Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Accountable talk- a tool for building

As you probably know,  I spend a lot of time thinking about and being part education in my community.  As a PTA president,  a volunteer,  and a parent,  education is one of the top five issues I talk about.  I've learned a lot about the new Common Core Standards as they are being implemented in our school district, and I'm rather impressed.  I do get to say this from the privileged position of someone whose school district has been slowly implementing and train teacher for this for years.  Some of the tools our students are learning are going to help make really amazing citizens of the world, and my favorite of these is Accountable Talk.

Accountable talk permeates all grade levels, and at its core, it's about good listening and purposeful, respectful discussion.  It's no longer going to be enough for students to say, "I like that book/character/idea."  Now, they must express their opinion, return to the text for examples to support their opinion, and then dialogue respectfully with their conversational partners about why evidence and  opinions are valid, or maybe even, needs some more work.  This is the return of critical thinking, and it's beautiful, simple, and can be applied to all areas of our lives.

Teachers teach students how to thoughtfully agree, politely disagree, keep on topic (without hurting feelings), and how to continue the conversation by returning to the text to look at evidence and listen to why people think about facts in different terms.  One of the things I heard about during our school's strategic planning meeting last week was about the encouragement to change their opinions. Students are being to encouraged to allow their opinion to change after having these conversations without fear or ridicule or loss of  face. Teachers model this  behavior by saying, "I used to think _____, but now that we talked about it and read about it, I think _____."  Not only does this make classroom discussions better, you can even hear it on the playground. My son came home last week and said that he changed his mind about another kid (who had previously been labelled "mean", and is now friends with him.

Respectful, thoughtful conversation can open so many doors for us, no matter our age.  We can respect other people's opinions, but we should be curious about their thought process. Having an opinion is great, but back it up with a thoughtful argument and you've got a conversation.  This is how we stop feeding the trolls, develop some accountability for our words and actions, and build communities that are more inclusive, better educated, and adaptable.


  1. Not having children or even grand children in school, I had absolutely no knowledge of the Common Core Standards. This one is extremely promising, I just hope it works. Not that I think it won't, but sometimes there are slips between plans and what actually happens.

  2. Thanks, Ila!


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