Best-of-the-Rest! Meaningful Talk

You’ve likely met these strategies, but did you know they can make for great meaningful conversation?



The new school year is upon us, and there are still more meaningful talk strategies. In today’s post I have the best of the rest, so you can head into the school year with all the tools you can!


Close Reading

This strategy is when we ask students to go to deeper into a shorter, select piece of text. We essentially give them text dependent questions that require them to revisit a text that has enough complexity and meaning to make it worthy of the attention. Not just any text will do.


For example we might give students the following questions about an excerpt from “The Most Dangerous Game”:


  1. Read the dinner conversation between Rainsford and Zaroff. What does Zaroff reveal? Where does it say this in the text?

  2. How are Rainsford and Zaroff different in their attitude toward hunting? How do you know this?

  3. Is Rainsford revising his ideas about life and hunting? Why or why not? Support your answer with evidence from the text.


The key here is that close reading is not a solitary activity. Students should be discussing each of these questions during a collaborative conversation with peers. Students should be grappling with the meaning of texts with each other.


Anticipation Guides


Anticipation guides are another way to get students talking. During this strategy you give students statements and ask them whether they agree or disagree and why. You then have the students track their opinions while they read and then revisit after reading to re-evaluate those opinions. These statements should be discussed with small groups as well as with the whole group. So for example, with “The Most Dangerous Game,” we may present the following statements:

  • The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees.

  • It is never acceptable to take a human life.

  • To be civilized is to rid the world of those you believe are bad people.

Students discuss these topics both before and after reading. You could even create a debate over these concepts.


Gallery Walks


We’ve probably all used gallery walks, but are we using them to our full advantage? Are we using sentence stems to help students converse by each poster? Are we giving students guidelines? Or are we just getting them up to look at other students work? If we structure gallery walks the right way, they turn into a great opportunity for meaningful talk.


For example, maybe we use the statements from the anticipation guide and have student groups create posters with evidence from the text that supports different views. Those groups must then rotate to the other posters and discuss the ideas on the posters using sentence stems.


Some sentence stems may include:

  • I agree with this opinion because ___________________.

  • I disagree with this opinion because _____________________.

  • I can see both sides of this argument because __________________.

Using the sentence stems, students engage in meaningful talk about text.


So as you head back into your classrooms, take your instruction to the next level by getting your students talking about text every day! It might just mean a tweak of a tried-and-true strategy you have already used!


Have a great beginning to the school year!

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