We asked teachers registering for the Get Kids Talking with A.J. Juliani webinar to give us their burning questions around the topic of student discussions and getting students talking.
Nearly 2,000 educators registered for the event and nearly 200 of them sent in questions. Here’s what we learned about teacher concerns when we grouped them into categories:
- Building Student Confidence (~ 47%)
- Gathering Meaningful Feedback from Students (~42%)
- Discussion Strategies (~8%)
- Other (~3%)
Clearly, teachers are similarly concerned about their remote/flexible/hybrid/emergency learning environments and yearn to connect with their students.
Some examples of teachers’ questions:
- What about kids who turn both their camera and microphone off?
- How do you make silence comfortable so they can think before they respond?
- What do you do when no one answers the question you ask?
- How do we make high school students talk in the online environment? What are possible reasons they go silent?
- What are the conditions that are most integral to getting children comfortable to talk?
- How to engage reluctant learners to talk with confidence about their learning?
And questions going deeper into student confidence:
- How do we ensure that the ‘quiet ones’ are okay – emotionally as well as academically?
- How do you get kids to voice that they need help?
- What is more important, to get kids talking about anything (social/emotional) or to get them on the topic?
- How to get kids, who do not find the topic interesting, onboard?
Yikes – there is nothing worse than dead air when we’re trying to get a discussion going. While it is easy to take the dead air personally, it is not us. Step back for a sec and remember we know that students will not respond in the classroom or virtually if they:
- are afraid to be wrong
- are afraid to be wrong in front of peers or the teacher
- feel embarrassed about their communication skills – speaking or writing
- are not engaged with the question
All of these reasons that students do not respond are related by degrees to the issue of student confidence. It is compounded during a pandemic when we are challenged to build relationships with students remotely and encourage the relationships they would build in-person with peers.
The most important element for success in a discussion is confidence.
Confidence does not preclude being open-minded and having a willingness to listen to and build on the ideas of others. Rather, confidence gives us the energy to invest in new ideas. Let’s tap confidence regularly!
First, TeachBack is not Think, Pair, Share.
Studies on Think, Pair, Share have shown that over 80% of the instances when students are directed to turn and share – they share incorrectly. Repeating something to each other incorrectly only further cements a skill, procedure, or idea even more incorrectly.
According to John Hattie, students usually rely on one learning strategy as they learn. If it doesn’t work, they will try again with that same strategy. If it continues to not work, they will disengage and lose confidence.
TeachBack Tuesday (or any other day of the week) is an instructional strategy that encourages students to learn to become a trusted expert. Think about our own planning process when we prepare to teach.
We know that when we were about to teach a math concept, we reviewed. We looked at notes from the previous class or year and reminded ourselves of the misconceptions. We tried some problems and thought about the skills students would need to be successful. We thought about the students, as individuals and groups, and where they stood in our joint learning plan.
Getting Started with TeachBack Tuesdays
There are many entry points to TeachBack Tuesday adaptable for your own classroom.
- Students choose from a menu of skills, procedures, misconceptions, etc. and become an expert in just that piece. They teach the group, listen to feedback, and answer the group’s questions. They are then a groups’ resource for re-teaching within the group.
Example: Lauren becomes the Group Expert – Rounding. She teaches a Tuesday lesson to the group on how to round to the nearest tenth and the nearest hundredth. Later, when the group is learning to find the area of a circle, she helps the group apply rounding to the result of A = 𝞹r2.
- Students are given an incomplete example and asked to teach their solution on TeachBack Tuesday. Plan and design the incomplete examples to meet the learning needs of students.
Example: Juan becomes the Group Expert – Writing a Claim. He worked on creating examples of a clear claim and examples of no claim at all for his group. Then he decided that having some writing that included a claim, but was vaguely written would be a great teaching tool for his group. When he met with the group, they worked on improving these last claims. The group’s feedback was positive about his examples and they also loved that he thought to include the “gray” area writing.
- Students choose an area of challenge for them to master. They plan, with support, to teach about this area of challenge to their peers. This is the most powerful TeachBack Tuesday and can be EPIC in a classroom where a Feedback Policy emphasizes mistakes as part of learning and improvement as the goal.
Example: Claire becomes the Group Expert – Fault Types. She struggled with learning the differences between a normal fault, a strike-slip fault, and a reverse fault while her class was learning about earthquakes. She decided to make it a TeachBack Tuesday topic and made a poster cheat sheet showing the differences. While she was teaching her peers, they made a few more suggestions of differences that she added to her cheat sheet. She found that drawing a diagram and demonstrating with her hands helped her see the differences.
The Bottom Line: There are more entry points that we’re sure you can imagine for your own class. Empowering students to engage with their learning as experts, regularly, in a meaningful way will build their confidence and help them continue to build relationships with their peers.
Check out our sister site, GrokSpot, when you’re ready to use a powerful discussion tool that feeds back student confidence levels to you. Confidence levels are reported by students as they respond to an academic prompt and provided to teachers in real-time. Check it out!
The first five prompts used with students are free; use coupon code CONFIDENCE to get $10.00 off GrokSpot Professional, normally $25. Offer expires 3/1/2021.