Growing English Proficiency: Talking Stick

 

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time. 

English learners build their skill and adroitness with language when they have lots of “mileage on the tongue.” Talking Stick is a structured routine that provides ample opportunities for students to develop interaction skills while using the target language numerous times in a session. This is a great choice when students need to build fluency or are struggling with high leverage language. Straightforward, easy to set up, and effective at any grade level, this routine ensures that all students actively speak and listen – so every voice is heard.

In the simplest version of this routine, students sit in groups of 3–4 and are ready to practice taught language together. The guidelines are: 

  • Speak only when holding the talking stick.
  • Listen to the person with the talking stick.
  • Take turns by passing the talking stick in a clockwise direction.
  • Signal as a group when done.

Discuss and model how to be a good listener, and hold students accountable for using appropriate body language to demonstrate they are really listening. Develop routines for distributing and collecting the talking sticks and for forming groups.

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Growing English Proficiency: Numbered Heads Together

 

In this series, we discuss Student Interaction Routines, which are task-based strategies that help ensure each student has abundant strategic practice using new language for meaningful purposes. Developing a robust wheelhouse of interaction routines enhances student engagement and increases productive talk time.

Numbered Heads Together is a small-group interaction routine in which students practice negotiating language by generating multiple responses to a prompt. In their groups, students share ideas, listen to one another’s ideas, and share out what they talked about. This activity can be used to generate multiple responses or to collaboratively agree on a common response.

The beauty of this routine is that it increases accountability for all students. They feel positive peer pressure to participate and represent their team’s best thinking. This motivates students to listen closely, ask questions, and explain their reasoning clearly. 

As with other interaction routines, model the activity and language structures. Consider using Discussion Cards for Pose a Question, Build on an Idea, and/or Challenge an Idea to support students as they collaborate on their responses.  

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