Structured Talk

We ALL need time to talk to process our thinking, to connect to the topic, to engage through participation and to build new ideas. 


Learning doesn’t happen when students are unable to express their ideas, emotions, confusion, ignorance, and prejudices.  In fact, only when people can speak their minds does education have a chance to happen.

Parker Palmer


Perceptive, challenging talk is the motor propelling intellectual engagement.  The learning of, and responding to other people’s talk triggers new ideas and connections.  Through it all we literally grow intelligence.

Calkins, 1997; Howard, 2000; Fisher, 2003


Students’ mental abilities originate from social interaction. Learning first occurs within the social context, and only later does the learner internalize it.

Herb, 1997


Below are some “tried and true” strategies for structuring powerful focused purposeful talk in classrooms.


Guide for structured talk  Structured Talk.doc

Tips and tricks for Talks Talk Tips.doc

GOSSIP  Gossip.doc

5-3-1  5-3-1.doc

Gallery Walk  gallery walk.doc

Word Sort word sort.doc

Skills for Purposeful Talk:   thinking through conversation.doc

Academic Conversation Starters: AcademicConversationStarter.doc

Silent Conversations: This strategy uses writing and silence to allow all students to think about a topic before engaging in a discussion.


Lesson for Structuring Talk through News Clues (by Brenda Boreham)


Let us know how you use, adapt, refine the strategies by sending an email to or by commenting below.