Every conversation is an intervention

Can technology elevate quality conversation in the classroom?

Children actively engaged in a classroom setting, raising their hands and participating in learning activities.

During Bett 2022, as part of a Learnit panel event on student wellbeing, my colleague, Headteacher Andy Davis, commented ‘Every conversation is an intervention’. Amongst a sea of nodding heads, his voice resonated and the (much-needed) spotlight on quality conversations with students elevated my daily practice. I’ve since had the pleasure of working in Andy’s schools, where I’ve witnessed the direct impact of quality conversation in the classroom, his students confidence, ability to reflect and collaborate with classmates.

Just how important is active conversation in the classroom? What does the research tell us about the impact of speaking and listening on pupil progress?

A long line of research supports the value of spoken language for academic, social and participatory goals. Some of the impact on wider learning is summarised clearly by the Education Endowment Foundation’s analysis of ‘oral language interventions’ citing “very high impact for very low cost based on extensive evidence.” Huge gains for low cost; want to improve attainment across the curriculum, we need to ensure that children and young people have the best possible spoken language and communication skills, including those with speech, language and communication needs.

The best teaching balances authoritative presentation of new knowledge to students with opportunities for their active participation in classroom dialogue. Active participation was one of the top things our students missed most when our school’s had to close their doors in 2020 and into 2021 so we used technology to close the gap and maintain roads of communication and connection. Can technology continue to facilitate and elevate communication skills in the classroom? Absolutely! Especially when you want the opportunity to ‘hear’ from 30 students at once; valuing, validating and collectively learning from each input.

“The best teaching balances authoritative presentation of new knowledge to students with opportunities for their active participation in classroom dialogue”

Lumio can help address this balance; it’s an online teaching tool that champions active participation and classroom connection.

Explore active participation in action

Children learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process and engaged in meaningful tasks. Children who are able to express themselves clearly and effectively are much more successful learners.

This means that teachers need to pay attention to the communication skills of all students.

1. Be Aware of What Students Say and How They Listen

Active listening is crucial for teachers when engaging with their students. Teachers should foster an environment that promotes students' engagement and participation by encouraging them to share their learning, opinions and ideas with each other; it will help to build confidence in expressing individual ideas. These game based activities do just that.

2. Encourage all Students to Share Their Ideas.

Facilitating an atmosphere where students feel comfortable expressing their ideas can help enhance their communication skills. Students need to have ideas to discuss, and encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings is an excellent approach to promoting self-expression.

With the ‘Shout it Out’ feature, each student’s feedback to the board can be anonymous but through the teacher view, you have the ability to check in with your students in confidence.

3. Develop Students Writing Skills through Collaboration

We all know that writing is a skill that develops over time. Here, we can encourage our students to write down notes and then elaborate on their ideas which helps them join their points together. At the click of a button, we have the opportunity to motivate students to jot down notes and expand on their ideas, aiding in the connection of their points. Using a whole-class whiteboard supports students constructing coherent arguments that seamlessly flow together.

4. Allow Students Time to Think Before Responding

Providing students with time to think before responding is a valuable strategy for promoting critical thinking and enhancing learning outcomes. This collaborative approach can help students feel more confident and engaged in the learning process, as it provides them with a safe space to consider their ideas without feeling rushed or pressured. You’ll find that students are more likely to come up with thoughtful responses. In daily practice, asking your students to pause before responding is a really simple way to teach students to think before they speak.

5. Provide Opportunities for Students to Practise Speaking

Speaking is another area where students often lack confidence. To help students overcome this problem, teachers should provide speaking opportunities. These opportunities could include giving presentations, participating in debates, or presenting information orally. It helps to start with group work and build up confidence there.

Speaking of groups, we also need to raise students’ awareness of why they are being asked to work in groups, so that they appreciate the potential value of talk for learning. More importantly, they need to teach them to engage in the kind of reasoned discussion which is known as Exploratory Talk. This is a way of using language for thinking collectively or ‘interthinking’ (Littleton & Mercer, 2013).

For specific Primary maths lesson examples see Tara’s previous blog here:

Further reading

The average impact of Oral language interventions is approximately an additional six months’ progress over the course of a year:
The centrality of spoken language to developing literacy and numeracy skills:
Littleton, K., & Mercer, N. (2013). Interthinking: Putting talk to work (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203809433