My first year teaching in first grade, there was no way I was trying turn and talks. I was just trying to survive! When I moved to kindergarten, I literally laughed at the idea of trying turn and talks in my Kindergarten classroom. They can’t do that!
Boy, was I wrong!
Done right, turn and talks can me a powerfully effective tool.
Here are my best tips for teaching turn and talks in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.
Do You Want Turn and Talk Partners?
First, you will want to decide if you will assign turn and talk partners or if you will allow pairings to change each time. It really comes down to your classroom management style.
Personally, the idea of remembering who is partners with who, even with a chart, is a nightmare for me.
Instead, I have students turn to the person sitting next to them. If there is an extra person, they can make a 3-person team.
This takes some modeling and practice, but once students have it down, the transition is quick.
I also like doing partnerships this ways because students get to talk with a wide variety of people throughout the year. It’s a great way to give students more experience and to build classroom community.
I am a self-proclaimed control freak. The thought of the chaos that would ensue once I said “turn and talk” is what kept me from using this tool for years.
This simple classroom management trick solved that problem for me.
I tell students what they are going to be discussing during the turn and talk, but my kindergarteners are not allowed to begin moving until I start counting.
As soon as they hear me say, “one,” they know to begin turning.
By the time I count to three, they should be turned with a partner.
Again, this takes some practice, but it is highly effective! We use this 1-2-3 trick for almost every transition in the classroom, so it’s automatic for my students.
At the beginning of the year, we make a game out of practicing how quickly we can follow this transition.
Okay, we’re counting down now, so you know what that means – transitioning out of the turn and talk. Usually, I will give my students a warning to wrap it up before I start counting, but not always.
My kindergarteners know that, when I start counting down, they stop what they’re doing and turn back to me.
By the time I get to one, they should be turned, looking at me, with voices off.
I know I say it over and over BUT this will take practice! However, once they’ve gotten it down, you will be amazed by how quickly your students can transition.
Teach The Expectations of Speakers and Listeners
To have effective turn and talks, students need to know how to be a good speaker and a good listener. This is something that needs to be explicitly taught to our kindergarten students.
In fact, our first Writing Workshop unit is all about speaking and listening. Students need to know how to take turns and have a conversation.
First, we teach the expectations for the speaker.
The expectations for speakers include:
- Looking at the audience (in this case, your partner)
- Speaking loud enough for them to hear
- Staying on topic – this one is hard for kindergarten!
Next, we teach the expectations for the listener.
The expectations for listeners include:
- Looking at the speaker
- Hands are still (or not distracting others)
- Wait to speak
- Think about what the speaker is saying
After students learn how to be good speakers and listeners, we review these expectations periodically before our turn and talks. As I’m observing, I can also use these posters to remind students of the expectations.
Keep It Short and Sweet
When you see your students engaged and having a conversation, it’s magical! It can be tempting to let that go on as long as you can push it.
But here’s the thing.
Turn and talks are pretty much guaranteed to turn into absolute chaos on a dime if you let them go too long.
Instead, keep them short and sweet. A few minutes is long enough, and sometimes it’s too long!
You want your students to still be excited about the topic when they turn back to you, so that you can discuss what they talked about as a group.
Free Turn and Talk Posters
Ready to try out turn and talks with your kindergarten or first grade class? You can grab the free turn and talk expectations and speakers and listeners posters here!