Increase Language Coming Back to School

I love to hear “chitter chattering” as I walk through the halls of my school. I love to hear the excited hum of students when they are passionately sharing ideas and even the slow lull when a student is thinking and trying to make sense of an idea. These sounds of children sharing and thinking remind me that learning is taking place and that students are formulating new ideas from the information they were presented.  Learning does not fully take place until an idea is taken, processed and extended or applied in some form.

In a blog last year entitled:  Why Student Talk Matters ,  I stated the following:  The speaking and listening piece allows our students to access the difficult text by having support while they process and think.  This shows the power of Language. We use the word “Language” often and what we mean by that is the communication of thoughts including reading and writing.  Listening and speaking are vehicles in which our students gain skills to read and write.  They must master one while learning a topic before they tackle the next. We know when we are teaching something difficult such as electricity, our students must listen to gain knowledge, talk about it so that they can process the information and then read about it.  Continuing discussion and processing helps students have the vocabulary necessary to write. If our students can write about a topic–they understand it. Each of these four domains (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) are interrelated and interact and affect one another–summation—these are reciprocal.

Our English as Second Language students rarely participate in conversations about academics, ideas and knowledge. Low socioeconomic families do not ask students to justify ideas, provide evidence, articulate positive or negatives.  This is only happening in our classrooms.  The more our classrooms are filled with academic discussions that require student to use and apply knowledge we are increasing their vocabulary and helping student to connect and own their learning.

Here are 6 simple ideas to infuse Language and “Student Talk” into your classrooms as you go back to school.

Idea #1: Throw and Answer

Learning to answer and formulate ideas into complete sentences helps students when they begin writing.

  1. Throw a ball to a student and ask a question about anything just to get to know them and practice using complete senteces.
  2. Student answers back in a complete sentence.
  3. If student does not restate question or cannot remember the question, they must sit down for three ball tosses.

*No winner to this game but a fun way to practice listening and speaking expectations.


Idea #2:   Play “Get to Know You BINGO.”

  1. Students move around the room asking other students the questions on the Bingo Board.
  2. Student must restate the question and answer the question for the student. Then they sign the box of the question they answered.
  3. All boxes are filled in to finish.
  4. Offering a prize for completion is always fun.

See Bingo Board Example here:  Bingo Board


Idea #3:  Read Aloud

  1. Read aloud a book which is above the reading level of the class to expose them to rich vocabulary.
  2. When you come to a great vocabulary word—stop—ask—What do you think this means?
  3. Reread the sentence. Have student turn and talk about what they think the word means and why.
  4. Discuss whole group.


Idea #4:  Act Out the Rules

  1. Divide students into the number of groups to correlate to the number of rules that you have.
  2. Give each group a rule.
  3. Give them 10 minutes to produce a skit to teach the rule to the class.
  4. Set the timer.
  5. Have each group present their skit.
  6. Have the audience turn and talk after each skit to put the rule in “their own words.”
  7. Discuss the rule in whole group and have several students rephrase the rule in their own words to solidify thinking.
  8. Have students turn and talk to each share an example of why this rule is important.
  9. Discuss whole group.
  10. Continue with next Skit until all are complete.


Idea #5:  Sing a Song/Rap about Safety

  1. After reading or discussing the safety procedures, have students create a song or rap to tell others what to do for that safety situation (Tornado, Lock In, Fire, etc.)
  2. Give students 10-15 minutes to work. Encourage them to brainstorm ideas and then put it to the tune of a song they know.
  3. Stop students after given time and tell them they have 5 minutes to “practice” for show time.
  4. Have each group perform their song.
  5. Have students turn and talk to share the most important detail that they learned and why it is important.
  6. Discuss whole group.


Idea #6 Character Trait Hunt

  1. Put a character trait on an index card or half sheet of paper for each student.
  2. Put this word on each child’s back.
  3. The students walk around and as they meet one another—they have to either verbally explain or act out the word on the child’s back but they cannot use the vocabulary word.
  4. After about 10-15 minutes, each child will be paired with a partner to “guess” their word and explain why they think that. The person cannot tell them if they are correct or not but can respond with another explanation or “act out.”
  5. Put students with a different partner and repeat
  6. Let students look at their word.
  7. They should write their name on the back of the card and a real world example of the word.

Character Trait List from Read Write Think

Optional:  Pair students to share their examples or discuss whole group.

Remember language is the vehicle in which we gain knowledge.  Take time to let students talk and do not “steal their discovery.”  Letting go of some control and letting students speak can be scary but the results will be worth it.  Students who are struggling need 100 exposures to a concept before it “sticks.” We have to let them express what they know so we can see if it has truly “stuck.”



4 Thoughts.

  1. Love all of these ideas! Ready to put them in action. My goal this year is to let my students talk a WHOLE LOT MORE!!!! In complete sentences that is😉.

  2. I attempted this on the first day of school when the students introduced themselves. It was very difficult for them just to say “My name is…..”. I catch my self not using complete sentences. 🙁

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