Five Core Skills of Academic Conversations

Five Core Skills of Academic Conversations

Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings. Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford.

Standards: Depending on the nature of the conversation (a discussion of an issue, a print or media text, review materials, observations, etc.), this strategy has the potential to address the Reading Standards as well as SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4, and SL6.

Who owns the questions, ideas, and topics in schools? Zwiers and Crawford argue that it is seldom the students. Even when students are talking in class, “they seldom take turns to negotiate meaning or dig into a topic…seldom co-construct ideas, clarify thoughts for each other, or support their opinions” (3). Regardless of topic or content area, the authors of Academic Conversations identify five core skills of productive academic conversations and encourage their practice in paired conversations:

  • Elaborate and Clarify
  • Support Ideas with Examples
  • Build On and/or Challenge Ideas
  • Paraphrase
  • Synthesize

 See the handout of Skills and Discussion Prompts adapted from Academic Conversations by RPS literacy coach Jennifer Connolly. Helpful guides also include the authors’ Academic Conversation Placement, and Figure 2.1, Core Academic Conversation Skills with Symbols, Hand Motions, Prompt Frames, and Response Frames.