Chalk Talk Teaching Strategy

Use the chalk talk teaching strategy to get your whole class sharing their ideas.

The chalk talk teaching strategy is a great teaching technique to get the whole class sharing their ideas. This teaching strategy could also be called a silent discussion. 

How Does The Chalk Talk Teaching Strategy Work?

    1. In the center of the chalkboard/whiteboard/chart paper write a question or keyword, post and image, or share another item pertaining to the topic you want to discuss in class.  If you have enough room, you might split the board into sections and write a question, term, etc. in the center of each section.
    2. Have your students write answers, ideas, tangential questions, draw pictures, share thoughts, and anything else they can think of relating to the central idea of that board.
    3. Encourage students to look at others’ ideas.  Students can mark (circle, star, highlight, etc.) these if they agree, like, or want to emphasize them.  They might answer other students’ questions. They can draw lines connecting their own thoughts to others’ thoughts on the board.  They can even write questions or share ideas that are related to other students’ new ideas instead of the original central idea.
    4. Once everyone is done, use the diagrams that have been created to discuss the original topics.

Variation Idea One:  Instead of giving unlimited time for students to complete these Chalk Talk diagrams, give a short period of time and then set a specific time limit for work on a single diagram before students must move on to a new one.

Variation Idea Two:  Though the name comes from the use of chalk and a blackboard, this activity works very well using dry erase boards and markers or large sheets of paper and colourful writing utensils.  If you are doing this activity with sheets of paper, you might also consider having several papers each with a different topic, splitting your class into groups of four to six, and passing the papers between groups.

Variation Idea Three:  Give topics the night before you want to do the activity in class.  Have students come up with their own central ideas to use as Chalk Talk diagram starters the next day.

How Do I Use The Chalk Talk Teaching Strategy?

  1. Chalk Talks are a great way to begin a unit.  They help you and your students assess and share what previous knowledge they have on a topic.  Chalk Talks can also help you figure out where your students’ interests and lines of curiosity lie. They can even help identify what misconceptions might exist among your class.
  2. Chalk Talks are a fabulous way to prepare for a test.  When used in this manner, Chalk Talks can help students talk about, review, and synthesize the material from the unit and ask questions they still have as well as help you figure out where your students still have gaps or misunderstandings in their knowledge.
  3. Chalk Talks are a unique brainstorming activity before assigning research projects.  By having students complete several Chalk Talk diagrams together before picking a topic for research, students have the benefit of helping each other flesh out trains of thought as well as consider ideas and avenues of research that might not have occurred to them on their own.

Why Do I Love This Strategy?

  1. Everyone gets to participate. Students who are hesitant or too shy to raise their hands or talk in class can share their thoughts and ideas without having to be the center of attention.
  2. Synergy!!!  Students are creating these Chalk Talk diagrams together. They share their own ideas and then springboard off of each others’, creating something that no one student could or would create on their own.

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