In our day and age where everyone can share all their opinions on every subject and then some, it is so important that our students are equipped with the ability to disagree in a kind and productive way. That’s why I’m a big fan of using accountable talk stems in math, reading, and science discussions. Students need to be able to practice these skills in a controlled environment, like a classroom, to hone the skills needed for polite conversation.
What is accountable talk?
The goal of accountable talk is to provide students with the framework for agreeing or disagreeing with others, ask questions, share opinions, and paraphrase discussions. Students are given sentence stems so they can join conversations in a meaningful way.
What is a sentence stem?
The sentence stems are provided by the teacher as a way to prompt the students to join the conversation.
- I agree (or disagree) with you because …
- I have a different point of view because …
- In my opinion …
- I have a question about …
- I noticed that …
The point is to give open-ended stems. Students can express their opinions without making it “personal” with another student, and it requires them to support their talk with evidence or explanations. If you need help coming up with ideas for sentence stems, I have a Desktop Anchor Chart for Accountable Talk available on my TPT store.
How do I start using accountable talk?
First, define what accountable talk is, and discuss why it is beneficial with your class. You can explain that when discussing in a learning environment, such as your class, students should be able to have conversations about what they are learning. But, conversations need accountability by supporting your opinions or thoughts with evidence or information gathered.
Next, have students come up with a list of stems, or provide them with stems of open-ended phrases that can help them contribute to the conversation. Show students how to use these in a discussion by stating your opinion on simple topics like why your favorite color is the best. Students can use the sentence stems to reply and engage in conversation with you.
Lastly, give students the opportunity to practice. Give non-academic topics where everyone can participate. Think of silly things like if the toilet paper goes over or under, or if cake is better than pie. Have students restate their sentences if they do not use one of the sentence stems. Practicing this way will give students an opportunity to understand how to use the stems and apply them to academic topics later.
How can I use this in my classroom?
Any time you have the opportunity for student-centric discussions, incorporate accountable talk. Use it before you introduce new material and students can discuss their previous knowledge and anticipate what they are learning. If you use a film, hold a discussion afterwards as a tool for reflection. Pose thought-provoking questions to students ahead of a read-aloud and let students share their thoughts. Any activity where a student must explain or prove something is a good opportunity as well.
If you’re looking to help your students converse in a respectful and meaningful way, start by introducing accountable talk. Not only will you give your students a skill set to be well-mannered conversationalists, you’ll also help them advance their speaking skills and express their opinions beyond your classroom. Don’t forget I have this resource for a Desktop Anchor Chart that is perfect for giving students an on-hand resource right at their fingertips.
Do you use accountable talk stems in your classroom? If so, let me know your favorite ways to introduce students to the concept in the comments below. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram, I love hearing from you!
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