Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Instead of "I don't know"

Okay, before you read any further, please go read this article over at  

If you read the article (PLEASE tell me you did!), you read this important paragraph:
Essentially, teachers can elicit more from the less proficient or reticent students if they consider various response options and then enlarge their response repertoires in order to encourage students' participation and help develop their language proficiencies.

Another favorite paragraph from the article says this:
An important distinction made by Cazden (2001) is that teachers are responsible for both the affective and academic aspects of effective classrooms and classroom talk. Teachers can direct classroom discourse so that both these goals are targeted and supported. For example, teachers can accept, deny, recast, expand, or encourage elaboration of students' responses. "Success for students in culturally diverse classrooms depends on the degree to which there are strategies that encourage all students to talk and work together" (DeVillar & Faltis, 1991). 

As we think of starting a new school year, I think one of the best supports we can provide students is a way to communicate if they need help or more support.  If you are a Texas teacher rating students with the TELPAS, you know that one of the criteria to move up listening proficiency levels is the ability to ask the speaker to repeat, slow down, rephrase, or clarify.  

Some time during the first week of school, ask your students to brainstorm with you a list of ways to request help.  Post the charts at their eye level at your meeting rug so they can be referred to as needed.  Role play their use together so that even non-readers will be able to use them when they need to.  

As the article states, we as teachers often let the "silent period" last too long.  When we do that, we begin to unintentionally communicate to the silent ones that we think they really have nothing worthy saying.  The very beginning of the school year is the perfect time to establish a classroom culture of valuing each student's voice!

I would love to see the posters you brainstorm with your students!  Feel free to leave a link in the comments below so that we can get more ideas from you!


  1. Such a great idea! I think I want to try something like this in my classroom this year. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Maestra Bilingue

    1. You're welcome, Stephanie! Let me know how it goes! I would love to see the charts your students and you come up with!

    2. hi Candis do you have more charts in spanish i teach kindergarten Dual language

    3. hi Candis do you have more charts in spanish i teach kindergarten Dual language

  2. I love this! Kids often say I don't know as an automatic response...this should give the kids some strategies in that situation!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Mrs. Castro's Class

  3. I appreciate your posts, I believe we have to sometimes pull the students out of their silent stages, methodically and carefully promoting trust.

  4. Great idea! I have a couple of kids that are very shy and some who just can't explain...this idea is very helpful!


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