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October 13, 2016 Chalk Talks to Engage All Students By Genia Connell
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Several years ago our school district made a decision to delve deeply into Visible Thinking, a research-based set of thinking protocols designed to improve student learning while fostering cognitive development. During a yearlong book study our staff did of Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, we learned about several routines designed to help students deepen their understanding in subject areas. The very first routine I was exposed to, the Chalk Talk, has remained one of my favorites.  

    A Chalk Talk is a silent activity that provides all students the opportunity to reflect on what they know, and then share their thinking and wonderings while connecting to the thoughts of their classmates. Despite the name, there is no chalk involved, only paper and pencils or markers. This week I'm excited to share with you how you can use this routine in your classroom to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to express themselves while developing new understandings. 

     

    There are so many times that a Chalk Talk is my go-to method to jumpstart a lesson or find out what my students are thinking at any point in time. There's also a personal reason I'm a fan of Chalk Talks. Being an incredibly shy student in elementary school, my ideas were rarely heard. Those brave enough to raise their hands or shout out, however, were heard by all. Chalk Talks provide a forum for introverted or hesitant students to share their ideas with peers. Below are some of the many other reasons I've found Chalk Talks to be useful.

    Chalk Talks work very well to:

    • Engage all learners
    • Promote independent thinking
    • Allow all students to have an equal say
    • Expose students to different ideas and perspectives
    • Start conversations
    • Generate ideas and prompt questions
    • Help students to make connections to different ideas
    • Encourage problem-solving
    • Promote reflective thinking

    Additionally, they help YOU to:

    • Assess knowledge before a topic is introduced
    • Check on understanding in the middle or at the end of a unit

     

    All you need is a prompt or question, a sheet of paper, and something for students to write with. 

    Before the Chalk Talk

    Before we do a Chalk Talks I prepare the paper(s) for the activity. In the middle of a large sheet of paper (usually roll or chart paper), I write or glue a question or statement to which I want students to respond.

    I will normally prepare several related questions for each Chalk Talk so the entire class can respond simultaneously in smaller groups of four to five students.

    With my students gathered on the carpet, I review the procedure, displaying the sheet pictured below on the interactive whiteboard. Students are directed to share their thoughts and questions, then respond or connect to the thinking that others have demonstrated on the paper. 

     

    When it's time to begin, students head to their assigned center with a pencil. I will often assign each group one color to write in as a way to track that team's thinking through the process. Students then take their appropriately colored pencil with them from station to station.

    To Begin the Chalk Talk

    I tell the students they have 30 seconds of silent think time before they begin writing, then I set the timer on my phone.

    When the 30 seconds is up, I announce that they now have 2 minutes to write down their thoughts and any questions they may have. 

    During the Chalk Talk

    I circulate through the room while students are writing, watching how they are interacting with the questions and the ideas other students have written down. 

    Students rotate as a team through the different prompts. We begin each one with 30 seconds of think time followed by the 2 minutes of writing time. 

    Once students have visited each station we rotate through again in shorter segments so students can see what new ideas have been generated and how other students interacted to their initial response. Students also use this time to answer questions that classmates may have posed. 

     

     

    After the Chalk Talk

    Afterwards, we gather once again to debrief our findings. This is a good time to:

    • Discuss new ideas and surprises

    • Provide clarifications

    • Correct misconceptions

    • Try to answer questions that were left unanswered

    We always hang the posters up for students to see. They often act as living documents that children visit to make additions to or even to cross out something they wrote when they learn new information that contradicts their original thought. 

     

    Below are some other examples of Chalk Talks from my students and from teachers in our building.

    Kindergarten

    Early in the school year, the kindergarten teacher does the writing on the Chalk Talk while the students share their thoughts and ideas about what science is.

     

    Second Grade

    Second graders gave their strategies for tackling tough math problems. 

     

    Third Grade

    My students kicked off reader's worshop with a Chalk Talk about different genres in reading. 

     

    Fourth Grade

    Earlier this month, fourth graders reflected on their reading lives. 

     

    This simple activity serves so many purposes for myself and my students, from brainstorming to assessment. If you've never done a Chalk Talk, give one a try this school year. It's a joy to see all students, from the meekest to the most extroverted, simultaneously sharing their thoughts and ideas in perfect harmony.

