A really long string of questions and answers.

At the end of class, someone should theoretically be able to take the recording of the class, erase all the student voices, and be left with an endless string of questions and answers, all in full sentences (or short answers followed by full sentences or three-fers), in the teacher’s voice alone.

If that can’t be done, or if the result is a “short” dialogue (only short answers) of “Does the man have a hat? No. Does the man have a coat? No…” the teacher needs to pay more attention to repeating correct answers, “rejecting” wrong information out loud by saying “No, it’s not XYZ”, and giving both short and long forms of answers students have given. It’s this endless incessant repetition of correct forms that gradually trickles into the brain. Yes, you feel like a blithering idiot standing there doing it all the time. Yes, you end up talking to colleagues in a very stilted manner for fifteen minutes after class, especially if you’re going out after a conference and wine is involved. But for the students, it’s essential.

As teachers, it’s tempting to stop giving the long-form answers when we “know” kids have “got that language”. But it’s not just about the item. It’s about the entire form of the answer — all the structure in it. Keep on talking. Remember, it’s the ideas, not the identity of the speaker, that makes something student-centered.