Must I Stand and Deliver or Turn and Talk?

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As anyone in the world of education, today, will tell you, we have changed a great deal since the classrooms of the twentieth century.  We have moved away from the old “stand-and-deliver” types of teaching.  No matter what television or stock photos will tell you, we no longer want classrooms set up with desks in rows and the teacher’s desk at the front where the teacher will stand in front of a chalkboard and deliver instruction and wisdom.   Just go to Pinterest and search “classroom set up” and you’ll find a myriad of images showing how things are very different from those stock photos and stereotypical television shows.  But what Pinterest can’t show you are the ways that teaching, itself, has changed.  We should no longer be standing in front of the class, with students taking notes, followed by students completing a worksheet while the teacher walks around and watches for students who are off task.  We need to connect our students with their learning and make our instruction more engaging and students focused.

We no longer want classrooms set up with desks in rows and the teacher’s desk at the front where the teacher will stand in front of a chalkboard and deliver instruction and wisdom.

In an effort to help teachers find great success in their classrooms, I’d like to share a series of posts regarding various teaching strategies/protocols that are engaging and focus the work with the students.  By using various and specific teaching strategies/protocols, we enable our students to learn through multiple intelligence styles and purposeful activities.

Within my posts, I plan to describe the strategy/protocol, explain why it is used, and provide instructions for how to use it.  Some of the strategies/protocols that I plan to share with you are:

  • Turn-n-Talk
  • Gallery Walk
  • Concentric Circles
  • Vote with your Feet
  • Exit Tickets
  • Accountable Talk
  • 1:1 Conferring
  • Launch, Explore, Summarize
  • Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face
  • Text Share Triad
  • Stop and Jot
  • Total Physical Response
  • Philosophical Chairs
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Whip-Around
  • Give One, Get One
  • And more.

Students talk with their partner for a limited amount of time.

Some of these strategies will enable students to gather their thoughts prior to discussion or writing about their reading or study.  Others will serve as a tool for formative assessment, provide time for listening, hold students accountable, push students’ thinking further, help students to take risks, problem solve, and to work collaboratively, as well as building habits of effective and efficient learning skills.  You’ll find strategies that seem to suit your needs and personality to a tee, and those that you might save in your teaching toolbox for another time.  Whatever the case, I hope that you will find this series of posts helpful, and feel free to share!

So with that, let’s get started.


What is it?

Students will engage in a brief yet meaningful conversation with another classmate.  This strategy is used to provide every student a voice in a discussion, instead of just a few selected students. All of the students can process their learning with a partner, as the lesson is occurring.

When Might You Use This?

This strategy can be used at any time throughout a lesson.  You might want to use it as an opener to a lesson where you pose a question about the topic in efforts to pull out the students’ schema of the topic. For instance, you might say, “Turn and talk with your partner or neighbor about what you know about Outer Space” just before beginning a unit about the solar system. Or you might chose to use it at the beginning of a day’s lesson in order to have students share about what they learned from the previous day’s lesson.  You could also use this strategy at various points in a lesson, read aloud or presentation, asking students to talk about what they had just heard or learned.  Another situation for use might be just before you send students off to begin independent or group work.  You could have students retell the directions with their partner, or ask clarifying questions if they didn’t understand the directions.  At the end of a lesson, this strategy might be used to review information and learning as well.


How You Use This?

  1. Pose a Question or prompt. Ask the students a question, such as given above, or provide a prompt that you want the students to finish.  An example of that might be, “Finish this thought with your partner.  ‘Today I learned that an astronaut might …’ And be sure to tell why you know.” Or “Tell your partner your answer to this math problem and how you solved it.”
  2. Have students turn to a neighbor or specific partner. I’ve often used “elbow partners” (those sitting next to them), “account-a-buddies” (previously assigned partners) or “season partners” (Students select 4 students to partner with.  One is for each season.  The teacher would then instruct students to meet/talk with their specific season partner.  E. “Talk with your spring partner.”)
  3. Students talk with their partner for a limited amount of time. (2-5 minutes) You might want to use a timer. During the time that the students are talking, the teacher moves around and listens to the conversations.  This is an important step that some teachers neglect.  By moving around and listening to specific conversations, you’ll not only help with accountability, but you’ll receive important information about what students’ are saying, can redirect misunderstandings, and can use it as a formative assessment (information that informs your next steps of instruction).  This may also help you to select pairs for the sharing portion of the strategy.

    After the allotted (short) time have students share what they said or what their partner said.

  4. After the allotted (short) time have students share what they said or what their partner said. Some students might not feel confident in their own thoughts, and by allowing them to share what they heard can provide them with success and/or take away some anxiety having to share their own ideas of which they don’t trust. You might also use this share time to have those partnerships with which you had heard insightful, important, or useful thoughts speak in the talk time. You might even want to record comments shared on an anchor chart about the topic.

Possible Turn-n-Talk opportunities:

  1. Students predict what will happen next in a story
  2. Students define words
  3. Students talk about the methods of solving a problem
  4. Students answer a teachers prompted question
  5. Students finish a sentence stem
  6. Students share a connection to the text
  7. Students state the next step in a procedure
  8. Students brainstorm ideas
  9. Students practice a conversation in the language they are learning
  10. Students explain the tools they will use or the directions in their own words
  11. Students share their opinions
  12. Students share their answer and how they got it
  13. Many more…


I use the Turn-n-Talk strategy every day.  Students become very familiar with the practice and they learn that their voice is going to be heard; no one gets left out.  I also love that it also breaks up the amount of time that I am in charge of the conversation.  I want to give students opportunities to talk, and want them to become invested in their learning, not just idle observers.  This strategy doesn’t let the quiet, under-the-radar, type student fly low enough to disappear.  Yet, it provides a safe way of participating, since the conversation is with a peer.

Please check back soon for my next post in the series.  If you’d like more information or to receive email news and updates please contact me with the form below.

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