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Say It Again, Better: setting high expectations by asking students to re-frame their initial answers

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Students build on their initial thoughts to improve their answer and deepen their learning

Teachers ask students to reframe answers using well-constructed sentences, technical vocabulary and more developed responses. This promotes deeper learning and high expectations for verbal answers.

What does it mean?

It’s normal for first responses to be half-formed as students think aloud and formulate ideas. It’s important to encourage students to give strong answers, but not inhibit them when they are unsure.

‘Say It Again, Better’ gives students a chance to offer half-formed answers as they think aloud, before getting them to finesse their response. Every time a student gives a verbal answer, and before they write anything down, ask them to re-form their response with greater depth, detail and sophistication, or using more technical vocabulary. This simple, but effective, literacy technique helps students to improve the quality of their initial response, and sets high expectations.

What are the implications for teachers?

Be patient; it will take time for students to develop fluency but, as their vocabulary and understanding develops, so too will their confidence.

Accept initial answers freely (you don’t want students to be inhibited), but then invite them to reframe it by saying, ‘Ok, now say it again, better.’

Offer specific feedback; for example, say, ‘Thanks, that’s great. Now say it again, better. Try again but make sure you add in X and link it to idea Y’. This gives them an opportunity to improve their response.

You might be tempted to ignore minor errors for the sake of pace, but don’t. Highlight mistakes and model corrections.

Ensure that all students are actively listening throughout the exercise so everyone benefits, for example, by asking everyone to write down the reframed answer. You could also ask students to re-form each other’s responses, but always return to the original student and make sure that they can confidently express their answer before moving on.

Formal speech modes

This technique can also be used to introduce students to formal speech modes or grammar. While there is much debate around dialect and opportunity, some researchers argue that students who use accepted, formal language that is rich in technical content have an advantage in school and beyond; Doug Lemov calls this ‘the language of opportunity’.

If you want to use the technique to help students develop more formal registers, it’s a good idea to couch the discussion in terms of informal speech being ‘inappropriate for the context’, rather than fundamentally wrong all the time.

Top tip

Don’t be afraid to ask the same student to reform their answer several times if necessary. Be relentless in sending out the message that you won’t accept weak answers.

Want to know more?

  • Lemov, D. (2015). Teach Like A Champion 2.0. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.
  • Quigley, A. (2018). Closing the Vocabulary Gap. Routledge
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