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Ways teachers can talk less, and get kids talking more

Excerpts from Angela Watson's blog. She's a National Board Certified Teacher and Teacher-Trainer. Quoted with permission from her (former) Cornerstone for Teachers website. Some wording was modified to make more sense for Sunday School.  The following are excerpts.


I have often found myself talking too much during group work and student-directed projects because I’m trying to push kids’ thinking, provide feedback, and help them stay on task.

It’s still tempting to spend too much time giving directions, repeating important information, and telling students how they did instead of asking them to reflect on their work.

Ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more:

1. Don’t steal the struggle.

It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle to figure out an answer, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe.

2. Move from the front of the classroom.

It’s easy to get in an instructional rut when you stand at the same place near the board all day long. Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.”  

5. Turn your statements into questions and prompts.

Instead of saying, "no that's not quite right," ask, "tell us how you came up with that answer." Then listen for them working it out and help them redirect to the right answer. Not only will these questions get kids talking instead of you, kids will also have the chance to reflect on and articulate their learning.

6. Instead of asking, “Does that make sense?” say, “Can you put that in your own words?”

Invite kids to put what you’ve explained into their own words, either repeating it back to you (if you were helping the child in a one-on-one conversation) or by turning and talking to a partner/doing a quick think/pair/share.

7. Stop wasting time repeating what you've already said.

It’s tempting to say important points and instructions a couple of different ways to make sure every child understands. But kids learn that it’s okay to tune you out because you’ll repeat everything you say. Instead, experiment with different strategies for getting kids to follow directions*** the first time you give them and use call-and-response routines to get kids’ attention right away. 

8. Notice moments when you summarize/review for students and instead get their input.

If you hear yourself saying once again, remember, as I said, as always, so to sum this up, or "don’t forget," that probably means you’re about to drive home an important point for the second or third (or tenth) time. Practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: Who can sum this up for us? 

 Be sure to read the THINK-PAIR-SHARE discussion technique here at

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