Talk Less, Listen More – Bite Marks on the Tongue

As part of my daily work, I am blessed to get to listen to a very competent and talented group of teachers work with children ranging in age from 4-12. What always strikes me is how much teachers talk! I wonder if we know how much we talk! How do the kids process? How do they reflect? How do they interact? How do they learn at all?

I’m into questioning. Teachers should ask more good questions. They should limit their talking and turn the conversation over to the children. The teachers job should be to start, spark and inspire thought provoking discussions that encourage children to think deeply. We ALL need time to process what we are hearing and reading. We need time to do that both collaboratively and independently. I remember learning that I should start out with an anticipatory set that generates excitement and wonder. Then I should provide access to information that extends that excitement (which is best if I’m not the one delivering it). Next, I should design a series of tasks so that students can work independently and collaboratively to discover even more about the topic. Even better if my students can help design these tasks. Finally, I should provide a space and forum for reflection and sharing of what was learned.
When I was first starting out in the classroom 20 years ago, one mentor told me that the best teachers have the most bite marks on their tongues at the end of the day. They hold back and make sure the “show” for the day includes all the actors in the classroom rather than just the director. The director orchestrates it all but lets the actors do their thing…the actors are the ones doing most of the speaking.
What would happen if you tried stopped talking in your classroom?

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