I did not realise the importance of classroom talk until I tried to really imagine what atmosphere I would like my future classroom to have.
Thinking back to my own experience in the primary classroom, as a pupil I did feel like I was contributing to and responsible for my own learning. The classroom was a fun, lively and enriching place to be – but I now realise that this is not something that is built very easily. Effective classroom talk is essential so that children can develop the interdisciplinary skills of ‘share and negotiate a range of points of view, listen attentively to others, evaluate what they hear and provide a considered response’ (Cremin and Burnett, 2018).
It is something that cannot be left to the children; it is the teacher’s job to teach the key skills of discussion and delve further into the children’s minds. Time must be dedicated to having class discussions where children can tap into higher-order, analytical thinking.
One way in which teachers can help children ask themselves ‘why’ more often is by effective questioning and this can be done through ‘pausing, prompting, seeking further clarification and refocusing a pupil’s response’ (Pollard, 1996). This ensures that children are given time to develop a more complex answer, are given assistance in doing this if required, understand the importance of detailed answers and are able to link what they are learning to their knowledge of the curriculum and world around them.
Effective talk modelled by the teacher will allow children to eventually do this themselves. If children can understand the use of open questions, importance of being a good listener and evaluating other’s opinions against their own, they will certainly be more responsible for their own learning. Talking and good questioning can make the classroom an enriching place to be by being a place of no judgement, respect and where children are enthusiastic to answer their own questions about the world.