Enhancing Exhibition for EAL students : ‘Table Talk’ extended…

As we enter week 4 of Exhibition, students are required to develop a stronger understanding of the concepts and lines of inquiry. While much of the discussion around these complex topics happens in English, students primarily use their mother tongue language so they can gain a deeper understanding.

Promoting use of technical vocab

To encourage use of the complex technical vocabulary surrounding this science-based unit, I’ve incorporated English discussions that link with the whole-group learning. We began last week with two non-unit ‘Table Talks’ to get them used to the format of each talk.

Students should only have online learning.

Students should have a longer summer vacation.

This week we addressed two UOI themed table talks:

Levers are the most important simple machine.

Screw are the least important simple machine.

In both cases, students needed to see both the ‘agree/disagree’ perspective. Before we were able to integrate the Exhibition theme during our 40 minute pull-out time, we needed to set some ‘ground rules’ or ‘essential agreements’ to help everyone feel motivated and safe to participate in these discussions.

Wednesday’s class: Pre-Talk: Think before you speak..

Before our second table talk I had students take a moment to jot down notes about our topic : “Students should have longer summer vacation”.

5 minutes ‘Think Time’: Grace’s notes before our second Table Talk

This really helped to organize their thinking, especially for my lowest EAL students who needed to translate some ideas before putting them on paper.

The video below demonstrates how this facilitated the discussion and allowed for more independence as they could self-monitor what comments were already said.


Thursday’s class: Creating a ‘safe’ table talk : Essential Agreements

At the end of our second table talk, students developed ‘agreements’ about their responsibility as a participant. Each student designed one of the collaborative agreements and it is posted at the front of the class. We will review it before each talk.

Friday’s class: Introducing ‘Question’ cubes

By our second table talk, the students were ready to add a new dimension whereby they posed questions directly to a speaker. This encouraged students to listen carefully and find out more from each other. We labeled blue cubes as the ‘Question cubes’ and red cubes as ‘Statement cubes’. We also brainstormed a list of possible questions they could ask such as:

“Can you tell me more about that?”

“Why do you think this?”

“How do you feel about…?”

Students were also encouraged to use their question cubes to ask non-participatory students to join the conversation by directly asking them:

“___________, what do you think about this topic?”

Second Table Talk: Students should have longer summer vacations

Monday’s class: Student Reflections

Yesterday I had students reflect on how the conversation went. Some students showed up with notes (part of agreement #7, to come prepared!) but I wanted them to think about how differently it would have gone if they all had prepared for the topic:

Screws are the least important simple machine.

Students were honest and reflective about their participation and agreed that discussions could have been more involved if everyone had prepared at least 2 questions and 3 statements in advance.

…and Student-chosen topics

After our fourth Table Talk, students asked if they could be responsible for creating the topics to be discussed. They were very enthusiastic about it and even included one that stated:

“Table Talk is important to practice speaking English.

Teacher Reflections

In just four Table Talks the dynamic in my classroom has completely shifted. The strongest students have learned to take turns being the listener, while my basic beginner EAL student has been more motivated than ever to participate in the conversation and, most importantly, speak English. Conversations, on average, have lasted up to 20 minutes! All of them are engaging more in English and seeing our EAL pull-out time as a fun ‘game’ and chance to practice what they know.

VIDEO: Table Talk #3 ~ Simple Machines


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