The Discussion Stoplight

If you’ve been to one of our workshops, you’ll know how important the Discussion Stoplight is to our science instruction! We use this tool to facilitate classroom discussions and to track students’ talk moves.

The Stoplight got its name because it was originally just 3 key talk-moves: Repeat, New Idea, and Add On. In years since, we’ve added Critique as another way that we’ve seen students interact during discussions.

The Discussion Stoplight is great because it can be used in many different ways! You can put tally marks next to each talk move to track how many of each you have during your discussion. You can show trends in which talk moves are most common with your group and use this information to vary the student contributions. For example,  you might say “I see we have a lot of new ideas. Does anyone want to add on to one of the new ideas?”

Another way I like to use the stoplight is to add accountability to our discussions. I do this by using photo magnets to move students next to each talk move. In this way, we can track individual student contributions and connect student thinking.

As students are sharing, I verbally name what they are doing. I say things like “It sounds like you’re adding on to ___’s idea.” or “Oh, that’s a new idea!” Using common language with students is a great way to transfer the learning to them. They begin to pick up on the different talk moves they are making, and begin to talk to each other more effectively.

This tool is great to use anytime you’re having a discussion! I’ve used it mainly in science, but I’ve also used it when doing a read aloud discussion (when doing a close reading section).

I hope this was helpful for you! If you’re interested in getting a stoplight of your own, head over to our TpT Store to download one for free!

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