     

     

    Several years ago our school district made a decision to delve deeply into Visible Thinking, a research-based set of thinking protocols designed to improve student learning while fostering cognitive development. During a yearlong book study our staff did of Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, we learned about several routines designed to help students deepen their understanding in subject areas. The very first routine I was exposed to, the Chalk Talk, has remained one of my favorites.  

    A Chalk Talk is a silent activity that provides all students the opportunity to reflect on what they know, and then share their thinking and wonderings while connecting to the thoughts of their classmates. Despite the name, there is no chalk involved, only paper and pencils or markers. This week I'm excited to share with you how you can use this routine in your classroom to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to express themselves while developing new understandings. 

     

    There are so many times that a Chalk Talk is my go-to method to jumpstart a lesson or find out what my students are thinking at any point in time. There's also a personal reason I'm a fan of Chalk Talks. Being an incredibly shy student in elementary school, my ideas were rarely heard. Those brave enough to raise their hands or shout out, however, were heard by all. Chalk Talks provide a forum for introverted or hesitant students to share their ideas with peers. Below are some of the many other reasons I've found Chalk Talks to be useful.

    Chalk Talks work very well to:

    • Engage all learners
    • Promote independent thinking
    • Allow all students to have an equal say
    • Expose students to different ideas and perspectives
    • Start conversations
    • Generate ideas and prompt questions
    • Help students to make connections to different ideas
    • Encourage problem-solving
    • Promote reflective thinking

    Additionally, they help YOU to:

    • Assess knowledge before a topic is introduced
    • Check on understanding in the middle or at the end of a unit

     

    All you need is a prompt or question, a sheet of paper, and something for students to write with. 

    Before the Chalk Talk

    Before we do a Chalk Talks I prepare the paper(s) for the activity. In the middle of a large sheet of paper (usually roll or chart paper), I write or glue a question or statement to which I want students to respond.

    I will normally prepare several related questions for each Chalk Talk so the entire class can respond simultaneously in smaller groups of four to five students.

    With my students gathered on the carpet, I review the procedure, displaying the sheet pictured below on the interactive whiteboard. Students are directed to share their thoughts and questions, then respond or connect to the thinking that others have demonstrated on the paper. 

     

    When it's time to begin, students head to their assigned center with a pencil. I will often assign each group one color to write in as a way to track that team's thinking through the process. Students then take their appropriately colored pencil with them from station to station.

    To Begin the Chalk Talk

    I tell the students they have 30 seconds of silent think time before they begin writing, then I set the timer on my phone.

    When the 30 seconds is up, I announce that they now have 2 minutes to write down their thoughts and any questions they may have. 

    During the Chalk Talk

    I circulate through the room while students are writing, watching how they are interacting with the questions and the ideas other students have written down. 

    Students rotate as a team through the different prompts. We begin each one with 30 seconds of think time followed by the 2 minutes of writing time. 

    Once students have visited each station we rotate through again in shorter segments so students can see what new ideas have been generated and how other students interacted to their initial response. Students also use this time to answer questions that classmates may have posed. 

     

     

    After the Chalk Talk

    Afterwards, we gather once again to debrief our findings. This is a good time to:

    • Discuss new ideas and surprises

    • Provide clarifications

    • Correct misconceptions

    • Try to answer questions that were left unanswered

    We always hang the posters up for students to see. They often act as living documents that children visit to make additions to or even to cross out something they wrote when they learn new information that contradicts their original thought. 

     

    Below are some other examples of Chalk Talks from my students and from teachers in our building.

    Kindergarten

    Early in the school year, the kindergarten teacher does the writing on the Chalk Talk while the students share their thoughts and ideas about what science is.

     

    Second Grade

    Second graders gave their strategies for tackling tough math problems. 

     

    Third Grade

    My students kicked off reader's worshop with a Chalk Talk about different genres in reading. 

     

    Fourth Grade

    Earlier this month, fourth graders reflected on their reading lives. 

     

    This simple activity serves so many purposes for myself and my students, from brainstorming to assessment. If you've never done a Chalk Talk, give one a try this school year. It's a joy to see all students, from the meekest to the most extroverted, simultaneously sharing their thoughts and ideas in perfect harmony.

     

     

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