Article Review: “Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses” by West and Cameron

Did you see my summer reading list? No, it wasn’t filled with thrilling fiction (though I did try to squeeze that in!), but excellent math resources!  Since I love all things Lucy West, one of the first things I read was: “Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses” by Lucy West and Antonia Cameron (2011).

Here’s a little background on the topic of academic discourse, according to West and Cameron (2011):

  • student discourse is vital for learning, but it is not seen in classrooms regularly (p. 1)
  • “Research from around the world validates the importance of dialogue as a key avenue for learning content with understanding and developing reasoning, social skills, and intelligence” (p. 1)
  • Douglas Reeves, Richard Allington, Vygotsky, and Robin Alexander have “linked academic success with the capacity to engage in conversation and to as and answer questions in full sentences” (p. 1)
  • it is not easy for teachers to engage students in rigorous discourse for a few reasons: the content of the lesson is lacking (i.e. there is nothing to talk about), the lesson is too factual or skills based, the lesson is not based on any “big ideas”, there is not enough time for discussion, and too much time is spend practicing a skill (p. 1-2).

So what are the benefits of “turn & talk”?  West and Cameron have eleven benefits, but I think the three most relevant to my teaching practice are:

  • “Develops capacity to articulate an idea and use new terminology”: this is a key point for me because I find that students are lacking math terms. By talking to a partner during math lessons, students are able to improve and broaden their math vocabulary.
  • “Develops the idea that the source of power is in each learner”: it is so important for students to understand that their voices, ideas, and contributions are essential to a math lesson.  They are the source of power during the lesson and their contributions are essential.
  • “Gets at least 50 per cent of the students talking in a given lesson”: I have several students in my class who love to participate during lessons and discussions, but there are many students who would rather sit back and just listen.  Turn & talk helps me get those students involved in the discussion and helps them build confidence during math lessons.

So when is it a good time for “Turn & Talk”?  West and Cameron provide 10 clues that show student discourse would be beneficial at that time, but for me the following two really stand out:

  • “Preparing to write”: for our numeracy learning cycle, we are focusing on the analysis of the problem (using our GRASS acronym), where students need to explain their thought process as they tackle the problem.  We are asking students to take us step-by-step through their though process.  By having students turn and talk with a partner first, we have found that the analysis of the problem is much more detailed, in-depth, and accurate.
  • “Teaching each other”: it is such a pivotal and powerful moment in a lesson when students are able to teach one another.  It may be that only some students understand the concept enough to teach a peer, or it may be that many students understand the concept and can show their understanding by explaining their ideas to their classmates.  Student discourse would be a great way to review the highlights and summaries of a lesson and to check for understanding. I used this approach during my measurement unit when students had to discuss the various area activities we were solving.  It worked out very well and it had everyone talking!

I highly recommend reading the article by West and Cameron.  It is an essential read for any math teacher who wants to improve both the quantity and the quality of student discourse in the math classroom.

We have been using this strategy during our TLLP math journal project and we have noticed an improvement in student problem solving and analysis. By having students turn and talk with a peer, they are showing how well they are attaining the concept and then have a better understanding of how to approach a problem and solve it successfully.

The Tuesday 12: 12 Essential Resources for Math Teachers to Read

Welcome to another addition of The Tuesday 12! Since Lisa, Elita, and I will be working on a TLLP math project this year, we will be using our blog to review useful resources, the progression of our project, challenges to overcome, and successes we achieve.

The following list of resources is on my summer reading list (haha…it seems to be quite an endeavour, but I hope to check off as many as possible).  If you’ve read any of these resources or if there are others you can recommend, please leave your comments below!

1. Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction (K – 8) by Marian Small

2. Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses (2011) by Lucy West and Antonia Cameron

3. Communication in the Mathematics Classroom (September 2010) by the Ontario Ministry of Education-Capacity Building Series

4. Writing in Math Class: A Resource for Grades 2-8 (1995) Marilyn Burns

Writing in Math Class: A Resource for Grades 2–8

5. Big Ideas and Understandings as the Foundation for Elementary and Middle School Mathematics (NCTM Journal, Spring-Summer 2005) by Charles Randall

6. Teaching Student-Centred Mathematics (2013) by John A. Van de Walle, Jennifer M. Bay-Williams, LouAnn H. Lovin, and Karen S. Karp.

7. What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most (2011) by Todd Whitaker

8. Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Instruction (2012) by Christine Moynihan

9. Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics (2012) by Chris Confer and Marco Ramirez

10. What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving (2011) by Linda Gojak and Laney Sammons

11. Supporting Numeracy (Special Edition #28) by the Ontario Ministry of Education—Capacity Building Series

12. Asking Effective Questions (Special Edition #21) by the Ontario Ministry of Education—Capacity Building Series

 

 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

Engaging Students in Mathematics: Free Resources from CSC

Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) “has a passion for, and commitment to, life-long learning. We recognize that people and organizations have unique learning needs and we believe that personal and professional growth is optimal when learning is context-specific, relevant, and highly engaging” (source).  CSC provides excellent, FREE resources for teachers on a variety of subject areas, professional development resources, and webcasts.

