Promoting Accountable Discussion

Tips and Tricks

Having Students Pronounce Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary words are new to all students, and pronouncing new vocabulary words can be intimidating for many students. This affects their confidence and engagement with the vocabulary. I recommend that the class chorally pronounces each vocabulary word (yes, even in secondary classrooms!) so they become comfortable sharing the word out loud. Two ways to encourage choral pronunciation are:

Having Students Discuss Questions Using Sentence Stems

Structured conversations about academic content is critical for students to share ideas and develop new levels of understanding. Strategies for setting clear expectations and structuring the language of the discussions, such as the Q-SSS-A strategy, are highly effective at engaging students in academic discussions. Below are some strategies to employ if students are not all sharing using the sentence stem:

Appropriately Targeting Levels of Questioning

The questions and sentence stems in this resource are designed to progressively require students to think and discuss more deeply as they examine and re-examine the visuals. The first level is observational, so that students are simply describing what they see in the visual. The next level is relational, where students are making connections between this word and other words. The final level is inferential: what can they predict or infer about how this concept would play out in hypothetical contexts? These three levels and their alignment to Bloom's Taxonomy are described in the table to the right.

In a heterogeneous classroom environment, it is recommended to start students at the observational level so that they can apply and share their background knowledge about the vocabulary. When questioning students at the relational level, it will likely be important to expose the students to the other vocabulary word(s) the question is relating. For example, when exploring the visual about the word axis with the question, "How is the Earth's axis related to its rotation?," it is important that the students have seen the visual for rotation as well.

Helping Students Explore the Visual

Some students might need support in identifying finer details of visuals. Helpful strategies include:

Explaining What Certain Symbols Mean

There are many symbols repeatedly used throughout The Visual Non-Glossary. While many students can infer the meaning of these symbols as they pertain to the visuals, it may be helpful to create an anchor chart specifying exactly what they mean. To the left is an example anchor chart, which can be referred to throughout the year.

Tips and Tricks

Volume 3: Review/Preview with Discussion

March 30, 2021

Review - or Preview - by Having Students Guess The Word
As a warm-up/bell-ringer/do-now activity, display 3-4 visuals that have either previously been covered or will be featured in the lesson. Cover or crop out the words and questions and ask students to try to identify which words represent which visuals. This can be done with a word bank, without a word bank, or by giving students a word bank after they have guessed the words. It is important to remind students to provide some justification as to why they chose each word for each picture.

After students have brainstormed individually and the class has started, have students share in partners or small groups using a sentence stem such as "I think picture ___ represents ________ because..."

Specify Who Goes First
When having students discuss a visual in groups or breakout rooms, instructing very clearly who will speak first in the group can motivate groups to start talking and ensure equitable discussion within the group. This can be done using superlatives, such as "person with the longest hair" or "person whose name is closest to A in the alphabet."

This can also be done by setting up a lettering system. In an initial warm-up or group discussion, students can be instructed to each pick a letter (A, B, C, D, etc.). In subsequent discussions, groups can be instructed that a specific letter is going to speak first. This system can also be used to randomly call on students after a discussion (e.g., "Let me hear from Person C of each group").

Volume 2: Engaging Students in Discussions

January 26, 2021

Thinking Signal
Having students show a thinking signals is a powerful strategy for providing the right amount of wait time, as well as helping students focus on the question. Classic thinking signals include giving a thumbs up, lowering one's hand, or sitting down when ready. In virtual or hybrid lessons, students can be instructed to type a specific letter into the chat but to not send it until they are ready to answer the question. My favorite thinking signal, in any type of lesson: instruct students to point to the vocabulary word above the visual, or the sentence stem, and to not lower their fingers until they are ready to finish the sentence. This gives them think time while priming them to use the key vocabulary word in their responses!

Interaction without Breakout Rooms
In virtual and hybrid lessons, highly structured breakout room sessions are excellent for students to interact with the visual, processing the content and practicing the language. In addition to breakout rooms, here are some excellent options for online interaction: Note: However the students interact, it is key to follow up interaction with whole-group sharing by randomly calling on one or more students. This signals to the students that their peer-to-peer conversations matter!

Volume 1: Beginning and End of the Lesson

December 1, 2020

Focus on 2-4 Words in Each Lesson
While many vocabulary words will come up in each lesson, we can help students master vocabulary by specifically focusing on 2-4 words in each lesson. For the following activities, think of 2-4 visuals from The Visual Non-Glossary to have students interact with during the lesson.

During the first 2-5 minutes of class when students are entering and getting settled, display the visual for one of the words and have students write down everything they notice in the visuals. When the time is up and everyone is ready, ask the students the first question in the visual and have them share their answers with their partners or breakout groups.

Closures/Exit Tickets
During the last 3-7 minutes of class, have students write an answer to the last question in the visual of one of the day's words. For added elaboration, have students provide examples and encourage students to use all of the day's 2-4 vocabulary words in their responses.

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