Just stop talking!

As many of you know, I continue to focus on math problem solving in class, and over the year, I think that I’ve become a much better teacher as a result. Today really got me thinking though. This morning, I had a prep, and I happened to be working out in the Grade 1/2 pod. While I was out there, a volunteer was working in the pod with a Grade 1 student in another class. The student was building with three-dimensional solids. I was listening to the conversation between the volunteer and the student. They were discussing the number of blocks in the tower, and why the student chose certain blocks. Instead of questioning the student about her choice, the volunteer was telling the student why she picked these three-dimensional solids and why she didn’t choose other ones. I kept thinking to myself, why not ask her? What questions would help elicit the best response? As the outsider watching the interaction between the student and the volunteer, I could hear it all, reflect on it all, and think of other approaches. I was feeling good. Fast forward five hours though, and things changed!

Last week, I noticed that some students were confusing shapes and didn’t understand that certain shapes could be classified under more than one category. I decided to do a mini-lesson on this today. First, we defined quadrilateral, and then students drew various quadrilaterals. We looked at the similarities and differences between these shapes. The hope was that students would begin to observe the overlap between various shapes. Since we were using the SMART Board, I used the recording feature to record both the drawings and the discussion. (Please note that external speakers will help you hear the conversation.)

Listening back on this discussion, I couldn’t be more disappointed in myself. Here I was this morning thinking that the volunteer should be asking questions instead of telling the answers, and here I was this afternoon, telling way too many of the answers myself. I wasn’t taking the time to question enough. Instead of letting the students draw their own conclusions, I was making the conclusions for the students. In retrospect, I just had to, “stop talking.” Why does that seem so hard to do? What strategies can I use to question more and talk less? Please help me out here! As a school we’re working on descriptive feedback, and I’m asking for others to please give me some so that I can do even more for my students.


8 thoughts on “Just stop talking!

  1. Try sitting with the students (put on a student hat – metaphotical or literal to help you remember). This might help you to ask questions rather than give answers.

    • Thanks for the comment, MaryAnn! The funny thing is that I do that often, but I didn’t do that today. What a great idea! I will definitely give this a try! I never really considered before how just a change in a place to sit could make such a big difference. I think you might be right!


  2. Hi Aviva!
    First of all, recording your lesson and realizing the amount of talking you do or don’t do is a great practice. Keep it up!
    Have you heard of the practice where people in a group receive “talking chips”? You “pay” your chip in for the chance to speak and once you’ve “spent” them, you get no more until others have used theirs. My superintendent referred to this practice while she was visiting our PLC meeting recently. She only spoke once to give her input and then sat back and listened. If you wish, you could also do one colour chip for questioning and another for explaining and give yourself more question chips. Would that work?

    • Diana, thanks so much for your comment! I love your suggestion too. I think that this would definitely help, as then I’d be more aware of what I’m saying and what questions I’m asking. I’ll definitely give this a try! As an adult, I’ve never done this before, but I’ve done something similar with students that ask a lot of questions. This really helps them consider what questions to ask and how best to use their “chips.” I can’t wait to try this for myself!

      Thanks Diana!

  3. The fact that you record yourself and the kids during lessons is one of the most powerful reflection tools I have found to address the issue of too much teacher talk. We don’t realize when in the moment how much we talk….it is when we can sit back and listen to the actual conversation again that we get this kind of feedback. In a way you have answered your own question…keep recording and listening:0) The ahaha moments will keep happening and your awareness will influence your talk.

  4. I like the quote from the recent LNS monograph on Asking Effective Questions. It basically says, don’t say anything that students can say themselves. I find asking more questions, especially my go to fave, “How do you know?”, gets the students talking.

    Thanks for sharing and modeling self-reflection, Aviva.

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