The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 6

Each year, I reflect on my graduate students who have made significant impact on my teaching career. Usually it is not about the award-winning teachers who are enrolled in my advanced graduate courses, but those who challenge me to rethink instructional methods for higher education. Alyssa, then an early career teacher in New York City, gave me much insight into the use of Accountable Talk at the elementary level. I have taken this class discussion model and adapted it to my own university teaching. I found it to be a strategy that works for all ages. But that is another story. Read below Alyssa’s account about her use of Accountable Talk which helped her urban second-grade students improve in their fluency and comprehension skills

Alyssa’s Story

Many months ago, I, a beginning teacher, tried explaining to an elementary student how to solve a math problem. I had shown him several alternate ways to solve it, yet each time I finished with an explanation, he stared at me with a blank look. One of my brightest students overheard the problem and came over to lend his assistance. With just a few words in his own way, this student explained how to complete the math problem. It was like magic. The struggling child looked up with a smile and began to complete the worksheet. It was at this point I realized that children learn from other children in so many ways. Why not incorporate this method into my teaching? It was at this point that I gave my students the responsibility to begin teaching each other. After participating in a professional development session (LeSchack, 2003) on Accountable Talk , I chose this method to be used in my second-grade classroom.


What is Accountable Talk?

Talking with others can give us opportunity to organize our thinking into coherent utterances and sounds, to listen on how others respond to our thoughts and to hear others expand on our thinking by their thoughts. For most people, talking is an essential part of everyday life. However, Accountable Talk is conversation centered on learning. Students have conversations about text by responding to each other’s thinking. Accountable Talk was designed around three dimensions: (a) being accountable to the learning community; (b) being accountable to acceptable standards of reasoning; and (c) being accountable to knowledge based explicitly on facts and written texts (Michaels, O’Connor, Sohmer, & Resnick, 2002). Accountable Talk was mainly designed to support academic discourse in linguistically and socioeconomically diverse classrooms.

For the most part, elementary students are used to teacher-led discussions during reading and writing time. Students are usually given guided questions to help them build their comprehension skills. However, I wanted my students to be able to express their thoughts and opinions before and after reading. I wanted them to be responsible for supporting their beliefs with evidence. In addition, they would be responsible for listening to others’ viewpoints and respecting them whether they agreed with them or not. I wanted my students to be active literacy learners.

Accountable Talk in an Urban Elementary Classroom

During my first year in implementing Accountable Talk, I taught in a public elementary school with pre-K to 5th grade

This is the book that started it all!


Linguistically, they were all fluent in English and loved to talk..

Resourceful Research