.
- Listen, question, prompt, and cue. Thoughtful monitoring provides students with feedback and opportunities for future growth.
Carefully consider these elements as you plan for student dialogue in your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!