Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, DISCUSS, Define

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in conversation as learning tool, Freebies, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 2 comments

It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

Yogi Berra

Do you ever feel like Yogi Berra in your classroom? There is so much talking, how can there be any learning? I wonder at times, being a strong intrapersonal learner, what prompted me to be a teacher. I love quiet. I love calm. Fortunately, I can put that aside for my commutes and computer time. I understand that students need to talk to cement their learning. My kids speak to their shoulder partner no less than 10 times a day. And I listen in and am amazed almost daily by their insights and their learning. In our daily poetry moment, the kids first predict the type of poem based on the title and a quick glance. They use complete sentences (learned by having stems on the whiteboard for as long as it takes to learn) to explain their thinking to their neighbor. Everyone gets a chance to talk. To train them, I sometimes have the partner closer to me go first or the partner closer to the door, etc. Next, we look at the poem and describe what we see and what new ideas we have with our partners. Then, we read the poem and add to what we know. Finally, students answer questions about the poem… setting, theme, author’s purpose, new title, what a certain line means, etc. Often I sum up what I am hearing by bragging about the great thinking that is being expressed.

Here’s a great source for daily poetry,

Another great source for vocabulary discussion in my class is Alphaboxes. I am including a generic form for this. I have made subject specific ones, but truly a piece of paper or student sized whiteboard works just fine! This activity can be done before a new unit of study, say frogs, everyone independently tries to fill the alphabet boxes with one or more word about what they already know about frogs. After 5 – 10 minutes of quiet time (I have to have some sometime), the students pair with their shoulder partner, sharing ideas and adding to their boxes. Again after 5- 10 minutes the pairs are asked to form squares by 2 pairs “squaring” up and the last conversation ensues. When the kids are all done talking, we quickly run through the alphabet shouting out words. This part is fun! It is also a good time to throw in any words that go with the unit that no one thought of.

This activity also works well at the end of a init of study. As you listen in you will see which of the vocabulary words of importance the kids are remembering.



This may be my very favorite “D” word, so I would love some discussion about how you use conversation in the classroom or if you would be interested in trying mine.



  1. Love your ideas. Thanks for the freebies.

    • Thanks so much!

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