Talk Structures: Thinking Together to Learn More About Texts

By Irene Fountas

Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Your classroom is a place where students have endless opportunities to benefit from each other’s thinking.  Imagine a day filled with the riches of each other’s knowledge and perspectives.  When students learn their thinking is valued, they develop their voices and learn how to value the voices of others.

Consider the amount of text-based talk that students engage in throughout the day in the following instructional contexts:

  • Interactive Read Aloud
  • Reading Minilessons
  • Reading Conferences
  • Group Share
  • Book Clubs
  • Guided Reading Discussions
  • Writing Minilessons
  • Writing Conferences
  • Guided Writing Lessons

Routines for thinking together are easily developed and enable our students to use their time well, transitioning easily into meaningful literacy conversations that will serve them well for a lifetime.  Help your students learn how to turn and talk quickly to a partner or in triads to share their thinking with each other.  Usually the teacher gives the students a specific prompt to focus their thinking and talking.

For example:

  • Turn and talk about what you think the writer’s physical description of Sam makes you think he will be like.
  • Turn and talk about how the writer is making this topic interesting.
  • Turn and talk about what the writer wants you to think about at the end.
  • Turn and talk about what the writer is making you wonder about.
  • Turn and talk about what you notice about the verbs the writer used on this page.
  • Turn and talk about why you think the writer is telling about this topic.

When the talk is text-based, students use the vocabulary and language structures that are usually beyond their independent oral language skills.  Texts become powerful tools for expanding vocabulary and language power.

As you reflect on your teaching this summer and prepare for a new year, consider setting new goals for talking less at your students and increasing the time they talk with each other.  You can write your reflections and goals on this topic here on our blog in the comments section!

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