The Teacher Tip

Reframe a Common Tool for Talk

July 11, 2017

Adapted from Shades of Meaning by Donna Santman


Lots of teachers want their students to engage in conversations that grow and extend the thinking of everyone involved. The key is teaching students how to listen and respond to one another in ways that build thinking.


Try this: Teach students to avoid saying, "I agree/disagree with so and so." Instead, encourage them to say, "I agree/disagree with the idea that…"


The difference is subtle but significant. First, it breaks down ownership of ideas. Once an idea is disconnected from a person, the group has more freedom to build it up or take it apart. Second, this language forces students to rearticulate the idea that was introduced. This confirms and clarifies understanding for the speaker and the group.


So often in the classroom, we are afraid of repetition. We think that means kids aren't listening. But repetition used well can help students try out ideas that aren't their own.

To learn more about Shades of Meaning, and to download a sample chapter, click here.

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