Get 'em Talking!

Strategies to encourage student collaboration

Collaborating in Discussion

What do you mean students need to be taught how to talk to one another? They won't STOP talking to each other, just not about anything I ask them to.


We can easily forget that collaboration and active listening are skills that need to be taught just like decoding author's meaning or successful use of the 5 paragraph essay. To maximize the time we have with students we must take time to teach them how to engage in academic conversations with peers; what does that look or sound like? How is it different for a 6th grader or a Senior in high school?


The speaking & listening standards that are found at every grade level are our greatest leverage point for student learning. These are not just large scale speeches (and what occupation, other than teaching, is a person regularly expected to talk to large groups every day for 8 hours?) In every occupation or path in life a student will need to be able to communicate with small groups of people efficiently in order to be successful. Forget the big presentation for right now, and focus on how to get students engaged in smaller conversations where they may actually disagree, respectfully. We must find ways to help students defend their viewpoints soundly while honoring the other person's perspective.

Try Something New

I encourage explore some of these strategies as you plan collaborative task for your students. Try one new thing each week. Implement a new system or protocol for students to feel heard. Share your feedback with your PLC's about any particularly effective strategies.

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