Accountable Talk Matters

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Feb. 6, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

Discussions are crucial ways for our brains to process new learning. According to John Hattie, classroom discussions are in the top ten instructional strategies that result in significant gains in student achievement. Students who discuss what they are thinking, before, during, and after reading comprehend text much better than those simply reading and then answering comprehension questions for a grade or assessment. Students need to hear multiple perspectives as they deepen their thinking about the meaning of a text. When they are able to participate in discussions and hear other points of view about a topic or text, they are introduced to a type of thinking they never would have thought of! This allows the learner to process the information and add to their schema.

Getting Students Talking

Allowing for talking or processing time for students is essential. To do this, place students in partners or teams and teach the art of an effective discussion. Students may need to learn how listen to others and form their own positions on issues. They should be able to repeat what their partner has said and integrate their thinking into the discussion.

Discussion groups can take place before, during, and after reading a text. Have students scan the text before reading and share what they "See, Think, and Wonder" about the text. Good readers always survey, activate prior knowledge, and formulate predictions before they dive into the text.

Have students read the text independently and then come back together at specific points in the text or after completing a short text to discuss their thinking and new learning. Be sure to have students use accountable talk during discussions. Students should use statements like "I agree with .....because...." or "I respectfully disagree with .....because..." This takes practice as students need to learn to listen and speak one another.

We found accountable talk cards on Teachers Pay Teachers for free!

Remember whoever does the talking, does the learning!

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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