Engage Students in Discussions with ESRs

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Engage Students in Discussions with ESRs

Posted on April 17, 2017

Engage Students in Discussions with ESRs

Highly effective teachers plan more than just their curriculum. They also plan how they are going to engage students throughout the learning process. After all, we know from research that if students aren't actively thinking and participating, they aren't learning and growing.

Integrate ESRs into your lessons
One of the easiest ways to cultivate engagement is by using ESRs. Every-Student-Responses are just that--an opportunity for every student to participate in the thinking and discussion. ESR techniques allow the teacher to quickly determine who is getting it and who isn't.

Hold-Ups reveal what each student is thinking
One of the best ESR strategies is the miniature "hold-up" sign. After asking a question of the entire class, give students a moment to determine the answer. Then say, "1, 2, 3, Hold Up." At that point, the students literally raise up the appropriate sign revealing their individual answers. This allows the teacher to "hear" from every student, without literally calling on each one.

Depending on the type of question asked, students' signs may read Yes/No, Agree/Disagree, True/False, or Pro/Con. (TIP: Print the Hold-Up signs on card stock or tag board and/or laminate them to make them a little stiffer and more durable. Some teachers even adhere them to craft sticks.)

The most important thing about initiating the Hold-Up technique is that it's spontaneous. It is used each time you ask the class a question during your lesson. That means the signs need to be easily accessible at any given time. They can't be stored away in a closet or on a shelf. Students need the cards at their fingertips. Maybe house them within a caddy or tote for groups of students to grab from. Or try keeping them in a zip-lock bag taped to the back of each chair for easy access.

Turn & Talk allows for varied responses
Sometimes the questions teachers ask don't have simple answers. Sometimes we want students to think through and reason their responses. This requires more than a simple yes/no response. It also requires someone for kids to process with. This is where the Turn & Talk concept works well. Consider one of these two approaches:

  1. Turn & Talk--Pepper strategy. The teacher poses the question and students immediately pivot to the person(s) adjacent to them to come up with a response. After just a few seconds, the teacher reconvenes the class and has them quickly share out their different thinking.
  2. Turn & Talk--Eavesdrop strategy. When the question requires longer processing time, it's better for the teacher to roam through the room and listen in on students' different conversations. The teacher can assess who is getting it and who is not. Eventually, the teacher reconvenes the class after a few moments. Start with...Here's what I heard and then synthesize the various points you overheard. This approach has no one person being called on, and yet every student participating.

Talk Moves bring every student into the classroom conversation

Another strategy for keeping all students engaged is known as "Talk Moves." This technique encourages students to pay attention when peers are answering questions or sharing ideas.

When one student has the floor for several minutes and is talking, it's common for the others to tune out. Talk Moves, however, keep all engaged and listening to one another. View the video above to see the four types of Talk Moves demonstrated:

  • Repeat--Require students to repeat each others' responses within a classroom conversation. This encourages continued focus with each person's response and ensures...
  • Add On--Once students have mastered how to repeat another's response, they can learn how to add on to it. This allows them to add another example, give another reason, or further elaborate on a peer's initial thinking.
  • Thinking Alike--When one student is sharing his opinion, idea, or answer, the other students need a way to silently communicate that they agree with him and that they also knew the answer.
  • Revise Thinking--Give students a chance to change their minds. Perhaps a student shared an initial opinion or answer that later proves wrong. Allow the student to revise his thinking.
Article originally posted September 24, 2013.