Purposeful Talk

Talk represents thinking and is strongly linked to academic achievement, so providing time and structures for meaningful classroom discussions is important. When given the opportunity to participate in organized and purposeful discussions, students are more liked to retain the information.

There are six Common Core Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening which will guide teachers in planning and facilitating classroom discussions. For example, SL.9-10.1 lists the following discussion skills:

  • Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  • Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
  • Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
  • Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

When planning discussions, teachers need to define the content, list key vocabulary, and layout expectations for how students will interact. The room needs to be setup to support discussions. Students must feel safe in sharing their ideas.

Social skills will have to be modeled and practiced. Teachers should provide routines or protocols to promote participation such as giving each student 1-2 talking chips. Using the Jigsaw discussion strategy or assigning roles can assist students in meaningful interactions. Teachers can also provide scaffolding in the form of scoring guides outlining the key elements of a well-designed argument, or graphic organizers for students to complete while preparing for the discussion. Conversation prompts and cues can be provided to students to assist them in the development of conversational skills.


  • That reminds me of…
  • I agree, because…
  • True. Another example is when…

Sum It Up

  • I hear you saying that…
  • So, if I understand you correctly…
  • I like how you said…


  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • I’m not sure I understand…
  • I see your point, but what about…
  • Have you thought about…

During discussions, teachers would be advised to circulate around the room, prompting students as needed and noting what needs to updated for future discussions.

Following the discussions, students can process the activity by doing a Quick-Write, pro-con list, graphic organizer, an exit ticket, etc. For a more formal assessment, students’ work generated from discussions should be evaluated using scoring guides that identify speaking and listening skills.

By participating in well structured, academic discussions, students build interpersonal skills while learning content.


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