I recently went to a Solution Tree conference (which was awesome BTW. . . if you get a chance to go, GO!) and a powerful quote stuck out to me that connected the idea of student talk vs. teacher talk.
A great teacher is not “one who explains things so well that students understand” but “one who gets students to explain things so well that they can be understood.”
As I reflected on this, I realized this captured a main goal of mine as a specialist in working with PLCs and addressing the second question of PLCs: How will we know students are learning? To answer this question, I think teachers need to implement strategies that empower students to communicate mathematical ideas to prove their understanding and not simply rely on the teacher doing the talking. So, when I got back from the conference I talked with my PLCs and they agreed that this is an important issue and wanted to create time to discuss specific strategies teachers will implement to have students purposefully talk (this idea of purposeful talk also came from a principal I work with. Thank you to that principal!) Since talking to them and thinking of ways in which we could do this efficiently and effectively, I have seen more and more research and ideas supporting this idea of teacher talk vs. student talk. For example, a few days ago I was reading a book by Deb Teitelbaum and she wrote, “the rule of thumb for calculating the amount of direct instruction your students can handle is to take their age in years plus or minus three.” That means freshmen students need a break from direct instruction/teacher talk about every 11 minutes. Then today I was tagged in this video (thank you to that AP) which explains this idea of teacher talk and gives the shocking research that on average, “teachers ask an average of 200 questions per day and students ask an average of 2 questions per student per week.” After seeing all these supporting claims, it was reconfirming that what I’m doing is important and necessary work. So, I decided I needed to finally finish this post and here’s how we’re making this purposeful student talk happen.
At one school, the team of teachers is taking every Tuesday to look at the week ahead and plan out one strategy per day that they can commit to doing. We started this week and it was a really successful and engaging experience. We are drew from Lead4ward and 7 Steps to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom strategies. Each teacher has the Lead4ward App (if you don’t have it, download it now!) and almost all have been to a training I did on the 7 Steps. So it was a great way to not reinvent the wheel and instead, turn to these resources that have been proven to be successful as a quick way to align strategies to instruction. I typed up their ideas in a Googledoc where their lesson plans are housed as they wrote them on the physical notes/practice papers that they had already planned for the students that week. I loved how it gave the teachers a broad overview of the week while also zooming in on specific strategies to increase student learning and communication each day. This week those teachers are using total response signals (7 Steps Strategy), sentence stems (7 steps strategy), and a summarize response (Lead4ward). I think this conversation of stopping the teacher’s instruction and allowing students to process, talk, and do was really powerful! It also helped teachers process how they wanted students to be grouped and when in the lesson they would be purposefully talking.
Next week, I plan to do a similar task with my other school, but instead we will use a Chalk Talk protocol to generate strategies together. I am looking forward to how this method of discussion flows and seeing the teachers engage in this meaningful planning.