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Teaching Strategies to Get Your Students Talking

Janelle Cox

Most teachers spend the majority of their day doing most of the talking. Teacher-lead activities have been, for the most part, a staple in the classroom for decades.

But student-led activities are what the majority of teachers are trying to implement into their classrooms now, but many of them are having a hard time because they feel they need to provide students with feedback, or help them to stay on task.

Even when learning is supposed to be student-directed, many teachers often hear themselves repeating information or giving too many directions.

If you really want to get your students talking more, then you must learn to take a back seat and let them. Here are a few teaching strategies to make you talk less, and get your students to talk more.

Teaching Strategies: Allow Students to Have “Think Time”

The first step to talking less and having students get more involved in their own learning is to allow them to have some “Think time.” This means that you can’t always take over and give them the answer or prompt them for an answer. You must sit and wait it out and let students think for themselves. While this can be hard, and uncomfortable, it is necessary. Providing a few extra minutes of “Think time” may even increase the quality of the students’ responses. So the next time you are tempted to talk when students are supposed to be thinking, remember that you are only hindering the students from their own learning.

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Get Student Input

How many times a day do you hear yourself asking the same questions or saying the same statements over and over again? “Don’t forget …” or “Once again, I would like to remind you to …” Instead of wasting your breath time and time again, turn those moments into student-directed moments. Ask a student to remind the class or sum up what they had just learned. Some teachers use this time as a chance for all students to answer together as a class. They will all chant the answer or use a body movement or hand motion to explain themselves. There’s a better chance that students will listen to their peers, rather than listen to you repeat yourself all day long.

Utilize Think-Pair-Share

Oftentimes teachers ask their students if they understand what he/she had just explained, and most of the time the students just nod their heads even if they don’t understand. If you really want to know if students are getting it, then have them quickly do a think-pair-share with their neighbor. This is a cooperative learning activity where students think about what they just learned, then talk it over and share it with their neighbor. It’s a great way for students to learn a different perception, and it gives them chance to use their own words to discuss what they just learned.

Ask Questions and Use Prompts

Instead of always telling students what you think in a statement, turn that statement into a question or even a prompt. For example, if students are working in cooperative learning groups and you notice the group has the answer wrong, you might have said, “Check over answer number two, I think it may be incorrect.” Instead of saying that, turn that statement into “How did you get the answer for number two?” This prompt will give students the opportunity to discuss their answer, which will help them determine how they got the wrong answer.

Use Non-Verbal Signals

If you really want to lessen your own talking, then try to come up with a few non-verbal signals to show students what you want from them. For example, instead of always saying, “It’s time to clean up,” which means it’s transition time to move to another activity, all you have to do is a hand signal and students will know what to do next. You can also have students use hand signals for when they need to use the restroom or sharpen their pencil, etc. It’s an easy way to lessen the talking in the classroom and get things done quietly.

Silence is really OK. It’s important to mention that because many teachers feel that they always have to keep the room talking in order for the students to be engaged. Sometimes children just need a few minutes of silence to gather their thoughts, and then you will see some really good answers from the students.

How do you get your students talking more? Do you have any tips or advice for having student’s talk more and teachers talk less? Please share your comments in the section below, we would love to hear what you have to say

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.