Our Journey

The Power of Talk

From early on in our internship at Maple Wood School, we noticed the importance of collaboration in all areas of education. We were encouraged to collaborate with our cooperating teachers, grade-level teams, each professional within the school, and our intern group. For this reason, we knew we wanted to complete a group colloquium. We discovered, however, that it was difficult to find a common thread between our thoughts and ideas for colloquium topics.

At the beginning of the year, we had many discussions about our findings in what we wanted to explore more of throughout our internship and found that the need for a teacher voice kept resurfacing. Through these discussions, we discovered the different forms of talk in the classroom. We found that not only the teacher’s voice was an essential piece of the classroom environment, but so was the students’. We began to notice talk during Readers’ Workshop and Writers’ Workshop, as well as the random chit-chat throughout the day. We were interested in capitalizing on the talk in order to grow both our learning and that of the students. Without realizing it, we had found our umbrella question: How is the Power of Talk used in classrooms?

With the encouragement of our supervisor, Cynthia Merrill, we delved deeper into this question to discover the meaning it held for each of us individually. Emily became interested in finding what motivates students to want to learn. She discovered that partnerships were a major form of motivation behind helping students become stronger writers. Emily’s question is: How does the Power of Talk motivate students to become better writers? Kathleen was intrigued by readers who were able to talk thoughtfully about their reading even though this may not have manifested itself in their written responses. This pushed her to think about the importance of conferring with students and the understanding that both the students and teacher can come away with. Kathleen’s question is: How does the Power of Talk deepen my understanding about the reader while conferring? Taylor’s love for Readers’ Workshop provoked an interest in accountable talk and how it allowed her students’ learning to grow. It was important for her to support her students’ abilities to explain their thinking to each other in order to deepen the understanding of the whole group. Taylor’s question is: How does the Power of Talk move students towards deeper understanding in small groups? Shelley’s enjoyment for engaging her students in conversation about themselves and their own interests led to a new appreciation for the chit-chat that happens in her classroom. She used this appreciation to learn more about the whole child and make informed educational decisions. Shelley’s question is: How does the Power of Talk in casual conversation help me understand my students as learners?

Through exploring the different types of talk that happen in learning communities, we came to a better understanding of the importance of talk in both structured and casual styles. We gained strategies for encouraging and supporting various forms of talk in our classrooms to enhance the learning of all students, and successfully embedding each type of talk into our classrooms as regular practices. Our findings are both intriguing and exciting and we look forward to sharing them with you at our presentation.

We would like to thank our cooperating teachers, Ginger Riffe, Jen Landry, Missy Mitchell, Niki Kinneavy, and Beth Ostaszweski for their constant support and encouragement throughout this process. Your humor, dedication, and guidance has helped us grow into the teachers we want to be.

We would also like to thank our supervisor, Cynthia Merrill, for guiding us past our comfort zones into new and deeper levels of learning and thoughtfulness. Without your push towards collaboration and the development of true friendships within our group, this colloquium would not have become what it is today.