ELL Resources - Increasing Student Talk

Collaborative Group Ideas

Quadrant Partners

Use the attached graphic organizer. Students get one person to sign in box number one (They must sign in that person's number 1 as well), a different person to sign in box 2...etc...Thus, they will get 4 signatures and give 4 signatures.

When you need pairs of students to work together, pick a quadrant and have them find their partner.
Quadrant Partners.doc


1. Create a home group (ex. 5 groups of 4 students)
2. Students are regrouped by topic (ex. each member of the home group chooses a different reading, task, topic...to become an "expert" with the information )
3.After completing the task, students return to the home group to share their learning.

Note: Jigsaw is not complete unless the experts share in the home group. Thus, creating a full understanding and/or final product.

Students are allowed to be introduced to material and maintain responsibility for personal and group learning.

4 Corners

  • Divide the four corners into Agree, Strongly Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.
  • Create statements pertaining to your unit of study.
  • Have them work in groups to record their position on the topic/statement. Share.
  • Give them an opportunity to reconsider their position based on the sharing discussion.
  • Suggestion:Write a paragraph explaining their position

Cross-Age Reading/Writing Buddies

Attached are several activities that you can do with cross-age buddies. Please attach ideas that have worked for you.

Just- Right Book Activity: Use in the beginning of the year and throughout the year as needed. Have older students help teach the features of a "Just-Right" book to younger readers. This activity is also great for older students that need to work on fluency; they'll be able to read an easier text without embarrassment because the context of buddy-work provides an authentic venue for reading/rereading.

Favorite Book Share: Have children share their favorite books of the moment. Buddies can help each other fill out the share form. Present a the favorites at the end of the session. See if the librarian will display the Share sheets as book recommendations to other classes.

Buddy Question Prompts: Help students discuss book reading. Model for older students how to use the prompt guide. I left spaces to record your own prompts. Have students brainstorm questions that will work with their buddies. This activity is two-fold: younger students gain experience in retelling books and learning features of fiction/non-fiction text and older students work on metacognitive strategies for comprehension that can be applied to their own reading.

Buddy Reading Rubric: Use buddies as an opportunity to assess collaborative/presentation skills. Again, for older students, this activity will help with fluency in an authentic way.
Just-Right Partner Activity
Buddy Reading Rubric
Favorite Book Share
Question Prompts


  1. Write a key word from the text. Pass the paper.
  2. Next student writes one key word.
  3. Keep the process going until the time is "up."
  4. The words must be nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.
  5. Share the results with the class (Tally like words, organize in a concept map...)

Why is Talk Important?

"Children need time to talk, verbally or in writing, yet when time gets short, talk is what is pushed out of the curriculum first. But for many of us, it is talk that leads to understanding and helps us process what we are learning." (Patricia Bloem)

From The Essentials of Science and Literacy (Worth et al, 2009)

Increasing Student Talk

Teaching Effective Group Talk Strategies (Gibbons, 2002)

Kate Kinsella's Sentence Frames for Group Discussion

Use these sentence frames to help children have conversations- rather than just individually sharing ideas. The goal is to get the students to respond to each other's comments respectfully:

I agree with ____________.
My idea is similar to ____________________'s.
My idea builds on __________________'s idea. 
I disagree with ________________ because _____________.

Partnering Students With the Same Primary Language

Some ELLs are quiet in class because of their developmental proficiency in English. Try partnering them with a child that speaks the same primary language. Often, students will work together in both languages to comprehend content.

Turn and Talk

Students simply turn to someone sitting next to them (randomly or purposefully planned) and discuss thoughts on a prompt BEFORE sharing it with the class.

This strategy reduces anxiety by allowing students at different levels of English proficiency to construct language together.

This strategy is also versatile and can be used in any content area at almost anytime.

Option: To scaffold talk further, assign students an A/B role and have A's share what B's said and vice- versa. This holds all students accountable for talk.

Numbered Heads Together

  • Each child is assigned a number (For example, if you have 20 students and you want 5 groups, you would number the children 1-4, repeating 5 times).
  • Each group will have a 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • Teacher can randomly choose a number and have that student answer for the group.
This strategy helps scaffold talk by holding all students accountable for being able to share the learning.

Talking Chips

This strategy helps guarantee that everyone in a small group will have an opportunity to talk and share the dialogue.

  • Have a bag full of "chips" (buttons or other small discs)
  • Pass out 2-3 chips per person
  • When discussing a prompt/question...a person must put a chip in the center pile in order to share an idea. Depending on the number of chips given out, the speaker must carefully evaluate their comment and decide whether to share at that time or another time.
  • This strategy also regulates the pace of a conversation providing built-in think time for students who might need more time constructing a response.

Partnering Downloads

clock buddies.doc

Related Pages

Graphic Organiz...
Resources By Grade Level
Reading with EL...
Writing Ideas
Integrating Content
Multicultural Books
Increasing Student Talk
Partnering with Parents
Links in Other ...
CELDT/Language Standa...
El Specialists/ Teacher Leaders
Teacher Books

4/23/2014 8:46:38 AM