Learning Through “Talking”

I’m an introvert. I’ve blogged about this many times before, and shared what this means for me as both a person and a teacher. Despite being an introvert though, I learn a lot by talking.

  • Last year, I had many after-school discussions with my vice principal, Kristi. We used to meet in the office after bus duty, and I’d often share what happened during the day. Talking out what worked and what didn’t, allowed me to figure out where I needed to go next. And Kristi’s hard questions never failed to be a catalyst for change … they still are.
  • Last year, I talked to my principal, Paul, a lot. He was rarely in the office, but I used to sit at the little desk outside of his door and wait. While I jokingly suggested that he quickly turn and run away 🙂 , I’m happy to say that he never did. Paul knows that I’m passionate and emotional, and he gave me a chance to be both. He also often helped give me new and different perspectives, and I appreciated this. I think that sometimes we need to know that our voice will be heard, and this was always true with Paul.
  • I talk to my friend, and fellow teacher, Jo-AnnWhile we’ve never taught the same grades at the same times, we’re often grappling with the same questions. We both dove into inquiry at the same time last year, and sharing our experiences, offering suggestions, and trying new things together, benefitted all of our students. Jo-Ann is now an instructional coach in the Board, and while we no longer teach at the same school, we still have this much-needed “talking time” … often over a weekend brunch.
  • I talk to the EAs. We have wonderful educational assistants at our school, and they often offer a different perspective. Meeting with them in the morning before school, chatting over lunch, or even having a discussion together at the end of the day, often results in me ending up with lots of new ideas to think about and try.
  • I talk to my current admin team. Sometimes these discussions are on-the-go, over lunch hour, quickly after school, just before the day begins, or through email, but regardless of how they take place, I’m very appreciative that they do. Gerry and Gord give excellent advice, great feedback, and just like Paul, they offer different perspectives. These are all good things. 
  • I talk to my colleagues. I hear about what they’re doing in the classroom, and I share what I’m doing. We build off of each other’s ideas. Every trip to the staffroom, time in the supply room, or congregation in the hallway, gives me new ideas to consider.
  • I talk to the instructional coach and learning resource teachers. Their experiences are different, so they can usually offer different ideas. Often information they’ve heard at PD sessions or things they’ve read, help me make some good classroom changes. It’s great that we can work together!
  • I talk to my students. I find out about their interests and passions. I hear about their strengths and needs. I listen to their concerns and/or fears. And I try to think of ways to make the learning meaningful for them. Often this means stepping back and giving them more control, while supporting and questioning when needed. This is a “delicate dance,” and I’m still learning the “steps.”
  • I talk to the parents. Sometimes this is with a face-to-face conversation after school. Sometimes it’s a phone call in the evenings or on the weekend. And sometimes it’s through digital means (i.e., tweets, emails, etc.). Parents are not all the same, and their communication preferences vary as well. Hearing their “voices” though is so important. It’s through these discussions that I learn more about their child, and together, we figure out the best way(s) to meet their child’s needs.
  • I tweet and blog. For me, talking doesn’t just have to take place “aloud;” it can take place in writing too. It’s as I share my thinking in my tweets and blog posts, that I make sense of what worked, what didn’t, and where I need to go next. It’s through replies and comments that I also get to learn new ideas or receive questions that make me reconsider my own thoughts. Both are worthwhile.
  • I talk to myself. Sometimes this is on the car ride home or as I sit down to plan for the week ahead. Not only do I type out my plans, but I record them using Explain Everything. Why? Because then I can make sense of where we’re going and what we need to do. I can sketch out an outline by typing it down, but the ideas take shape as I talk them through. Posting them on our class blog, also gives a chance for parents, educators, and administrators to comment, and helps me re-think, re-design, and make my plans better. 

Why do I share this? For me, learning is social. I get better as I talk things through. I improve even more as I listen to what others have to say, and make sense of their ideas for me (and for my students). Talking and listening go hand-in-hand, and I need time for both. How many of our students need this “talking time” as well? How do we give them these “talking opportunities” in all grades? How do we help them improve at listening to the talk shared by their peers (not just the teacher)? I may always be a talker, but as I look to the week ahead, I’m going to try to talk less in the classroom and listen to student talking more. They need this talking time too!


10 thoughts on “Learning Through “Talking”

  1. Enjoyed your post. Love “talking time” whether through reflections, blogging or f2f discussions. And my kinders do as well. Thinking maybe I’ll spend more time “listening” to what they have to say.

