Sentence stems

These are the most effective way to scaffold talk. In KS1 you could use, ‘I agree because…’ or ‘I disagree because…’ Once the basics have been mastered, vary the complexity of the stem sentences.

There is a wealth of sentence stems you can use from The Tower Hamlets. Search for Progression in language structures Tower Hamlets in Google for the complete document.

Scaffolds for talk

Once you have shown and taught what makes good talk you must teach and scaffold good talk. Teaching the correct language to use in a variety of situations is crucial. Don’t assume the children will know the correct way to persuade or to explain! Scaffolding gives the children the structure to practice the language for a given purpose. You should also give plenty of opportunities for these structures to be seen in your classroom. Display them as you use them on your display boards linked to all subjects. Give the sentence stems to the children so they are in front of them in the lesson you are teaching. The more exposure you can give the better!

Here’s a scaffold I prepared for my class…


These are particularly useful to support fair turn-taking. Pupils have to work out a fair way for everyone to be heard.

Some ideas for this are:

  1. Pass the teddy – great for the younger pupils. You can only talk when you are holding the teddy.
  2. Pass and go – one person starts talking and then passes to the next in the group to share their idea. This works well in a circle as the talk passes from one person to the next.
  3. Thumbs in – as you have an idea you put your thumb up. When the current speaker finishes they choose the next to talk. This gives a good flow to the talk and no one has control.
  4. Chaired discussion – each group decides on a chair who makes sure the discussion is fair and there is good turn-taking. They may also ensure that contributions are relevant and accepted. The chair could also have the role of summarising the talk.

Silent summariser

Working as a trio person A and B have a discussion about a topic or question. Once the discussion has ended Person C summarises the main points back to the other two in the group. Person C must remain quiet during the actual discussion. This way of working demonstrates the importance of active listening.

This works well with louder more dominant pupils who then have to listen until the others stop speaking.


Roles are a clear way to set up and organize the type of talk you wish to take place. Give clearly defined responsibilities within the group talk. By giving roles you have better control over what happens when the pupils get into groups.

Once the children have labelled themselves A, B, C you can allocate roles such as ‘A you will start the talk. B you will look for evidence or continue to build on the ideas from A. C you will summarise the ideas, etc.’

Groupings continued…


This type of grouping is in 2 parallel lines facing one another, talking to the person opposite. The children can move along the line to change partner. This grouping style works well for debate style questions where one line could argue ‘for’ and one line could argue ‘against’ within the topic.


Great for a group discussion but pupils will need to ensure their protocols are used to ensure turn-taking.


This involves 2 concentric circles. The inner ring faces the outer ring in order to speak to the outer circle who face inward. You can then rotate either the inner or outer circle.


The inner circle have a discussion which is observed by the outer circle. All pupils face inward for this. You can then ask the outer circle fr feedback or to summarise what the inner circle discussed.

Check out the overview of the groupings below and give them a go!

Organize talk through groupings

Talking whole class means not many will get a chance to talk. Smaller groupings means more voices can be heard in discussion. If there are more opportunities created to speak then you as the teacher are freed up to listen in on what is being said! More time to listen = better opportunity to build a picture of the level of understanding the children have.

Using a range of groupings will give the children you teach ample opportunity to talk with a range of different people.


Pairs is a good place to start as the children practice speaking and listening to one another. This gives plenty of opportunity to practice turn taking – a skill in its own right!


This would be my next step as it still provides plenty of opportunity for all to speak but also increases the opportunity for practicing turn-taking. This is the grouping I most often use in KS1. Trios works particularly well for quieter pupils as they can listen to the other two children talking and join in when they feel more confident.

In my next post I’ll talk through some more groupings.

Would you rather?

* Would you rather be a fish or a bird?
* Would you rather live in 1300 or 2300?
* Would you rather be poor and happy or rich and unhappy?

These questions can be ‘short and sweet’ to kick-start a lesson or they could be meatier discussions in the main part of a lesson e.g. Would you rather live under a benevolent dictatorship or in a dysfunctional democracy?