We are always on the lookout for resources to help us improve our teaching of mathematics and strategies to help our students become more engaged and enthusiastic about math.  CSC has an EXCELLENT array of resources for teaching math that would be beneficial to your teaching

The section on ENGAGING STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICS includes:

– videos on sample lessons (lesson planning, the actual lesson, student learning, and teacher debrief)

– print resources on asking effective questions, communication in the mathematics classroom, and Bansho (board writing)

– graphic organizers for teachers to use while viewing/reading the material and then planning their own engaging math lessons

This is just a small sample of some resources available on curriculum.org!

 

A Bit More on Descriptive Feedback!

This week’s Tuesday 12 post was on the topic of descriptive feedback.  We provided you with a variety of resources, but I forgot to include one! While browsing Pinterest (I really can’t stop!), I saw a great infographic that does an effective job summarizing descriptive feedback into one page.  When I read over this article, it gave me the idea to create a Tuesday 12 with a list of resources for descriptive feedback; however, I forgot to include the source of the inspiration!

Sept Cover_F.indd

Although I found this on Pinterest without a link to the original source, the article shows that the source is “The collective wisdom of authors published in the September 2012 issue of Educational Leadership: ‘Feedback for Learning.’ (Volume 70, Issue 1). Although I’ve never read Educational Leadership before finding this infographic, it seems to be an excellent resource and the September 2012 issue is devoted to descriptive feedback.

The Tuesday 12: 12 Resources All About Descriptive Feedback!

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’ll be looking at resources to help teachers understand and incorporate descriptive feedback on a regular basis.  Just click on the links below to be taken to the resource.

1. “Descriptive Feedback” (video)

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to view the abundance of resources on the EduGAINS website, then I highly suggest you check it out right away! If you are struggling with assessment for and as learning, then this site has so many resources for your teaching and learning.

2. “Descriptive Feedback Fosters Improved Student Learning” (article)

This short two page article illustrates the importance of feedback by telling the story of one school’s journey to apply meaningful feedback (aside: this school is part of our board!).  Tips are given at the end to help teachers incorporate descriptive feedback in their classes.

3. “Descriptive Feedback at Winona” (blog post)

In this blog post, three different tools are used to provide descriptive feedback: Livescribe Pen, Google Docs, and Snowball Mic.  I like how technology is being used as the vehicle for providing descriptive feedback.

4. “A Focus on Informed Assessment Practices Webcast #3” (slideshow)

If you’re still unsure about assessment for learning, this slideshow takes you through the six areas of assessment for learning and provides examples of effective descriptive feedback.

5. “Feed Back…Feed Forward: Using Assessment to Boost Literacy Learning” (article)

I found this article by Anne Davies effective because it uses an example of a teacher going through the process of providing descriptive feedback with her students and how they together develop a list of “what good readers do” and then they created a recording sheet together.  What a meaningful and engaging way to make students active leaners and contributors!

6. “Descriptive Feedback Examples” (chart)

This chart provides three sample teacher comments for three different Social Studies assignments.  You’ll notice that for each teacher comment, it is directly tied to the specific curriculum expectation.  The comments provide positive aspects of the students work, as well as points of reflection, next steps, and areas to consider.

7. “Teachers Demonstrate Effective Descriptive Feedback” (video)

A great video to display descriptive feedback in action!

8. “Types of Feedback and Their Purposes” (Chapter 2 in the book “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students”)

Susan M. Brookhart provides detailed information regarding various dimensions of feedback, including timing, amount, mode, and audience. For each dimension, she provides examples of good and bad feedback with a discussion explaining each set.

9. “Do You Coach or Do You Judge?” (blog post)

A great article about the key differences between assessment for learning (similar to the role of a coach) and assessment of learning (similar to the role of a judge).

10. “Lucy West: Why Feedback?” (video)

You all know by now how much I love Lucy West! The first video on the page is about feedback, but I’d watch all of them if I were you…Lucy West is that great!

11. “Let’s Talk Assessment…” (newsletter)

This is absolutely fantastic! It summarizes everything you need to know about effective feedback!

12. “Teaching and Learning; What works best” (research article)

A very thorough research article that looks at the impact various teaching innovations and methods have on student learning.  It references John Hattie’s research in 1992, which shows that the “most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement is feedback. The most simple prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’” (p.4).

Atherton J S (2011) Teaching and Learning; What works best [On-line: UK] retrieved 4 March 2013 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm
Read more: What works best http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm#ixzz2MdWsMCXP
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

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