Being able to respectfully have a conversation with others is a skill that is extremely beneficial in life. In the classroom, students need the opportunity to process information and have conversations about their learning each day. The teacher is one person who listens and talks to students, however, the teacher should not be the only resource a student has to clarify, build upon, or deepen their understanding. Students also need to be spending time talking with each other about their learning. By allowing students the opportunity to do this, it gives each student a chance to explain their thinking, learn from others, and strengthen conversational skills.
In order for this to be successful, students need to understand how to talk to classmates about academic topics. While students are talking with each other, it is structured in order to ensure that students in the partnership or group are each getting a turn to talk, listen, and respond. Students are first taught how to respectfully talk and listen to a partner. Behaviors such as turning your body to face your partner and looking at your partner in the eye are modeled and reinforced.
Once students understand how to be an active listener, they are ready to take it a step further. They are now instructed on how to respond to their partner in order to coach them, push their thinking, or carry on a conversation. By using sentence stems to help guide responses, all students are held accountable for listening and responding in the conversation.
Sentence stems that are used in our classroom are shown below. These are posted so students can refer to them whenever needed.