Teaching Letter to the Editor

We Must Encourage Students to Communicate

June 06, 2023 1 min read
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To the Editor:

It was a joy to read the article, “Quick Ways Teachers Can Encourage Students to Listen to Each Other” (April 19, 2023). Too often, we forget that we need to help develop students’ speaking and listening skills. While schools are fortunately devoting more time and attention to student-to-student discourse, we tend to focus more on the speaking part of the equation. Learning to be an active listener and responding effectively to what others say are equally important.

It was particularly helpful to read suggestions math teachers can use to help build listening skills in their classroom. For example, asking one student to explain how they solved a problem and inviting another to rephrase their classmate’s answer. I’ve also found it’s good practice to encourage students to agree or disagree respectfully with their peers, providing justifications for their opinions. Asking questions to gain more information is also a sign of a good listener.

Focusing on both speaking and listening makes the lesson more engaging, helps students understand complex material, and honors students’ identities as valued members of the learner community.

I remember teaching a math lesson that ended with a class debrief where students shared their strategies, successes, and errors. During the reflection, one student quipped, “No offense, Ms. Hopkinson, but I learn better from my friends’ thinking than I do from you.” I was not offended, quite the opposite. I smiled with pride because students’ thoughts matter. Making intentional space for them to talk, listen, respond, and question is a valuable use of class time.

Christine Hopkinson
Senior Curriculum Developer
Eureka Math Squared
Greeley, Colo.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 07, 2023 edition of Education Week as We Must Encourage Students to Communicate


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