Stronger and Clearer Each Time [OUR MLR 1]

Several quick structured discussion opportunities help students revise and refine their ideas, making them stronger and clearer each time
96 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

In this strategy, students engage in several quick discussions with peers using a structured paired strategy in order to make clearer and strengthen their response to a problem or a prompt. The feedback will help each student's response and thinking become "stronger and clearer each time" as they incorporate their peers' feedback. The Stronger and Clearer Each Time strategy provides a purpose for student conversation - to improve their responses - as well as gives students the opportunity to practice discussing subject-specific concepts. In this strategy, students think or write individually about a topic, use a structured pairing strategy to have multiple opportunities to refine and clarify their response through conversation with a peer, and then finally revise their original written response. Throughout this process, students should ask one another clarifying questions to press for details and encourage one another to strengthen their responses.

This strategy is an Open Up 6-8 Math Mathematical Language Routine (MLR), a structured but adaptable format for amplifying, assessing, and developing students' language. The routines emphasize the use of language that is meaningful and purposeful, not inauthentic or simply answer-based. These routines can be adapted and incorporated across lessons or subject areas wherever there are productive opportunities to support students in using and improving their English and disciplinary language.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
Hannah Larkin
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  1. Develop a thought-provoking question or prompt that supports students to think critically about a specific content area goal that is aligned to the lesson or unit of study. 

  2. Have students individually look at a problem or a prompt and write down or draw their idea/reasoning for solving the problem a certain way, their ideas for how to respond to the prompt, or any thoughts or questions about the topic. This is the prewrite draft so it is does not need to be complete before moving onto the structured paired discussion step; there will be a post-write to see if the sharing with others improves students' responses.

    • If this strategy is being used specifically to encourage practice with subject-specific language, students should to write in complete sentences.

  3. Give a minute for students to think about what they will say to the first partner to explain what they are doing, or did, to solve the problem or respond to the prompt.

    • Consider whether students should be able to look at what they wrote while talking, which may be helpful for students who are building their subject-specific language, or if you want students to practice speaking without a written guide, which may be good practice for students who are less comfortable improvising verbally.

  4. Explain the goals of the paired work and the paired discussion protocol to students.

    • Remind students that oral clarity and explaining reasoning are important. Even if they have the right answer or they both agree on a response to the prompt, the goal is either (1) to be able to clearly explain it to others as a subject-specific expert would or (2) for the other person to truly understand the speaker's ideas.

    • When one partner is listening, he or she can ask clarifying and justifying questions (i.e. "Why did you do that?") to draw more language and ideas out of their partners.

    • As students rotate through partners (see step 4), they will continue to strengthen and clarify their idea each time they talk to a new partner. You may want to provide students with a moment to jot down new ideas as they come up after discussing with a new partner.

  5. Using a structured pairing strategy, have students work with a rotating group of partners (having up to 2-3 different meetings with different partners).

    • Partners should switch one, two, or three times, with students explaining and then strengthening and clarifying their idea each time they talk to a new partner.

      • Optionally, turns with each partner can emphasize strength (focus on subject-specific concepts and skills) or clarity (how to describe the concept to others).
        • See the "Students Agreeing or Disagreeing with Partners' Thinking," "Students Share Their Answers," and "Student Shares Thinking with Group" videos in the resources section below for examples of students giving sharing responses with one another and strengthening their peers' answers with feedback and clarifying questions.

        • See the "Peer Feedback" strategy in the BetterLesson lab for more information on how to support students in giving one another peer feedback.  

        • See the "Dance Card, Compass, or Clock Partners for Student Pairing" strategy or the "Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up" strategy for information on how to implement a variety of additional pairing routines.

  6. Once students have worked with at least 2-3 different partners, they should take some time independently to write down their final draft explanations. These drafts should incorporate borrowed ideas from peers as well as a more refined examination of the initial ideas. Thus, the response becomes stronger and clearer than it originally was.

  7. Have students reflect on their two drafts to determine how they made their responses stronger and clearer.

To learn more about this Open Up Mathematical Language Routine, consult the Open Up Math Course Guide included in the resource section below. The link in the resource section is to a free website that requires a login and password.

Stronger & Clearer in ELA

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Students are given an opportunity to refine their thinking, language/vocabulary, and/or understanding through a series of linguistic experiences. First, students independently create work product in response to a prompt or problem and then prepare their thoughts on how they will express their thinking to a peer. Next, students begin a succession of discussions about a topic with different partners. The strategy closes with independent synthesis, done by writing a final response to the prompt or problem. This strategy usually uses the same question through each of the successive discussions, but can also use a progression of guiding prompts that push students to dig more deeply into their understanding to arrive at the final conclusion.

Implementation steps:

  1. Create/select your work product prompt or problem.

  2. Test it by thinking through what your students' responses might be to this prompt/problem. Who might struggle? What supports could be provided?

  3. If you decide that you'd like to turn that prompt/problem into a sequence of "smaller" questions, think that process through. Keeping the same question throughout might feel counter-intuitive, but it works to help students who are struggling to understand, because they will repeatedly hear peer thinking.

  4. Select/create sentence stem(s) (for more support, create sentence frames) that support students to frame their thinking during the discussion.

  5. When first introducing this to routine to students:

    • Make sure you have talk routines in place first (expectations, and the use of sentence stems). If these are not present, establish talk routines first.

    • Co-craft discussion/participation expectations (what will the discussion sound like, feel like, look like).

    • Provide sentence stems (and frames) and include these in your modeling.

    • Model with students what they will be doing.

    • Break the strategy into steps and pause between each of the discussions and reflect on what is working and what is not.

    • Monitor students while they are talking. Try not to enter into the discussion but trust the process. The monitoring is mostly intended to help you to determine when the successive discussions have reached the learning objective.

    • It is critical to include the final synthesis, which in this strategy is to return to independent work, writing their response to the question/prompt.

EL Modification

For students who struggle to articulate their ideas or feedback, consider using resources provided in the "Accountable and Academic Talk Stems" strategy to help students organize and articulate their thoughts. Alternatively, see the "Silent Discussion or Chalk Talk" strategy for details on how to engage students in a silent discussion protocol.

Additionally, teachers should purposefully group students with diverse backgrounds and proficiency levels in order to promote linguistic turn-taking and reciprocal teaching and learning among peers.

Special Education Modification

Students who benefit from additional processing time or who struggle with short-term memory should be given time in between partner discussions to stop and jot any new ideas they learned from their partner before moving on to the next partner so they don't forget the feedback they received.

Tech Tools


  1. Padlet is a digital corkboard type tool that students can use to gather information or reflections. Teachers can easily access each students' Padlet with a shared link.
  2. Students can use Padlet to document their thinking about a given problem or question and get peer or teacher feedback on that thinking. For "Stronger and Clearer Each Time," students can create a Padlet with their response to a prompt or problem and receive peer feedback digitally that will help them improve their responses.

Hyperdocs & Google Docs

  1. A HyperDoc can be used to provide structure and detail for a self-paced activity. A HyperDoc can be designed from templates or created from scratch using a word processing program. Students can type directly into these documents or use them as a guide for learning a concept or skill.
  2. Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.
  3. Students can use a Hyperdoc or Google Doc to share their writing and get peer feedback silently. See the "Silent Discussion or Chalk Talk" strategy for details on how to engage students in a silent discussion protocol.