Productive Academic Talk

Accountable Talk, Classroom Talk, Accountable Discussions

UDL 3.2

Productive Academic Talk is a student-led discussion where participants make observations and ask questions that add to, clarify or challenge statements made by others in response to a question or prompt. Students hold each other accountable to making logical, evidence-based observations and claims while also evaluating the quality of the evidence used. Although students are expected to take a critical lens to their peers’ standpoints, they are not debating a topic (i.e., there is no “winner”). Instead, it is an opportunity to share and create knowledge. Students are expected to maintain a safe, respectful environment while engaging in this academically rigorous discourse. Essential Components to Productive Academic Talk: --Group Agreements: Students hold one another accountable to the group agreements --Evidence-Based Claims: Statements and observations are supported with thorough and relevant evidence --Academic Rigor: Students defend and challenge statements, make predictions, and link claims to previously learned knowledge

Implementation Tips

Building a Safe and Respectful Community
Because students are engaging in discourse, it is important to build community within the classroom to ensure that students know how to discuss and evaluate ideas and information rather than the person presenting them. Use this resource to help establish [[|Group Agreements]].
Establish Predictable Routines
When Productive Academic Talk takes place within a predictable routine, students are able to focus more on listening and forming their ideas. Predictable routines also support access to the material by students with learning differences. Establish routines with structures, norms, rules, and cues that students can predict. See [[ | Establishing Routines and Norms ]] for Productive Academic Talk.
Planning Productive Academic Talks
Careful planning is necessary for successful and productive academic talk. It is important for teachers to establish the purpose of the talk, use thoughtfully designed questions, and plan for how to move the discourse along. For more information, use these [[ | Teacher Planning Questions ]] as a guide.
Preparing Students for Productive Academic Talk
Give students access to questions in advance. Students who need more support in participating in Productive Academic Talk may benefit from having their notes accessible during discussions.
Facilitating Discussion
The role of teachers in facilitating Productive Academic Talks is to guide and encourage students to respond to one another's comments, ask relevant questions, and build upon each other's comments (e.g., “Does anyone have anything to add to what Student A said?”, “Can someone else support Student A's claim with evidence from the text?”, “Can someone compare Student B's perspective to the narrator's perspective?”, etc.)


Whole Group Discussion
During whole group discussions, students have the opportunity to build a collective body of knowledge. The discussion has a topic or prompt to which the group responds. Students take turns responding to the prompts, using facts and evidence to support their claims. As the discussion progresses students comments should build upon the comments of their peers. Teachers can facilitate Academic Productive Talk by providing sentence starters that prompt students to respond to each other's comments and use academically rigorous thinking and language. Use these [[|sentence starters]] to help students frame their responses and questions.
Small Group Discussion
Small group discussions give students more opportunities to listen carefully and respond during Productive Academic Talks. Some students may even feel more comfortable participating in small groups rather than large groups. The teacher can either project each question or prompt to the whole class or give each small group a list of questions/prompts. Give students enough time in small groups to engage in academic discourse for each prompt. While participating, students can support their statements with specific evidence from their study and their peers can respond by making connections to their own findings or previous knowledge.
Partner Talk
Partner talk provides the smallest setting for students to engage in Productive Academic Talk. Incorporating partner talk before and during whole group Productive Academic Talk discussions enhances the participation of all students. For example, during a large group discussion, when presented with a new question or prompt the teacher can tell students, "Turn to your partner and discuss. Be prepared to share with the group what you've discussed." Teachers should explicitly teach and remind students of how to engage in Productive Academic Talk with a partner to ensure all core components are addressed during the activity. Partner talk allows students to have more time and space to develop their ideas, start building on each others ideas, and will often be able to listen more attentively.
Whole Class Instruction
A powerful way to use Productive Academic Talk is to follow a traditional lecture with time to for student-led discussion to challenge the information presented. Teachers can give students opportunities to thoughtfully engage with and challenge new information presented in a lecture. Have students respond to the lecture material by making connections to previous knowledge, contributing comments that expand on the presented knowledge, or asking questions that clarify and challenge the information. Teachers can facilitate this activity by intentionally selecting questions that ask students to dig deeper into the material (e.g., "Whose perspective is represented in this information?", "Could this event be experienced differently by another person?", "Does this always hold true for everyone?", etc.)

Related Strategies