Accountable talk means communicating respectfully in a way that benefits everyone participating in the conversation. To talk with purpose, you have to think before you speak and listen carefully to your conversation partners. During a time when teachers and students may not be in the same classroom, accountable talk is more important than ever. SHARE and the Louis Zamperini Foundation have created a free course with strategies to teach oracy, the skills associated with purposeful talk, as a way of helping students stay engaged even when learning remotely.

A classroom that promotes oracy asks students to work together to broaden each other’s understanding rather than to win an argument. It encourages accountable talk by emphasizing goodwill and communicative give and take. Engaging in purposeful conversation is a process that asks students to respect others’ opinions and to strive for collaborative outcomes, like consensus. In discussions that rely on the principles of oracy, the conclusions that students draw are often less important than the way they arrive at them.

Given that texting and social media may be the types of communication that students know best, teachers can make the goals of accountable talk clearer by distinguishing it from other types of exchange. Students will better understand oracy skills if they can differentiate the style and tone of social chat from those of classroom dialogue. Although both modes of communication are important, the advantages of face-to-face communication become clearer when compared to other ways students interact.

Getting students to talk about unfamiliar or abstract concepts can be difficult, but a tale of courage like Louis Zamperini’s is likely to inspire them. His book Unbroken describes how he succeeded as an Olympic athlete and survived as a prisoner of war. Although Zamperini overcame his challenges 75 years ago, his story of courage and hope is timeless. SHARE worked with high school teacher Heather Fuller to create a course that uses Zamperini’s book as a topic for accountable talk that will encourage students to share what they hope to accomplish in their own lives.

Follow this link to sign up for the free course Unbroken Curriculum: Purposeful Conversation, and to learn more about the Unbroken Curriculum series and SHARE professional learning.