Reclaiming Chalk and Talk

In our department CPD session this afternoon we looked at teacher explanation. We were interested in how we could make sure that our explanation was memorable and how we could support pupil’s working memory. Below are the slides I put together to trigger some discussions and share some key ideas.

We started by sharing and discussing some of the things we had been told about teacher talk over the years. We had all been told to do less of it, that pupils wouldn’t remember it, that they would only remember what they did and not what they were told etc. We’d had lesson observations where the lesson had been described as “too teacher led”.

We then discussed genuine issues with teacher explanation. Oliver Caviglioli’s point made at ResearchEd ’17 that words were ephemeral and didn’t remain to be referred back to and Becky Allen’s more recent ResearchEd ’18 talk where she discussed the issues with working memory faced particularly by those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

And yet research from Rosenshine and Engelmann have shown that teacher led instruction is very effective. So how to we use teacher explanation whilst still supporting working memory?

We looked at a few ideas – shown in the slide show above, and particularly focused on the use of diagrams left on the board as a reference and the use of stories and analogies. We looked at the ideas of dual coding, particularly the work of Mayer and Anderson (1991) and Willingham on the human brain prioritising knowledge in the form of stories. There was a particularly interesting discussion on avoiding distractions during explanation and the role that school policy may need to play in making this easier.

We finished the session by considering particularly difficult geographical concepts for pupils and how we could explain them better and in a more memorable way.

It is time to reclaim chalk and talk as an effective part of the lesson. Not talk less but talk better.

Just a reminder that my first book, Making Every Geography Lesson Count is available for pre-order. It picks up on many of the ideas discussed in this presentation. The perfect present for the geography teacher in your life. If you don’t have a geography teacher in your life, this book would be a great way to get one šŸ™‚

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