Talk Time

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about discourse, oral language, and the amount of talk kids engage in throughout their days at school. Two resources that I share in this post support the importance of providing meaningful, plentiful opportunities for kids to talk for various purposes.

The first resource comes from Zaretta Hammond’s newsletter. I can’t share it due to copyright, however I encourage you to sign up for her newsletter at: In the January 15, 2024 edition, Hammond wrote about using talk structures in a variety of ways:
  • social talk (to build relationship teacher to student and students to each other)
  • academic talk
  • instructional talk (to share mindset and content-related strategies, to reflect on processes, and to build metacognition)
I can add my own suggestions/connections to Hammond:
  • model how to engage in talk routines to students
  • provide time for students to talk whole group, small group, and partnerships
  • post sentence stems and vocabulary to be used in talk
  • use jigsaw groups, where students talk with one group and take what they’ve learned to a new group
  • provide think time and/or time to jot ideas down (in words and/or pictures) before students begin discussion, to promote deep thinking and time for students to gather their thoughts
The second resource came to me from Jessica Carter, a colleague. It’s A Missing Link in the ‘Science of Reading’ Conversation, Elizabeth Heubeck. So much focus has been on teaching and learning reading, that we sometimes forget the importance of oral language (and writing, for that matter). Huebeck states that “if you systematically and explicitly stimulate language, you can see increases over time that promote reading comprehension”. I would add that we also increase engagement, community, and a sense of belonging. We honor the identities of students who bring a rich oral language background and skills.
How do we stimulate language and increase oral language in the classroom? Here are a few ideas:
  • Use the ideas above from Hammond.
  • Read aloud to students and highlight the complex sentence structures and the rich vocabulary presented in books (especially picture books).
  • Explicitly teach the structures of text (for example, the parts of a narrative or the text features in a non-fiction text).
  • Model comprehension, prediction, and inferencing skills when reading to students and give them many opportunities to practice talking about books using these skills.

I hope these resources are useful to you all and would love for you to share your feedback and other ideas you have around the importance of discourse in the classroom, and how it is an essential equity move.

“The purpose of schooling is not to acquire large quantities of (inert) knowledge-the banking model-but rather increase continually one’s understanding in order to act effectively and responsibly when faced with challenging situations. To do this, classroom exploratory talk is essential.” –Classroom Talk: What the Research Tells Us

A Missing Link in the ‘Science of Reading’ Conversation, Elizabeth Heubeck
Where’s Mr. Miyagi When You Need Him?, Zaretta Hammond, CRT and The Brain Newsletter 1.15.24
Classroom Talk: What the Research Tells Us