Recently, our district has adopted a new Reading Initiative. As part of our preparation to implement this in our classrooms next fall, my team was able to go and visit a local district that was successfully using it. During my observations, I noticed the lessons were very student driven and there was an obvious focus on students using accountable talk with one another. We already use a version of this in ZONES, but I thought that I should research this a bit more, so next fall, I could purposefully directly instruct my students on this so they could use this strategy successfully in both ZONES math AND reading. Two in one!!!!
Accountable Talk, or sometimes called Purposeful Talk, has become very popular in the last few years. If you have not heard of this concept, this graphic is the easiest way to show you the difference between a traditional classroom dialogue (left picture) and a classroom that uses accountable talk practices (right picture).
Using Accountable Talk, students are directly taught how to have meaningful and purposeful dialogue with one another in the classroom. They are trained on how to listen to one another's ideas, how to authentically think about an idea or concept from a peer, and how to critically respond with thoughtfulness.
So, why is this an important skill to teach our students? Maria Nichols is an expert on this skill. She has written several articles and done numerous presentations on the subject. Accountable Talk practices teach students to think globally. Through these dialogues students learn how to effectively discuss their ideas with their peers and then critically analyze others' thinking. With the combined information of their own thinking and what they have gathered from their peers, students then construct new understandings of the topic. In a traditional classroom the dialogue is very teacher-centered. The teacher asks a question with a correct answer (Usually a low-level Blooms), calls on one student, the student answers, the teacher responds to that student to affirm a correct or an incorrect answer. To use Accountable Talk effectively, there should not be a "correct" answer. Students should be able to dialogue their ideas or understandings in order to construct new thinking. This works very well for reading topics that are big picture, like theme, character traits, symbolism, etc. However this also works well with math concepts. Students often can dialogue about a strategy they used to solve a problem, with number talks, or discussing a new concept to build background knowledge.
So what do students who are using Accountable Talk look like? How do they sound? Accountable Talk dialogue is very engaging. All students are help accountable for listening with intent and responding with their own ideas. There is no hiding and hoping the teacher doesn't call on you to give the right or wrong answer. Students learn how to respectfully listen to everyone's ideas. They also begin to feel safe to share their own ideas without the fear of the right or wrong stigma. They know that as long as they have a thoughtful response, their answer is correct. Students are expected to critically listen and compare the ideas that others give to their own ideas. This obviously takes training and a lot of practice. But students should be held accountable for their thinking by more than just the teacher. They should also feel that their ideas are important to all students, not just to the teacher. Students should all be actively thinking during classroom dialogue. Accountable Talk practices helps to ensure that is happening.
In ZONES, we have used Accountable Talk during our whole group mini-lesson at the beginning of the class. It has been an amazing addition to our classroom. Each day we use a picture and hold an Accountable Talk conversation on "Which one is different and why?" The discussion typically lasts between 7 and 10 minutes and we require students to use Accountable Talk language when responding. We have also used it at the end of our ZONES lesson as a wrap-up. Students have discussed what they learned, what they noticed went well, what needs to be improved, etc. Verbalizing this academic conversation has helped in their writing during the Notebook Zone as well.
Are you ready to get started?
I know you are!
Here is a great article from the Teacher'sToolkit on how to get started with Accountable Talk in your classroom. http://www.theteachertoolkit.com/index.php/tool/accountable-discussions
There are also several ideas on our ZONES Pinterest Board - Speaking in Math
There are TONS of places where you can go to get posters for your classroom for FREE so students have those sentence starters right at the tips of their fingers (or tongues). I have listed just a few of some great ones that I have found. They are free and some are even bi-lingual!
And of course, I would be completely remiss if I did not discuss how amazing Accountable Talk is for our English Learners and students who are influenced by at-risk factors in their lives! This amazing article goes into depth about how Accountable Talk in the classroom is a huge benefit to these students. It also goes into the expectations and strategies to use with each level of Language Proficiency. It is a real gem!
I guarantee that this is not the last time you will see or hear me talk about Accountable Talk in my classroom. I fully intend to use this in my classroom next year in both reading and writing, and I will be sharing! Stay Tuned!!!
References: teacherparentresources.com Oct 2010,
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