This is an activity which focusses on getting students talking. It requires them to embed key words and quotations into verbal summaries of texts, and the range of tasks ensures that there are plenty of opportunities for rehearsal.
Step 1: preparation
Give each student between 5 and 10 post-its, depending on how long you would like the activity to last. Explain that you are going to focus on one topic – here, I have used the poem “Walking Away” as an example, but you might choose a character, a theme, or another text instead. Students then have 2 minutes to silently write down one idea linked to that topic on each post it. They can write key words, quotations, or ideas.
Step 2: organise
Place students into groups of 3-4. They “pool” their post-its in one pile, and so each group should have between 20 and 40 words and phrases to work with. Give the groups 5 minutes to organise their post-its into categories. You may want to decide these categories for them (for example, if doing “Walking Away”, you might suggest loss, personal growth, and nature) – however, I find that my students are good at creating their own categories themselves.
Step 3: class discussion
Take some time to explore the students’ choice of categories. What categories have the groups decided on and why? Do they have lots of tier 2 or tier 3 vocabulary? Or are their words focussed on themes and emotions? Use ABC questioning as scaffolding to help students to extend their answers (agree/build/challenge). This is important, as it will ensure that students understand your expectations for the high-quality talk you will look for on the next task.
Step 4: just a minute
Put a minute timer on the board and borrow a group’s set of post-its. You are going to model how to talk for one minute without repetition, deviation, or hesitation on the topic, mentioning every post-it as you go. Once you have modelled this task, return the post-its to the group and select a student to have a go in front of the class. It doesn’t matter if your or they stumble and don’t make it to the end of the minute – use this as an opportunity to show students how to overcome hurdles (“so I’m going to move on to the next post-it” / “what’s on your next post-it? What does that mean?”).
Now it’s time for the groups to have a go. Nominate one student in each group, reset the timer, and set them off. After the first go, ask another student to talk for just a minute in front of the class – correct and scaffold with prompts and questions as they talk. This will help you to ensure that all students understand the need for fluency and talking at length.
Make sure you repeat this a few times as appropriate, so that every student in the group has a chance to talk for just a minute.
Step 5: writing
After all that talk, it is probably a good idea to bring the class back down with a bit of writing. Give them up to 5 minutes to use the post-it notes to write a summary of the topic. You may want to provide the usual sentence starters for this activity.
- Jigsaw – after the organisation or the just a minute round, jigsaw the groups, so that one or two students from each group rotate to the next group along. This will ensure that all students have the opportunity to hear and participate in a range of talk from their peers.
- Perfect match – at the end, ask students to choose one post-it from the pile. Then, they need to circulate around the room to find the perfect match for their post-it. By the end, students should have talked to a number of others, and have found a new pair. Make sure that you then sample the room, asking students to justify their matches.