Teacher Talk Moves

Classroom conversations centered on math improve students understanding of math concepts. This talk can address students’ misconceptions and allows them to see the variety of methods to solve problems. Students learn how to think flexibly. The following categories are organized around the purpose or goal of the discourse/talk moves. The categories are one way to organize the thoughts expressed in the research available and the examples are not meant to be a comprehensive list.

Click a category below to see Talk Moves with examples:

     Clarifying Student Thinking
     Students Listen & Think with Peers
     Provide Time to Think
     Student Talk

Clarifying Student Thinking

1. Revoicing

     “So you’re saying…”
     “Are you saying…?
     “Let me see if I understand. You are saying...?”
     “So first you…”
     “So you used...”

2. Prompting students to share or say more

     “Can you say more about that?”
     “What do you mean when you say…?”
     “Can you give us an example?”
     “I’m confused. What do you mean when you say…?”
     “Can you explain your thinking while we watch you do that?”

Students Listen to & Think with Peers

3. Repeating (teacher asks students to restate someone else’s reasoning)

     “Can you repeat what he just said in your own words?”
     “What did your partner say?”
     “Who can repeat…?”

4. Adding On (prompts students for further participation)

     “Would someone like to add something more than this?”
     “Did someone think of the problem in a different way?”
     “Can anyone say more about this model?”
     “ Are there any more strategies that we can use to…?”

5. Explaining what someone else means

     “Who can explain what ____ means when she says…?”
    “Can someone use the models to explain ____’s strategy?”
     “Who thinks they can explain how ____’s solved the problem?”


6. Asking for Evidence and Proof

     “Why do you think that...?
     “What’s your evidence for...?”
     “Why does that make sense?”
     “How did you figure that out?”
     “What made you think…?”
     “Do you think it always works that way?”
     “Would we get the same answer if we…?”
     “What if we changed the model to show..., would we get the same answer?”
     “Would it be better if…?”

7. Students apply their reasoning to another’s reasoning

     “Do you agree or disagree, and why?”
     “Explain how your answer is the same or different than ___?”
     “How do “student A’s” strategies connect to “student B’s” strategies?”
     “What do you think of ____”s question?”
     “How does what ___ said fit into what ____ said?”

8. Revising

     “Has anyone’s thinking changed?”
     “Does what ___ just said make you want to consider revising your thinking?”
     “Would you like to revise your thinking?”
     “Does what we just discover change your thinking?”
     “I hear you saying____ but what about____?”
     “Will ___’s idea work?”

Provide Time to Think & Refine Thinking

9. Wait Time

     “This question is important. Let’s take some time to think about it.”
     “Signal when you think you are ready to share.”
     “I will wait for everyone to think this through.”
     “Let’s give everyone time to work this out before sharing.”
     “Does anyone want more time to think about what ___ just said?”
     “Let’s pause to think about that.”

10. Partner Talk

     “Tell your partner….
     “Explain to your partner why you think….”
     “Tell your partner how you know____?"
     “Work with your partner to….”
     “I can see that many people have ideas, let’s begin by sharing with our partners.”

11. Writing or Building

     “Make a model that shows….”
     “On your white boards, write...”
     “Write a sentence that tells...”

Student Talk

Click a category below to see examples:

     To Understand
     To Build
     To Summarize and Support
     To Make Connections
     To Ask for Justification
     To Contribute

To Understand

     “What I heard you say was… is that correct?”
     “Could you explain…?”
     “I don’t understand…”
     “I am not clear about…”
     “Can you repeat that for me?”
     “Can someone help me understand…?”
     “Can you give me an example so I can understand?”
     “I could not hear you, can you repeat what you said?”
     “Can you explain that another way?”

To Build

     “I want to add to that idea.”
     “Another way to think about ___’s idea is…”
     “I would like to build on what____ just said.
     “Another strategy is…”
     “What you said makes me think…”

To Summarize and Support

     “What I heard is…”
     “So you are saying….”
     “I agree with ___ because…”
     “I disagree with ___ because…”
     “My strategy is like yours because…”
     “I know my answer is correct because…”

To Make Connections

     “This reminds me of….”
     “This is just like...”
     “If you ______ then it is just like____”

To Ask for Justification

     “How did you decide to ___________________?”
     “Why did you use that strategy?”
     “I like what you said about _______ but…”
     “How did you ___?”
     “I wonder why…?”

To Contribute

     “Based on my strategy, I think ___”
     “Based on my model, I think ___”
     “I think ____ is important because….”
     “I noticed you ___”
     “My strategy is ____”
     “I know a different way.”


Adapted and based on the following:

Michaels, S., O’Connor, C.. Talk Science Primer, TERC 2012
(Supported by the National Science Foundation, grant #0918435A.)

Kazemi, E., Hintz, A. ( 2014) Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions. Steinhouse

Chapin, S., O’Connor, C., & Anderson, N. (2009). Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6 (second edition). Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications.

O’Connell, S., & O’Connor, K., (2007). Introduction to Communication, Grades 3–5. Heinemann