10 routines for teaching online – #4 Talk types

by / Thursday, 26 November 2020 / Published in Instruction, Routines

TalkTypesThe idea of ‘talk types’ is loosely related to Cooperative learning group roles, though the functions described in ‘talk types’ are less based on leadership skills, and more based on communication skills: both of which are vital in any workforce.

There are six talk types that your students can use as a supplement to their cooperative learning roles. You might work it so that a group role and a talk type are randomly assigned for all tasks or activities (try this link – the Wheel of Names! you can customize your own!), so that all students get a chance to try out the role/type and then take some time to do some reflection on the experience.

Here’s a brief description of each of these six talk types that you can use with your students.

Instigator – The instigator starts things off, using open-ended general questions, like “what do you think about…” “do you have an opinion of…”, “where do you think the best place we should start today?” or even “shall we move on to another topic?” This person drives the conversation, and should especially be ready to move to something new when the old topic of conversation and interaction begins to die down.

Builder / improvisor – This type is someone who initiates broadening the current topic in some way, encouraging people to seek new angles or add new information to what is being discussed. “previously we said…” is a typical utterance for this type, as it seeks to reinforce what has already transpired, while encouraging innovation on ideas already put forward.

Challenger – This type is what is usually known as ‘the Devil’s Advocate’, always taking a contrary position to the basic beliefs and assumed shared agreement of all members on a learning team. “Yes, but…” or even “No” are two popular catch phrases of the challenger. Team members will need to work on critical thinking skills to refute the challenger at all times.

Clarifier – If you watch any televised sport, you know there are usually two announcers: one pretty much tells you what is happening in the game, including who has the ball, where they are going, if they pass the ball, if someone scores. The other person, this is the type we are focusing on, is the person who provides background: maybe more information about player, some interesting statistics about the player or the team or the place the game is being played, or the stadium it’s being played in or the country it’s being played in. This ‘color commentator’ we can call the Clarifier, and it is his or her type to add information, make connections, or give more background to the ideas being discussed in the group.

Prober – The difference between the prober and the builder/improviser is that the proper is looking for justification of ideas, whereas the builder /improviser is looking for expansion of ideas. Both are necessary to tease out an idea to its fullest extent, with the prober a kind of quality control / coach / mentor role.

Summariser – The role does a lot of listening, note taking, idea organizing, paraphrasing, and generally making sure the learning group is clear on their ideas, problems posed, solutions offered. This role rephrases, and attempts to make further connections in relation to the task at hand.

Give these try with your students. Give them a chance to reflect on trying out these talk types. Have them suggest other possible cooperative group roles or talk types. Make sure you aren’t just tossing your students together in a group and something meaningful will  happen. They need to critically examine their roles and functions within a group, so that they work toward true collaboration and creation. Getting students to work on such interpersonal and communication skills, I think, is our main mission as educators.

This is a new series of tips for teaching online. This series focuses on the small things, in this case, small routines that you can, and should, easily incorporate into your every day instruction online. These routines address student motivationparticipation, and metacognitive training leading to higher order thinking skills that focus on the conceptual and metacognitive knowledge dimensions from Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).

Previous posts in this series include:

#10 Reflection

#9 A language pause

#8 Kahoot! ‘Did you know or did you guess?’

#7 Cooperative learning group roles

#6 Listen for the lie

#5 Shoebox