Options for Structuring Mathematical Talk

When thinking about implementing structured talk, many teachers become overwhelmed with the amount of “things” that need attention. Students need to talk with one another, the teacher needs to facilitate learning but how do you make it happen while attending to the many needs of students? There are so many doors to choose from, but how to choose the right one?

This document is aimed at providing teachers with a tool for some options when implementing a lesson in class. Deciding which door to choose is getting easier!

See below for a few examples:

Structured Talk Options

Download: Structured-Talk-Options

To get students to talk, teachers need to provide an opportunity to have a discussion. So, provide a choice to consider a mathematical idea.

Door #1:

“A mathematician said ‘such and such’ about this idea. In your group consider if you agree or disagree with that option…group member C will start and ensure everyone talks. Prepare person D to share your group’s ideas with the class.”

Then, as students talk, decide on how these ideas will be shared with the greater class. Listen as you walk and consider your options in the second table.

“Julian, tell us about your group’s thoughts…Cassandra, could you add on to Julia’s ideas based on what your group discussed.”

This option strategically selects and sequences more than 1 student to discuss connections between math ideas in a rough draft kind of way. This MAY NOT be what is needed for your classroom at a given time, it is an option that was available during this teacher’s discussion. Maybe try another door.

Door #2:

After listening to a lot of groups, many students are simultaneously reaching an error that you want to make sure they are aware of. It may seem at this point that the students just aren’t getting it…then you remember you have an option. One student in a group knows there’s a wrong path, but does not know how to get unstuck.

“Alright class, we know that learning is a little messy, I want to show you an interesting thing I saw at Gabe’s Group…I wonder if your thinking is similar to Gabe’s.”

Gabe approaches the projector to show his method then you ask…

“I heard you tell your group that you didn’t think this was working…what led to that thought?”

As Gabe explains…you now have the option to try a different cycle and possibly introduce a new idea about what “your last class” tried that worked for them. Students now have the option to try a different route and the class is still a success.

Consider exercising these options very frequently in class, change it up and plan for the conversations. Student structured talk doesn’t happen on accident and the more preparation will increase the quality and the likelihood that good conversations are happening.

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