Student Voices–Student Talk

“Talk is an invaluable tool for learning and for communicating that learning. Anonymous_Chat_iconStudents who know how to talk and think deeply in language arts will become proficient in using similar structures to create meaning and understanding across the curriculum” (Elliot-Johns, Booth, Rowsell, Puig, & Patterson, 2012, p. 30).

On the HSSSE survey, students were asked to rate the degree to which various types of work in class — instructional methods — excite and/or engage them. Students rated most highly those methods that involve work and learning with their peers. “Discussion and Debate” was rated as to some degree or very much exciting/engaging by about three out five students (61%), while only 16% of respondents rated this instructional method as not at all exciting/engaging (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010, p. 11).

There is a consensus among professional educators and researchers that “active learning, with all the attendant noise and movement of students doing and talking” (Zemelman, Daniels, & Hyde, 2012, p.7) is best practice.

Student have voiced their opinions about their learning and they want it to be more interactive.  They want to talk to other students and to their teachers about what they are learning, what they are thinking, and what they are questioning.  Planning for student discussion should be deliberate and employ a variety of strategies that engage students and keep them talking.

With this in mind, we have created Discussion Techniques for the Classroom for grades 6-12, available on Teachers Pay Teachers (

This packet of resources provides teachers with discussion techniques to use as part of an effective instructional design for grades 6-12. The ability to effectively discuss in small or large group settings is an integral part of effective communication. Regular practice in the classroom not only helps improve communication skills but also helps master skills and concepts. The activities in this packet require students to collaborate to answer questions, build understanding, and solve problems.

The tools in this packet can be used across all content areas and grades levels 6-12. As you review each strategy you will quickly see how each could be used as an engagement strategy, formative assessment, or closure activity in any lesson. Frequent use will help increase the engagement of all students in your lessons therefore increasing their motivation for learning and the likelihood of increased academic achievement. Five short PowerPoints are included to model and/or facilitate implementation of each technique.

Discussion Techniques Included:
• F2F Slide By
• Triangle Triad
• Ring of Truth
• Talking Heads
• Restate to Create

Elliot-Johns, S. E., Booth, D., Rowsell, J., Puig, E., and Paterson, J.  (March 2012).  Using student voices to guide instruction.  Voices from the Middle, 19(1), pp. 25-31.

Yazzie-Mintz, E. (2010). Charting the path from engagement to achievement: A report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation & Education Policy.

Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., & Hyde, A. (2012).  Best practice:  Bringing standards to life in America’s classrooms (4th Ed.).  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

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