You are here

Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings

Authors and Bios

Jeff Zwiers currently teaches in the Stanford Teacher Education Program and works as a clinical associate for Stanford's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching. He consults for international education development projects that promote bilingual education, curriculum development, formative assessment, and engaged learning. He has published articles and books on reading, thinking, and academic language such as Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms (2008). His most recent book, Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings, focuses on teaching students how to skillfully communicate and build content understandings within the classroom community.

Marie Crawford is an assistant principal in the San Carlos School District. She is an experienced mentor teacher, classroom teacher, and museum educator.

Summary of Book

Learning is a social endeavor, and conversations, especially academic conversations, help students to deepen their understanding of a topic in a profound and meaningful way. Academic conversations are those back and forth dialogues that occur in a supportive and purposeful classroom environment. They help students focus on a topic and explore it, while building, challenging, challenging, and negotiating important ideas with their peers.

Classroom talk and discussion is usually teacher-dominated. In fact, most classrooms spend less than two minutes per hour on classroom conversation or discussion. Most talk does not advance beyond short question and answer sessions because teacher have never learned how to initiate and maintain effective academic conversations in the classroom. There are five core communication skills that help students hold productive academic conversations across academic content areas. These skills include: elaborating and clarifying, supporting ideas with evidence, building and/or challenging ideas, paraphrasing, and synthesizing. This book explains how to weave these skills into all teaching practices and approaches. Specifically, this book helps teachers to use conversations to build the following:

  • Academic vocabulary and grammar
  • Critical thinking skills such as persuasion, interpretation, consideration of multiple perspectives, evaluation, and application
  • Literacy skills such as questioning, predicting, connecting to prior knowledge, and summarizing
  • Complex and abstract essential understandings in content areas such as adaptation, human nature, bias, conservation of mass, energy, gravity, irony, democracy, greed, and more
  • An academic classroom environment brimming with respect for others' ideas, equity of voice, engagement, and mutual support

This book includes practical, hands-on activities for working on each conversation skill, creating conversation tasks, and using conversations to teach and assess knowledge. Academic Conversations is an excellent resource for you as you help your students master the communicative expectations of today’s world.

            © Zaner-Bloser, Inc. All Rights Reserved.      Privacy Policy