All of the schools I’ve had the privilege of working in have generally had students with low vocabulary and language skills. Whether this fact is due to socioeconomic status, cultural differences and/or language differences, many students often struggle to comprehend and engage in academic discourse. Because of this, these students cannot always access grade-level content. Writing suffers when students are unable to formulate their thoughts orally. Too often as educators, we become focused on compliance in the classroom and are just happy when our students are quiet and focused. Are we really engaging our students and making them actively think when they’re quiet? There are many strategies that teachers can use to engage students in meaningful discourse that will benefit all students, but are especially important to those students with low language skills and English language learners. If teachers have strong classroom management and teach discourse skills, these suggestions will prove effective:
- Using Rally Coach to practice math skills (This is a Kagan structure that requires student A to ask how a problem will be solved, student B explains then solves, student A checks and provides feedback.)
- Using Think-Pair-Share, Timed-Pair-Share or any vesions of Round/Rally Robin to discuss ideas or review content.
- Using Talking Chips to encourage discussion from all members in a small group. I especially love to have prompts/sentence starters that students can use when doing this activity.
- Teaching students through the “Habits of Discussion” how to be good listeners and to engage in higher-order discussions (elaborating on a peer’s response, critiquing a response, agreeing/disagreeing with a response.)
This article at Edutopia In Language Classrooms, Students Should be Talking explains the importance of discussions and shares other strategies. Encourage your students to speak!
Talking chips + Habits of Discussion! Works wonderfully when taught explicitly how to do it!
Example from Pinterest