How can teachers use classroom talk to promote pupil understanding?

Pupils can benefit from your clear, succinct, precise explanations.  An example from one study Image shows that teacher explanations can sometimes be too long.  As one teacher commented, “Lessons can develop into listening marathons for the children.”  Although you usually plan what you want to say, it is relatively rare to plan how to deliver the message as effectively as possible. When teachers’ explanations are carefully planned and structured to include well-chosen examples and visual materials for support, this can be helpful to pupils.  New vocabulary or technical terms often need careful explanation, too.

Evidence and reflection

You may wish to explore the extent to which your pupils understand the instructions, directions, descriptions and explanations you give to them.  When you next plan a lesson which includes an explanation, you might like to provide your pupils with physical resources, such as individual white boards, coloured cards or happy/ sad faces, so that they can signal their understanding or confusion to you.  This can help you gain a clearer view of the extent of children’s understanding across the class.  Or you may decide to ask a small group of pupils to chat to you afterwards so that you can check how deeply each of them has understood.  You could also review whether you stayed within the time you had planned for the explanation.  Do you feel your explanation was as clear, concise and coherent as it could be?

Moving forward

Having interested yourself in your students’ experiences of explanations you might like to experiment with planning explanation of your own in much more detail using the following summary of checklist 13-1c:

Once you are happy with your plan, try it out in the classroom.  Once again, you could ask pupils for feedback on what they understand when you have delivered your explanation.


Myhill, D., Jones, S. and Hopper, R. (2006) Talking, listening learning: effective talk in the primary classroom, Open University Press, Maidenhead

Developing learning through talk: research report -

GTC Research of the Month summary at: