Students can learn a lot from talking in groups. Studies have suggested that when discussing in groups, students can successfully make meaning in relation to what’s being taught. In contrast to their relationship with their teacher, peer relationships tend to be less formal and so students may feel more confident to talk; testing out their ideas with their peers.
As will be familiar to most teachers, developing a culture of collaborative talk in the classroom can be difficult and students are likely to need help developing these skills. Different groupings of students, from pairs to larger groups can be helpful. Perhaps more critical though is the role of each child in the group, or a structure to support each child to take part. Sentence frames along the lines of I agree with X and here is another example.. or I saw it differently from X.. can foster not only opportunities for each student to speak but it can reinforce the importance of listening. Students may not listen in class due to being distracted or commonly, they are mentally rehearsing what they are going to say and therefore stop listening to how the discussion is progressing. Supporting students to respond to others is a key part to talking with others. Another common challenge of managing how students talk with one another relates to how some voices can dominate, and it is easy to picture any classroom where this is the case. In instances such as these, managing turns can mean that all students are given an equal opportunity to talk.