The Victorian Curriculum English – Speaking and Listening includes content descriptors that involve both social talk and talk to enhance learning. Talk to enhance learning, which stimulates and extends thinking and advances students’ understandings requires more than just teacher talk and students responding to questions (Alexander, 2008).
Rather, talk to enhance learning requires students to participate in talk interactions whereby they and the teacher use talk to build upon their knowledge and talk becomes a tool for inquiry.
In these situations, both the talk and the learning is cumulative. Extended talk facilitates learning and involves students being given the time to explore and deepen their ideas. It involves students engaging in discussion, or explaining their thinking rather than providing one-word answers.
The development of higher order thinking skills is constructed through extended talk (Hammond and Miller, 2015). When focusing on extended talk, the teacher (or students) may press the speaker to ‘go deeper’. This can be done by asking exploratory questions such as:
- “Can you tell us more about that?”
- “What makes you say that?”
- “Would you provide an example of that?”
Other students can build on the extended response, which helps to develop knowledge and deepen reasoning (Edward-Groves, 2014).
Extended talk can be planned for during all phases of learning, for example:
- At the beginning of a foundation science unit on weather and seasons, students share personal stories of seasons and find out if there is a more popular season amongst the group.
- During a year 4 health and physical education unit, students critique the effectiveness of health advertisements.
- At the end of a year 6 history unit, students retell an individual’s story of migration and reasons for migrating to Australia.
Extended talk can lead to dialogic talk. Dialogic talk is talk that achieves common understandings through structured, cumulative questioning and discussion. It is talk which enhances learning (Alexander, 2008).
Research has demonstrated that the use of dialogue as a pedagogical tool develops reasoning, helps students to collectively and individually solve problems, and construct new ideas (Littleton and Mercer, 2013).
To encourage dialogic talk students should:
- be encouraged to state the purpose of the discussion
- be familiar with the negotiated ‘rules for accountable talk’
- ask questions
- know how to paraphrase each other
- be comfortable with moments of silence
- be able to rephrase what is said to help others make meaning
- explore differences of opinions
- articulate ideas and provide arguments to support ideas
- use the body language and facial expression of peers to determine if a message is understood.
Alexander, R. (2008). Culture, Dialogue and Learning: Notes on an Emerging Pedagogy In N. Mercer and S. Hodgkinson (Eds.), Exploring Talk in School, (pp. 91-114). London: Sage Publications.
Edward-Groves, C. (2014). Talk moves: A repertoire of practices for productive classroom dialogue. PETAA Paper 195. Marrickville. PETAA, Primary English Teachers Association Australia.
Hammond, J. and Miller, J. (2015). Classrooms of possibility: Supporting at-risk EAL students. Newtown: PETAA, Primary English Teachers Association.
Littleton, K. and Mercer, N. (2013). Interthinking: putting talk to work. Oxon: Routledge.