- Sponsorship -

Turn, Talk and Listen

Method Helps Kindergartners Learn Basics of Reading, Communication

Kindergartner Vincent Reatini looked up from his book, “Froggy Builds a Tree House,” which he couldn’t read much of yet. But asked for his favorite part, he promptly pointed to one page and said, “This is my favorite part, because they’re eating pizza.”

Spoken like a true American boy. He shared this information with his reading partner, Jaxyn Morrison, as the two told each other about their books. When teacher Mandy Noble asked Jaxyn what Vincent’s favorite part was, Jaxyn faithfully reported, “The pizza part.”

It was a textbook example of the “turn and talk” approach to learning, in this case learning to read. Noble uses it frequently in her Zinser Elementary classroom, as a way to not only help students understand content, but how to focus their thinking, listen to others and communicate clearly.

“They’re learning to collaborate and communicate,” Noble said of the strategy she and other Zinser teachers use with their K-5 students in several subject areas. “Those are skills every individual needs, no matter what job they have, no matter what path they go down in life.”

She calls the method “partner power,” which she says helps students learn better together by being more attentive to each other. Instead of being distracted by a loose shoelace or a bird out the window, she said students are “learning how to share their thinking, build that thinking and work together.”

Related Story: Boosting Student Reading Takes Center Stage

Vincent Reatini, right, pores over a picture book while his partner Jaxyn Morrison does the same

Learning How Books Work

Noble was among a number of Zinser teachers who learned the “turn and talk” strategy in a summer 2014 book study with Tracy Horodyski, a reading interventionist/instructional coach and the 2016-17 Michigan Teacher of the Year. Teachers based their study on the book “Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives” by Peter Johnston, a professor at State University of New York at Albany whose research focuses on how teachers’ language shapes students’ learning, and how to engage students through “purposeful talk.”

Though it can be applied to many subjects, in her reading lessons Noble uses the strategy to help kindergartners learn letters, words, story sequences and how to pick up context clues from pictures – the basics of reading. She wants them to “see themselves as readers.”

“They’re starting just to learn how books work,” said Noble, noting five of her 24 students can read. “The turn and talk part of it is they’re having to think about what they feel and think, and then explain it to somebody else.”

On a recent morning, she had students sit down in pairs and silently scan books of their choosing for three minutes. Knowing they couldn’t understand most of the words, she told them, “I want you to quietly tell yourself the story with your ‘imagination stations.’”

She then led them through the methods of turn and talk: knee to knee, eye to eye, “park your thinking” (put their own thoughts aside), listen, and then “parrot-talk” what their partner said, like this: “So what you’re saying is …”

Her pupils seemed to get the program. Hunter Zaverl told Ava Santos his favorite part of “Little Tiger’s Big Surprise” was “the tiger looking at the birdies.” By way of explanation, he added, “The last time I went to the zoo, I fed the birds and petted the birds.”

Noble reinforced their listening skills by having them report to the whole class their partners’ favorite parts. “The cupcakes,” one boy said. “The kissing part,” a girl said of her boy partner. Said another girl, “That they were happy.”


Interview with Peter Johnston about Language Teachers Use

- Sponsorship -
Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.


‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Sisters land grant to help those who ‘aren’t as lucky as we are’

Sisters at Page Elementary researched and wrote a grant to help homeless kids at Family Promise of Barry County...

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Good behavior encouraged at home

For students learning from home, positive behavior rewards are still possible...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Schools, organizations step up to feed students, families

Area schools continue to provide free grab and go meals at regular distribution events and community partners are helping to fill in the gaps to make sure everyone is fed during a very challenging time...

Making merry music, from a safe distance

The holidays may look different this year, but Kenowa Hills students are still finding ways to lift spirits by sharing their musical talents...

Video series aims to fill teachers’ cups with appreciation

Kenowa Hills schools are sharing video messages of gratitude for teachers, just in time for a hope-filled holiday season...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU