Hierarchy of Talk



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Hierarchy of Talk
Talk is the primary tool for helping students in your class develop and extend their thinking about books and reading. By teaching students how to talk well about their books, we can teach them how to think well. While most everyone in our class has a place in their lives where talk is central, this is often not the classroom. Students come to us with a variety of classroom discussion experiences. Below is a hierarchy we might use to figure out students' strengths in classroom discourse. It can also be used to help us develop talk curriculum.
Say Anything--Students are encouraged to have any response at all and to say it out loud.

  • That’s a good idea because…

  • I think that …

  • I noticed …

  • I’m wondering

  • I liked/didn’t like …

Say Something Relevant--Students are taught to say something meaningful about the text and connected to the on-going conversation in the class.

  • This reminds me of …

  • This is like __________ when …

  • This is like __________, but different because …

  • I can relate to that because …

Say Something Back--Students are taught to respond to what others have said in the classroom. They might add on or disagree or make a connection to what’s already been said.

  • What did you mean when you said ________ ?

  • Do you think that … ?

  • Why is that happening?

  • What is happening?

  • Why do you think that way?

  • What led you to that conclusion?


Say Something to Clarify--Students are encouraged to resist saying “I can’t explain” and are taught and given the time to find words to explain what they mean when being confusing.

  • Now I understand _________ because …

  • No, I think it means …

  • I agree with ______ because …

  • At first I thought ____________, but now I think ___________ because …

  • What I hear you saying is …

  • I don’t understand ____________, but I do understand ____________ because …

  • Could you explain that again?

  • Say more about that

  • What do you mean when you say … ?

  • Something I heard my group/partner say was …

Say Something Better--Students are encouraged to express their ideas more articulately. Teachers model and coach students into speaking more clearly and thoughtfully.

  • What I meant to say was …

  • Another way to say it is …

  • As you said …

Say Something to Revise--Students are encouraged to change their thinking based on what others have said.

  • I’ve changed my mind because …

  • I used to think ___________, now I think __________ because …

  • I found evidence to support my idea …

  • Something I could have done differently was …

Say Something to Provoke--Students are encouraged to avoid simply making statements that feel like ends to conversation and are taught ways to speak that invite response and discussion.

  • I disagree with _________ because …

  • That is confusing because …

  • Why?

  • What’s your evidence?

  • Can you prove it?

  • I respectfully challenge ________ because …

Say Something to Extend--Students are taught ways to lengthen their ideas. They are encouraged to have more words to describe what they are thinking.

  • I think that ___________ will happen because …

  • I don’t think that _____________ will happen because …

  • Maybe …

  • What could you have done differently?



Adapted from Gaby Layden and Donna Santman Spring 2003



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