How to Structure Student Discussions with a Walk and Talk

by Mari Venturino

A walk and talk is a simple way to structure student discussions. This is a great technique to help kids review a topic before an assessment or presentation. In this example, Mari's class is studying Natural Disasters. Have students read our units on Extreme Weather, Tornadoes, Volcanoes or Earthquakes before your Walk and Talk if you'd like to use Mari's provided questions! | Kids Discover

A Walk and Talk is a structured partner discussion great for review or preparation. Try it out with your students! (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

In this post, 7th Grade Science and AVID instructor, and author of the recent Fueled by Coffee and Love, Mari Venturino, walks us through a simple way to structure student discussions. This is a great technique to help kids review a topic before an assessment or presentation. In this example, Mari’s class is studying Natural Disasters. Have students read our units on Extreme Weather, Tornadoes, Volcanoes or Earthquakes before your Walk and Talk if you’d like to use Mari’s provided questions!

 

You know those days when the kids are getting a little squirrelly? The days where the side conversations get the best of the quietest kids and even the smallest distraction gets us all off track? It’s time to get the wiggles out while being productive.

It’s time for a Walk and Talk!

I teach in San Diego, California, and the weather is generally pleasant outside. We can easily go outside for this activity. This also works inside around the perimeter of the classroom (you might need to push the desks toward the center) or quietly up and down the hallway.

A Walk and Talk is a structured partner discussion where students are given question cards to answer with a partner while walking on a specified path. They walk toward a set location, such as a pole or tree, then turn and walk back. You can incorporate an instructional assistant or parent volunteer into your class activity by setting them as the turnaround point.

Set-up

Start the class with a lab, activity, or guided reading assignment done in class. When I’m planning this activity ahead, I will create a list of questions or task cards, then pre-write them on index cards. The questions can be a combination of a review of what you’ve covered in class and how your students will prepare for the upcoming assessment or presentation.

When this activity happens on the fly because of extra time at the end of class or an energy surplus, I’ll ask students to write the questions on index cards themselves, based on what we’ve covered in class.

Before we go outside to our Walk and Talk location, I will randomly assign students a partner. Flippity Random Name Picker is my favorite randomizer tool. Then, we quickly review our class expectations for the Walk and Talk and for outside class work.

The Walk and Talk

We all walk outside and students line up next to their partner and I stand facing the head of the line. I hand a question card to each person in the first pair and wish them luck. The first person answers their question on the way to the turnaround point (about 20-30 steps), then they switch roles and the second person answers a question on the way back to the line. I wait about 10 steps between each pair, which helps prevent extra distractions.

Once the partners return from their walk, they get back into line. When they’re back to the front of the line, I switch their cards for new questions and we repeat the Walk and Talk. I quickly check in with each pair as they return and exchange cards, asking, “how did it go?”

Typically, we do three rounds before returning to class.

Debrief

When we go back inside, students take some time to share something they learned from their partner or found interesting. This happens either out loud, or as a quick-write on paper or as a question on Google Classroom.

The Walk and Talk is an excellent preparation or reflection tool for larger research projects, essays, and Socratic Seminars. My students love the opportunity to go outside and work, discuss with a partner, and move around. 

Mari Venturino

Mari Venturino is a 7th grade science and AVID teacher and Blended Learning Specialist at Mar Vista Academy in San Diego, CA. She is a Google For Education Certified Trainer, a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2, and is Leading Edge Certified in Online and Blended Instruction. Mari co-hosts the EduRoadTrip podcast. Additionally, Mari is the co-founder of #FlyHighFri, a movement to share positivity in person and on social media.