The importance of talk in the classroom has been brought into sharp focus as a result of lockdown and through our experiences of teaching remotely. In relation to our own talk, as we found ourselves talking into our laptops we had to think more carefully about the pace and how we sequenced our explanations without the usual cues we rely on in the classroom. Despite our best efforts to engender student discussion online, talking to our students face to face has been a real highlight of returning to the classroom.

Talk is such an important tool that we use in our teaching and one that perhaps hasn’t had the attention it deserves. The Sandringham Professional Learning Team and I have set about articulating what makes classroom talk effective. Based on our reading of research evidence and reflecting on practice, the following are the six dimensions of what we have termed High Quality Talk:

High Quality Teacher Talk

When it comes to learning, the three most powerful aspects of teacher talk are to provide explanations, to model and to question our students.

EFFECTIVE EXPLANATIONS: These are linked to what students already know, they include models, analogies and examples, they address common misconceptions and are carefully paced.

MODELLING EXPERT THINKING: This includes the use of worked examples and models, fading out models and scaffolds over time, and thinking aloud to make your expert thinking visible to students.

QUESTIONING WITH PURPOSE AND PARTICIPATION IN MIND: The purpose of questions should be planned. They may be used to promote students’ think- ing, or used to assess understanding. Effective questioning strategies maximise student engagement and participation.

High Quality Student Talk

Enabling students to talk confidently, to talk with others and to talk like experts are central to helping students think, learn and articulate themselves.

TALKING CONFIDENTLY: A teacher’s encouragement is critical in enabling student talk. Confident speakers will use their voice including their pace, tone, pronunciation and projection. They will also use body language, gestures, consider posture, facial expressions and use eye contact.

TALKING WITH OTHERS: Developing a culture of collaborative talk can be supported by varying student groupings. The role of each student in the group is important. Likewise, taking turns and reinforcing the importance of listening can promote oracy and manage participation.

TALKING LIKE AN EXPERT: Supporting students to use academic and subject specific vocabulary when they speak has the potential to help them to make significant progress. This can be facilitated by teacher modelling, repetition and explanation of new words. Creating opportunities for students to use new language for themselves through ‘speaking stems’ or other devices can help.

To find out more about High Quality Talk, this freely downloadable booklet examines each dimension including useful reading lists:High Quality Talk booklet.pdf