Posted in Teaching Life

Improving Student Conversation Skills: Whole Group and Small Group

As a teacher of the deaf I am always thinking about communication and language. My hearing impaired students have varying levels of need. One thing I have observed is how they will not always join in discussion groups.

I am very aware that is also true of their hearing peers. Sharing an idea, answer or opinion can seem risky. Many people don’t like to step outside their comfort zone. This commonality got me thinking…

What can I do or create to help facilitate teacher supported group discussions???

How can the “talkers” share less?

Limit opportunities to share in a discussion.

How can the “non-talkers” share more?

Provide an expectation for joining in.


I recently attended a workshop and the presenter was sharing ideas about student engagement. Many of these methods and techniques are difficult to use in a one to one session, but I tried to take something away. The presenter shared the idea of using something…any manipulative for turn taking in group discussions.

Light Bulb Moment

I love the idea of a visual, tangible item representing a turn, but the thing/object has to be simple, not a toy and easy for teachers to use. No teacher I know wants a distraction, but most love cute or visually appealing tools and resources. Affordable too!

Chat Chips

I got to work creating something I think teachers and therapists can use in their large and small group discussions. These Chat Chips allow for balanced conversation. Each student has to “chip into” the discussion-however many times the teacher determines. There are rules and guidelines established by the teacher.

Talking is great, but students need support to effectively participate. A great group discussion looks like everyone sharing; not one or two voices dominating the conversation, with other voices purposely silent. Creating a fair and balanced dynamic can be difficult and takes practice.

Teacher Driven….Balanced Discussion

These Chat Chips are a positive way for all students to let their voice shine.

Teacher Supported…Balanced Conversation

Prep for Success

Print and Copy

Laminate for Durability

Cutting and Storage

I printed and laminated these in minutes. I used a zipper pouch for storage. I love these pouches because they are not expensive, but durable. Students can keep in a binder or desk. Zip bags could just as easily be used for storage.

I always like a resource with options. There is a transparent option that is perfect for printing on colored papers or pattered paper.

Implementing and Making Routine

Thinking about how to use these is going to be specific to classroom needs. There is no right or wrong way to use these Chat Chips-but clear expectations and routine will make them a positive and productive conversation tool. Starting in the beginning of the year is optimal, but they can be introduced at any time.

The way they are used can also fluctuate. The needs of the classroom may change throughout the year-thus the rules and expectations can follow suit.

Teacher Choice….Student Expectations

Once the Chat Chips are ready and the plan is created….start using. Hopefully group discussions will be more productive and collaborative.

Happy Planning!!!


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