Talking, Listening, Learning: Effective Talk in the Primary Classroom

Talking, Listening, Learning: Effective Talk in the Primary Classroom

Talking, Listening, Learning: Effective Talk in the Primary Classroom

Talking, Listening, Learning: Effective Talk in the Primary Classroom


This book looks at an issue which is at the heart of every classroom - the role that talk plays in children's learning. Drawing on a substantial research base, the book provides useful suggestions to facilitate successful talk between teachers and children to improve learning and raise standards.

Through analysing the talk that goes on in primary school classrooms, the book examines the process of talk and learning in detail and shows how teachers' questions, instructions and statements can support and extend children's learning. It highlights the central influence of teacher talk on developing children's learning and looks at international perspectives in the field, including the work of Shirley Brice Heath, Douglas Barnes, Gordon Wells, Neil Mercer and Robin Alexander.

This innovative book provides ideas, techniques, and practical suggestions for making classroom talk effective. It is key reading for student and qualified teachers who are interested in improving learning by generating higher levels of participation and interactive talk in their classrooms.


As headteachers working in First Schools in West Sussex, we already had a passion and strong vision for a developmental approach to children's learning. But this passion was further fanned by Professor Charles Desforges in his keynote speeches to local headteachers at an in-service training day in the spring of 1999. This led to our realization that, in questioning the fundamental approaches being espoused within the national frameworks for literacy and numeracy, we were reaffirming our personal philosophy and belief systems about children's learning and development.

We had, through discussion, expressed gut reactions to the way that the whole class teaching episodes in the literacy and numeracy sessions seemed to be impacting on children's learning. We all had concerns that the children's learning was not being successfully scaffolded during these 'interactive' sessions, leading to a lack of true and deep understanding. Our concern was that teachers were beginning to understand that good teaching was the delivery of a prescribed model lesson – it appeared that good teaching no longer took into account children's learning. As part of a local schools' training network for teachers, we approached the University of Exeter for support in delivering the key message that the quality of learning was important.

Informal and formal opportunities for talk with the University of Exeter team led us to conceive the possibilities of testing our hypotheses in a structured and rigorous research project. The success of the bid left us speechless – we were amazed to have been given the opportunity to work on a national research project. Little did we realize at this stage that one of the most significant outcomes would be the involvement and professional development of the teachers in the classroom.

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