    • Thanks for the comment, Faige! I think that we all enjoy, and benefit, from this “talking time.” It’s also the listening that we can do, as and after we share, that can be so beneficial as well. I always enjoy listening to my Grade 1’s talk, and I learn a lot from doing so. I’m going to continue to work on giving them even more opportunities to do so (and taking the time to listen to what they have to say). I bet your Kindergarteners will have wonderful things to share as well. It’s amazing how much we can learn when we give kids and adults a chance to talk!


  2. Aviva, I too love to learn through talk. It is one of the things I love about my job. Talking to people like yourself, Kristi, Paul, Michelle Rutherford ( student success teacher), Carolyn Venema and so many more have helped to build my knowledge base and develop my skills as a learner. Talking to my students keep me wanting to learn and be also open minded as they give me opportunities to see things from other viewpoints. I truly enjoy our breakfasts, brunches and Twitter conversations as I always leave them thinking more, being inspired or learning something new. Maybe this is why I totally embraced the idea of observations and conversations as powerful tools to learn more about my kids and their learning.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jo-Ann! I love your connection to “learning through talk” and the tools of “observations and conversations” for assessment. There are so many different ways that we can “talk to learn”: both orally and through writing. I think it’s important to model these various ways of talking, so that all students can find their voice.

      So happy that I get chances to talk and learn with you!

  3. I am really glad you posted this. What strikes me is how your talking and then thinking leads to things you do or change or write – all action of some kind. I think this is the key piece for our students too. Talking to each other – the sharing and the listening and then the building on each other’s ideas allows students to make meaning. It leads to richer thinking, better organized plans, more depth and clarity in their writing, etc. It is the process work that needs to be happening. I try to find multiple opportunities everyday for my students to talk together – with that talk having its own value not always because then it will be shared out to the group. Although that sharing is important too. In the last few years, I have been thinking a lot about student talk and giving my students skills – specific language, listening strategies, etc to help their conversations have more meaning. But the ideas, the “meat” of it needs to be theirs and shaped by them as much as it is influenced by me. Turn and talk, sharing circles, small group work, collaboration during work time – all of these things help talk happen.

    • Thanks for your comment, Carrie! You make a great point here about “talking to learn.” I love how you mention explicitly teaching your students skills and strategies to both talk (and in many ways, listen) to each other. I think that just like adults, students can learn a lot from each other, but they do have to figure out how to share and gain the most from these conversations. Knowing how to decide which conversations to share with the full class is something else to consider. How do you decide? How do others? This is something I continue to think about, and I’d love to know what others do and why.


      • In terms of when to share out – it depends on many things. Sometimes, simply time. Sometimes on what comes next or the diversity of the conversations I listened in on. If I feel that I had children talk with each other because they were just all bursting to share, we may not share out to the group. Just the talking together to share connections was enough. If many children are noticing different things, I often have them share, so we can all learn. If writing is next, we might share and record key words on the board for reference. Sometimes, also if we are talking about something from a book or story that has real life connections to our classroom, like feeling jealous or name calling, etc. I might have pairs/groups share to create community. So many reasons . . . did that answer your question properly? It’s kind of organic.

        • I totally understand, Carrie! It’s interesting to hear the different decisions that teachers make. I think that there was a time when we always “all shared” with the class. Now sometimes, just the opportunity to share in a small group is enough. Maybe this goes with a move from more full class instruction to more small group instruction. It certainly seems to align.


  4. Interesting post, Aviva. It’s an interesting expansion from your original premise that you’re an introvert. I’ll have to look that up.

    You probably consider yourself successful with all of the talking that you do. I think that the underlying message isn’t necessarily about the talking but that it acknowledges the fact that an educator “can’t go it alone”. It takes a village…

    If you look at the anti-Aviva, imagine the teacher that doesn’t talk. With all of the stresses of the profession, does it just get bottled up inside waiting to explode?

    There are more than one side to any situation and talking it out, getting other perspectives, and seeing things that may have been invisible at first is important. You’ve carefully described it in your post.

    I’ll end with a question, not for your situation, but for all classrooms. If there is great value in talking it out, why is it so important for some classrooms to be quiet? Shouldn’t students learn from others as well?

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! I love how you expanded on my idea with the thought that it’s so hard to “do it alone.” Thanks to people inside and outside of my school, and online and offline, I’ve never felt “alone.” And it’s what I learn from all of these interactions that let me further improve my practices.

      You ask great questions at the end, and ones that I was hoping to get to through my final questions, but definitely not as well as you did. So many students also need this talking time, and I wonder what sharing options are possible in the “quiet only” classrooms. I wonder the impact — positive and/or negative — that talking and quiet can have on student success. I know the impact it’s had on mine.


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