A Little Context and a Critique
This strategy was presented to a relatively small cadre of teacher leaders in my district, a group in which I am fortunate to be a part of for exactly these types of learning experiences. Our leadership collaborated to bring Nancy herself in to present the model to us. As with many instructional strategies, it was initially designed for the core classes, and its specific purpose is to help develop students' abilities to read academic texts as the primary source of their learning. This, of course, implies the need to train them how to read that type of text successfully. Nancy's book lays out the strategy and even discusses the need for building reading stamina specifically regarding academic texts as well as releasing more and more responsibility over to students for their learning in the classroom. If I were writing a critique of the strategy I would say this: I have rarely learned about a strategy that so clearly and successfully integrates so many skills, but that also so truly and so mindfully puts the learner in control of their learning and the teacher in the role of facilitator. I highly recommend teachers of all subject areas to buy the book, read it and play with designing lessons using the model as an alternative to how they have planned lessons and taught classes for years. If you can, I strongly encourage finding a way to attend a training on the strategy because not only will you learn about how it works, but you will be fully immersed in the strategy as a participant for hands on experience as the learner in this learning environment.
TRTW in a Nutshell
So, here's the TRTW strategy in a nutshell as I understand it:
- Talk 1 - Give students a compelling question to discuss that is connected to the lesson, but not the central focus or question of the lesson. This is the hook, the activator and the connection to their prior knowledge. It is short and open-ended (Motley, 20).
- Read - Give them a text that will serve as their primary source of new information and their learning for the lesson (Motley, 32).
- Before Reading be sure to tell them or show them the purpose for their reading. The reading purpose should connect with your learning objectives or instructional standards.
- During Reading give students an accountability task that ensures students are reading and thinking rather than skimming the text mindlessly. Some of the strategies in the book are Pay Attention To lists, Annotation or Highlighting+. These accountability strategies also serve as informal assessment of what students are understanding as they read, and they present opportunities for teachers to engage with learners as they move around the room observing them as they work.
- Talk 2 - This talk, "provides students with a much-needed opportunity to process the information they encountered during reading," (Motley, 49) and is, "the bridge from one independent activity (reading the text) to a second independent activity (writing a response)" (Motley, 50). This talk should be structured to ensure that all participants get an opportunity to both talk and listen to each other's perspectives on what they read. All that being said, the structure you put in place during this conversation must ensure that students have understood what they have read as well as be something students want to talk about. Motley suggests two strategies for this talk, Envelope, Please which is a series of questions pre-prepared and placed in an envelope that help guide the conversation, or a Check-In Conversation during with students share their thoughts, questions, annotations, etc. to help support each other after reading.
- Write - The Write section of the TRTW model is an intentional effort to get students to generate their own thoughts by writing a compelling argument or explanation of a topic by writing complete thoughts using complete sentences (Motley, 60). Motley explains in her book that students must understand who their audience is, and she says this is "the most critical factor for student writers to remember when they write" (Motley, 62). She suggests that students should either write an explanation or make a claim with evidence as their writing products.
Implications of TRTW in the World Language Classroom
Right now I have more questions than answers, more ideas than products, but I think this could really serve as a powerful instructional model for teachers to employ when designing scaffolded lessons using authentic resources. During some of the discussion we have had among the World Language leadership team in my district we debated whether or not the Talk portions of the lesson should be in the target language or not. I have decided that target language is possible if your talk prompts are well written and scaffolded. A teacher could opt for L1 during Talk 2 if she chooses to use the Check-In Conversation mentioned above which is designed for students to process what they have read in a more direct way.
Another we discussed was whether TRTW could serve as a model of primary input. The general consensus was, no, at least not in Novice level classes because they don't have enough L2 proficiency to support its use in that way. We did agree that in Intermediate to Advanced level classes this strategy could be employed with L2 authres much in the way it would be in their other core classes.
This week the WL leadership team will be presenting the strategy to the whole group of WL teachers in our district and the goal is to begin to develop at least one TRTW lesson for each of the units of our curriculum. Of course, being the curious person I am, I am tinkering with the strategy now to process what I am learning about it and how it can be applied to our classrooms.
An Example of a World Language TRTW Lesson
Text: Muy Interesante Blog Post ¿Cómo se juega al fistball?
Learning Target(s) / Standard(s):
- I can express my likes, dislikes and preferences and ask others about their own.
- I can express my thoughts and opinions and ask others about their own.
- I can compare and contrast one person, place or thing to another.
Purpose: Your purpose for reading is to have a general understanding of what fistball is.
Talk 1: Why are some sports more popular than others? or What makes sports so popular?
Read: ¿Cómo se juega al fistball? During Reading Strategy: PAT (Pay Attention To) List that asks students to pay attention to the following terms and use context clues to make guesses as to what they mean within the context of this article:
Option A: You are a fistball player writing to the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to argue why fistball should or should not be included in the next Summer Olympics.
Option B: You are a teen sport blogger who has just learned about the sport of fistball and you are blogging to educate your teen readers about the sport. Explain the sport in your own words to your readers by comparing it to sports you are familiar with and offer your opinion on it.
Wrapping Up TRTW for WL
So, that's my second take on Talk Read Talk Write. I hope that this post helps paint a clearer picture of the instructional approach and moreover helps you begin to consider how you can employ it in your teaching. I am meditating on and experimenting with this method, so if you find that you are intrigued enough to test it out, please contact me and let's discuss it. I would love that!
Happy Coaching, Friends!
Motley, N. (2013). Talk read talk write: A practical approach to learning in the secondary classroom. San Clemente, CA: Seidlitz Education.