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A Book That Will Inspire Better Talk and Listening– and a Giveaway

Every now and then, a professional book comes along that has the potential to really change how I teach. And much less frequently comes a book that changes how I teach, as well as how I think about my life and learning outside of school and classrooms. Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk by Shana Frazin and Katy Wischow is one of those books. 

The first chapter Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk presents a powerful argument of why we should be teaching talk in our classrooms. “Talk transcends,” (p. 5), they write, and yes, it does. Most of us agree that we are living in a world where it’s critical to have conversations, understand perspectives, and synthesize ideas– all skills that rely on communication skills. “But if you define talk as communication, self-expression, exploration, and getting ideas across, then it becomes even more urgent that all kids have access to instruction that helps them participate” (p. 7). At the end of the first chapter, they go on to remind us that “Ultimately, talk can change the world, and we’ve all seen examples of kids whose voices have done this” (p. 9). I would just add that we should be teaching talk and paying attention to Shana and Katy’s ideas in all settings of our lives, and not just our classrooms. 

Throughout the book there is the drumbeat of important– no critical– concepts around instruction and building relationships. The authors remind us to teach with clarity and precision– what Shana calls lean instruction– so that students have time to practice and approximate. Without ever sounding preachy, they also remind us to nurture relationships by learning and celebrating interests and prior knowledge of students, spying on ourselves as learners, and finding ways to bring joy and play into classrooms. 


There is also a brilliant and unique cycle for talk that Shana and Katy have created. Just as the writing cycle has specific components, conversation does also, and early on in the second chapter, they present us with a way to envision a Talk Cycle. The graphic could change how we not only teach, but also participate in conversations. 

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the clarity of four purposes for talk: building relationships, playing with ideas, clarifying, analyzing, and arguing, and reporting. Thinking about my own conversations through the lens of purpose has made me  a better conversationalist! The lessons transcend the classroom, despite the title of the book. For each of the purposes there are clear and practical strategies. I’d like a chart of them in my own kitchen, let alone in classrooms everywhere! 

Talking has another side, and that side is listening; Shana and Katy have purposes and strategies for listening, as well. And yes, I’m thinking about creating and hanging that chart in my kitchen side by side the speaking one. 

Katy and Shana are in classrooms a lot, and they authentically work side by side with teachers, thinking about problems and reflecting on possible solutions. Throughout the book, they suggest predictable challenges teachers and students will face with their ideas. With a conversational tone, they address authentic issues, and they offer suggestions that are both practical and implementable, as well as powerful and engaging for learning. You have a chance to win a copy of Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk by leaving a comment on this post, but it is also available both at Heinemann and on Amazon

*I have received an advanced complimentary copy of Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk.

Giveaway Information 

This giveaway is for a copy of Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk by Shana Frazin and Katy Wischow.

For a chance to win this copy of Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk, please leave a comment no later than November 1, by 11:59 pm EST. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number.

Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Melanie Meehan View All

I am the Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, CT, and I love what I do. I get to write and inspire others to write! Additionally, I am the mom to four fabulous daughters and the wife of a great husband.

87 thoughts on “A Book That Will Inspire Better Talk and Listening– and a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. How I would love a copy of this book! Was blessed to work with Shanna when she was the staff developer in my previous district and would love this resource to share with staff.

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  2. This book sounds very powerful as an element to support all (teachers and students), in their communication skills! I’m very interested in reading it and learning about the strategies. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book on speaking and listening – it’s vital!

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  3. I would LOVE to get a copy of this book! I’m trying to do less teacher talk and more student talk in my classroom! I’m a firm believer that “the person doing the most talking, is doing the most learning”!! I’d love to have this book to help guide instruction and studenttalk in my classroom!!

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  4. I always seek out Shana’s sessions at TC and can’t wait to read her book!! She has helped our school to develop “components” of Social Studies instruction. Amazing!

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  5. Looking forward to reading this. As a coach, I see teachers try collaborative conversations but it should be so much more than pair and share.

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    • This book sounds like an excellent resource to use with my education candidates who are preparing to enter their Internship (student teaching) semester! I’d love to receive a copy in order to better prepare my students to enter their teaching careers!

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  6. I’m so excited about this new book! It is timely indeed – as we could all be looking to foster more powerful conversations within our classrooms while empowering voices and listeners that are productive,helpful and healing beyond the classroom and in our world.

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  7. I am intrigued by the information contained in the book, especially the Talk Cycle and strategies for helping students become better listeners.

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  8. I am a believer in this and have been so for a long time. It has given a voice to all of my students, even those who have a tendency to not use their voice. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention. It will be one I put on our school’s must read list.

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  9. I feel like speaking and listening are the forgotten standards. I can’t wait to read to see how to increase comprehension and writing through talk.

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  10. This is such a timely topic, and one that all our classrooms need. I recall the phrase: “If you can’t say it, you cant write it” – won’t this book then help all our writers too?

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  11. Thank you for highlighting a book on classroom talk. That is always a challenge to bring forward in clear and specific ways with students.

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  12. Where has this book been all my teaching life!? 😉 I have been convicted that we have to get our students engaged in productive talk before we can expect them to produce at the high levels needed to meet standards, and I have been struggling to engage adolescents in the process. This book looks like it may have just the answers I’ve been looking for!

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  13. I had not heard of these authors before, but I have become very interested in learning how to structure and promote classroom talk. I would love to see this book.

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  14. I had the good fortune to learn from Shana Frazin in a TCRWP Units of Study day years ago. She was a dynamic, knowledgable presenter. Looking forward to seeing the new book!

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  15. This book sounds like a great resource for our school. Our focus is on student ownership. I’ve been working with our teachers on providing more opportunities for student talk. I recently just re-read the book Quality Questioning by Jackie Walsh. It’s an old favorite. It was great re-reading with a new purpose in mind. I will definitely have to look into this new resource to continue the teacher’s growth in my campus. Thank you for sharing this resource!

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  16. I worked with Shana years ago in my district. I always found her thinking empowering. I learned so much from her coaching. So excited to see what she’s done now.

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  17. Such a timely and important book. This aspect of teaching has received too little attention. I’m sure that Shana and Katy have unpacked some valuable ideas in this book. Looking forward to reading it.

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  18. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention! I can always count on TWT to add to my PD TBR list! Thank you for the opportunity to win.

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  19. This book is a perfect addition to my Language Arts program. I have been fortunate to work with Shana and it was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

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  20. This book speaks to me! 😉 We spend a large amount of time each day discussing the novels we read. I love the four purposes for talk and will state the purpose prior to setting up the discussion circle.
    Thank you.

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  21. As an advocate for student voice and agency in a busy third grade classroom, I love your opinion of this book providing lean instruction. Teachers are so overwhelmed in my area with new curriculum. My worry is that while educators can do anything, we can’t do everything well. Sign me up for a book that concisely presents important learning like this for all students.

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  22. I am very excited to read this new resource as I have been thinking about the topic of talk as well as the skill of listening as so important in learning. Love the ideas you mentioned around relationships having so much to do with talking.
    Thanks!!!

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  23. I would love to have this book! I was just introduced to the brilliance that is Shana Frazin at the TCRWP Saturday Reunion, and she has transformed me already! This book is just what I need to take thinking to a new level with students by raising the sophistication of the way they talk!!💕

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