Turn and talk is the diamond earrings of the teacher world. It goes with everything.
(Okay, so I don’t have diamond earrings — I’d lose them in ten minutes flat. Plus, I’ve heard that the diamond industry isn’t ethical. But for the sake of a teacher metaphor, stick with me here…)
Turn and talk means exactly what it says: Turn (usually to a matched partner) and talk.
Simple enough. But it packs one heck of a punch. And it goes with anything you’re doing in class.
Kids learn better talking to each other. It’s safer. More fun. Sure they love us — but it’s their peers they really want to buddy up with.
Teaching Turn and Talk
When you first try this, whether it’s day one or one-eighty, match students with a partner.
Then model for them what turn and talk looks like. Try a simple prompt: “What’s your favorite snack?” Then pick a student to demonstrate with you.
Each of you takes a turn sharing with the other in front of the class. Then turn to the class and asked what they noticed. Then let them try.
This takes practice. Skills that they can perfect over time with your guidance include eye contact, voice level, listening skills, and body language.
Pick some kind of cue they can give to show they’re done. This can be as simple as a clap or simply turning their bodies to face front.
Why it works
Where to start? Turn and talk works on so many levels.
- One: It keeps kids accountable for their learning. This is good for your sweet daydreamers, who’d otherwise let those same 5 kids take the floor every time.
- Two: They can try out their answer on someone else before sharing it with the whole class.
- Three: If they don’t know the answer, they can hear someone else’s thoughts to get their brain jump-started.
- Four: It helps those kids who are constantly raising their hands and who love to be involved.
Often, when I tell kids to turn and talk, I’ll preface it by saying, “I’ll be picking one of you afterward to share either your thoughts or your partner’s.” So they know they have to pay attention.
Turn and Talk as Getting to Know You Activities
Turn and talk relaxes kids in the first days and weeks of school. The pressure to speak in front of the entire class can tie some students in knots. But talking to one student? That’s doable for most.
Questions you can ask:
- How do you get to school in the morning?
- What would be your ideal lunch?
- What would you do if someone handed you $100?
- If you only had to take one subject in school, what would it be? (Give them choices so they don’t pick “recess” or “lunch.”) 🙂
As you create routines at the beginning of the year, have kids turn and talk to either repeat the steps of the routine to each other or to share questions they still have about those routines.
Or when you’re teaching classroom jobs — you can ask them to turn and talk to answer “What does the homework checker do?”
One I use every day? “Turn and talk to share with your partner what today’s learning objectives are. Then share any questions you have about the goals.”
Turn and talk works beautifully when kids are learning and practicing reading strategies, with learning math facts, or even something as silly as sharing their favorite April Fools jokes.
Turn and Talk with Distance Learning
Breakout rooms work brilliantly for turn and talk. Once you’ve tried using them a couple of times, you’ll get the hang of it and can do for 30 second shares. Same as before, state that you’ll call on one (or two or three…) students to share what they or their partner said.
For example, during social studies, I have students practice their states using practice tests. I tell them we’re going to play a online game of Kahoot next but that they’ll get a chance to turn and talk with a partner in a breakout room to share which states they’re having trouble remembering. (And often they’ll share mnemonic devices with each other!)
Or during online read aloud, put them in turn and talk breakout rooms to discuss what Auggie meant when he used the word catastrophe.
Turn and talk is a low-stress and effective way for kids to share their background knowledge at the beginning of a unit.
See why turn and talk is your best friend? You need no equipment. Just a good sense of timing to keep your kids involved in your lesson.
If you’ve never tried it before, start with something simple like a Zoom Activity break. Or if you haven’t used it in a while, dust it off and see how it works!
And while you’re at, put on a pair of those real or fake diamond earrings you’ve haven’t worn in a while. You’re going go look fabulous, darling!
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- Hoops or diamonds?
- How do you plan to use turn and talk in your classroom?
- What strategies do you use to keep your students from snoozing during your lessons?
- Are diamonds unethical? What’s the story there?
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