Lesson: Accountable Talk Discussions
“Have you all ever had a debate?” (Elicit student responses….)
“What makes a good debate?” (Elicit student responses….)
“Today we’re going to talk about how to speak like good debaters. I call this kind of talk…accountable talk.”
Introduction to New Material:
It’s called accountable talk because each contributor is held accountable for their comments, like you can’t get away with saying anything. You have to give reasons and evidence for your opinions. So, write down this definition:
Accountable talk is the type of discourse used in debates, whereby participants discuss their opinions on a topic with evidence and thoughtful questioning. Participants use phrases like
“I believe ____ because ____”
“I agree with ______ because ______”
“________, could you please clarify what you mean by ____?”
“On page ____, it says ________________, so I think _______”
- Teacher and student read pretend accountable talk discussion. [Teacher may choose to make the provided dialogue more relevant for his classJ]
- Teacher assigns students “parts” to read, as if it’s a play. Afterwards, teacher asks students, What evidence of accountable talk is there? Which participant in the dialogue is the best at this? Which is the worst? Why? How could he/she have improved?
Students circle up. Teacher poses a question and guides students in accountable talk discussion. I generally pose a question that’s relevant to some issue at school. Most recently, students who had behaved and received few to no detentions were invited to a “Spring Dance.” I posed the question: Should all students be allowed to go to the dance, or only those who’ve shown good behavior?
After letting the kids debate the topic, the teacher should highlight some positives and areas to improve. You might say:
“Good. Everyone connected their comment to the comment before them, using ‘I agree ___’ or ‘I disagree ___’.”
“One thing we need to work on is making sure your evidence is specific enough. Like when Diamond said she thought that only behaved students should attend because it will cut down on big problems, I was wondering what ‘big problems’ she was referring to. She could have said, for example, there might be a less likely chance for a fight.”
Further Independent Practice:
Teacher may use novel Skin I’m In as a jumping off point for more accountable talk discussions. Usually after every 2 chapters, I pick a provocative question to debate, like “Do you think Maleeka likes Ms. Saunders? Why or why not?” or “How is Maleeka changing?”
See Skin I’m In chapter questions for more examples of discussion questions. They are usually labeled Think and Search or On Your Own.