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Helping Students to Articulate their Ideas and Thinking

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The classroom talk register is well designed to help students articulate ideas and thoughts, particularly when used in the context of discussion. In addition to the conversational probes, like the ones described in the previous section, there are other ways to support students in expressing their ideas fully and clearly.

One way is for the teacher to check repeatedly on her own understanding of students’ contributions as a discussion unfolds.
Consider this exchange:
Student (during a class discussion): It seems to me that we all need to learn more about climate change.
Teacher: What do you mean by “learn more”? It’s a big topic; what parts of it are you thinking about?

Still another strategy for helping students to articulate their ideas is to increase the wait time between when the teacher asks a question and when the teacher expects a student to answer.
As was pointed out earlier, wait times that are longer than average—longer than one second—give students more time to formulate ideas and therefore to express themselves more completely and precisely (Good & Brophy, 2002).

In addition, longer wait times have the added advantage of indirection: instead of telling a student to say more, the teacher needs only to wait for the student to say more.
In general any communication strategy will help students become more articulate if it both allows and invites further comment and elaboration on their ideas.
Taken together, the invitations closely resemble a description of class discussion, though they can actually be used singly at any time during teaching.

Consider these possible conversational moves:
• The teacher asks the student to explain his initial idea more completely.
• The teacher rephrases a comment made by a student.
• The teacher compares the student’s idea to another, related idea and asks the student to comment.
• The teacher asks for evidence supporting the student’s idea.
• The teacher asks the student how confident he is in his idea.
• The teacher asks another student to comment on the first student’s idea.