Time to talk

Verbalising thinking and sharing ideas is a key part of any class, particularly a language classroom. In schools with a high proportion of English language learners, creating the conditions for discussion can sometimes be challenging as students are reluctant to make mistakes or feel shy and awkward talking in a large group. I want each student to feel safe to speak up and become confident communicators. In a February 2013 Atlantic column, Jessica Lahey shares how she feels “more strongly that my introverted students must learn how to self-advocate by communicating with parents, educators, and the world at large.” (Source) It’s too easy sometimes to rely on the confident “talkers” in class discussions.

Here’s what some of my new DP students think (shared with their permission):

1. “Throughout these five lessons, I would say that I learned the most during ‘Save the last word for me’ protocol we did today. During the conversation, we all expressed and exchanged our interpretation of the global issue we had talked about. This activity does not only broadened and expanded my thinking but also allowing me to enhance my confidence in sharing my ideas.”

2. “Overall, the past few lessons have really been a change of pace for me as they have focused more on discussions and the exchange of ideas in the classroom. That change was difficult at first to get used to as I have always refrained somewhat from participating in class discussions as I have never been fond of public speaking. However, after having been part of several discussions and working with those on my table I have grown more comfortable in sharing my ideas and looking at the different perspectives my classmates provide.”

3. “… the activity which we did in class today: “Save me the last word protocol” was in fact, useful because it made people who are shy to share their ideas were able to confidently share ideas in small groups, but I thought that we needed a bit more guidance through the activity, because sometimes, we felt that we were doing the activity wrong.”

4. “I find that the IB English language and literature course is very different from the IGCSEs, no more analysing texts strictly to find literary devices to convolute into what the author may be thinking. Now I must broaden my view on it and apply much of what I learnt in global perspectives and what I am learning in theory of knowledge classes. I’m unsure that I can get the hang of the change, but I hope that I will be able.
So far I think I’m a little glad that classes turn out less “sit at your desk and read and write”. With the new (and a little odd) activities like the participation chips and the ‘last word’ discussion, classes seem relaxed and social.”

The following is a curation of resources, protocols, and articles to support discursive classrooms.

Thomas Drouault@thomasdrouaultphotography

Protocols and Strategies

HGSE Discussion Protocols

4As Protocol

20 Discussion Protocols

Discussion Protocols for any topic

A Potpourri of Ideas, Protocols and Strategies

Note passing Discussion (AMLE)


These apps are another way to ensure that everyone is taking part in conversations, asking questions, and gives us ways to check for understanding.


Equity Maps 

Pear Deck





Related articles

Talking to Learn, ACEL, 2014

Engaging-the-Quiet-Highly-Capable-Learners-in-Your-Classroom AMLE