Talking is Part of Literacy Too! How to Get Students Talking About a Specific Subject and 10 Prompts to Get them Started: Grade 4-8

Teaching our students to be articulate is also a part of literacy. While some students seem to already to pros at this, there are others that could use some practice with talking on a topic (and staying on it) and there are others that need a bit of practice with formulating their ideas and being able to talk about one thing for an extended period of time. There are also students that need to build confidence talking in front of others. Keep reading for some ideas on how to get students talking and some prompts to get them started!

  1. Make think, pair, share a normal part of your classroom routine. In think, pair, share, students are given a chance to think about a prompt, talk about it with a partner, and then share out their answers with the class. It is a great way to increase on-task student talk time in the classroom.

  2. Introduce the assignment. Let students know that they will need to be able to talk about a topic for an extended amount of time. I would usually set this as 2 minutes. However, feel free to adjust this time as needed. If you think 2 minutes is too long for your class, reduce it. Same with if you want to give some students the option of talking for longer, feel free to do that as well.

  3. Model. Model how you would approach this. Show one of the below prompts (or one of your own). Model how you would brainstorm what you would talk about. You could use either a mind map, list them, or another brainstorming activity that you think would work well for your class. Next, show how you would organize your ideas on a list so that you would remember everything you wanted to talk about and the order that you wanted to put them in. Emphasize here that you are not writing full sentences, but rather key points that you will later elaborate on.

  4. Give students time to plan and outline. Introduce the prompt(s), and give students time to brainstorm and create their outline. This would also be a great time to let students conduct some research to have evidence and details to help support their point. Provide feedback on their outline.

  5. Let students practice with a partner. Pair students up, set the timer for 2 minutes (or however long you are hoping the students will be able to talk about a topic for), and let the first member of the pair talk about their topic. Then switch. Once both members of the pair had a chance to practice, I re-partner the students and repeat the process with a new parter. Depending on your students, you may want to partner them up a third time.

  6. Provide the option for students to record themselves and/or present in front of the class.
    Give students that chance to record themselves so that they can share it at a later date, possibly with parents, and/or present to the class. Both of these would be great ways to help hold students accountable and for students to find this a meaningful experience.

Here are 10 prompts to use to get students talking. You could give the one of these that they must respond to, a choice of some of them, or a choice of all of them. Pick what works best for your class.

  1. Students should have to wear uniforms to school. Agree or disagree and try to persuade your listeners to agree with you.
  2. Pick a favourite sport, sports team, or athlete. Tell your audience all about them/it.
  3. All single-use plastics should be banned. Agree or disagree and persuade your audience.
  4. All college and university should be free. Agree of disagree and persuade your audience.
  5. Pick your favourite book, TV show, or movie. Tell your audience all about it.
  6. Tell your audience all about your favourite vacation. Don’t have one? Tell them about the vacation you wish you could take.
  7. Tell your audience all about your favourite animal (alive now or extinct).
  8. If you could go back in time, when would you go and why. Tell your audience all about it.
  9. Who is your favourite musician? Tell your audience all about them.
  10. Pick someone that you admire. Tell your audience about them.

Getting students talking in a structured way is a great to boost literacy. It teaches organizational and language skills that can later be applied to a writing activity. This can be especially helpful for your reluctant writers who love to talk!

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