TRTW in the Remote Classroom, Part 2: Bringing TRTW to Life Online

by Nancy Motley

I know that we are all in a steep learning curve right now, myself included! Interestingly, I am immersed in learning how to transform the very routine I created into a format suitable for remote learning. I am referring to Talk, Read, Talk, Write, which is a literacy-based routine for teaching just about anything. Luckily for me, there are many teachers who have already blazed this trail. One such teacher is Alma Juarez, who teaches ESL classes at Frisco High School. She generously shared her work with me so that I can share it with you. (She also wanted me to explain that her process is evolving each week as she and her students learn what works best for them.) Before we dive into Alma’s sample lesson, let’s build a little background.

What Is Talk, Read, Talk, Write?

Talk, Read, Talk, Write is a practical routine that can be used to teach any content, from a math vocabulary word to a primary source document in social studies; from a scientific process discussed in chemistry class to Romeo and Juliet in English class. In the chart below, you’ll find a description of each component.

TRTW Component Description
Talk #1 Students talk to each other in order to engage with the topic/lesson. 

Two great strategies for engaging students are to ask an interesting question or have them respond to a compelling visual. 

Read Students read a text* to learn and apply content. 

*Text can be passages, single sentences, word problems, graphic sources, calculations, etc.

It is critical to give students a clear purpose for their reading.

Talk #2 Students collaborate with each other to clarify and deepen their understanding of the reading. 

Offering students discussion questions that are relevant, rich, and response-worthy increases the quality of their conversation. Watch my webinar for more detail on these characteristics.

Write Students write to demonstrate their learning and express thinking.

One way to increase motivation and quality of writing is to offer students sentence stems and/or paragraph frames

Watch Natalia Heckman’s webinar for more detail on paragraph frames.

The routine as described above is easy to implement within a classroom setting, and thankfully, it is also easily adaptable for distance learning. What you’ll find in the chart below are specific ways to implement each component in an online setting, along with appropriate supports you can provide for your English learners. 

Component How can I implement this remotely? How can I scaffold/support English Learners remotely?
Talk #1 -Have students respond to you and each other using apps such as Flipgrid or Seesaw. 

-Assign partnerships where students can call or FaceTime each other.

-Conduct a class or small group virtual meeting using software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

-Record your response, and share it so that students have a model

-Encourage students to practice as much as they want before recording

-If students are recording their response (i.e. Flipgrid), their affective filters lower because there is no “live” audience.

Read -Write and share a text specifically for your students.

-Hyperlink an article and/or content from websites.

-Use websites such as EdPuzzle, Newsela, and CommonLit, which have huge inventories of content area texts at all levels.

Use the available scaffolds on various websites. Examples:

  • In EdPuzzle, teachers can create questions for students to respond to at the end of each paragraph to check comprehension. This helps eliminate students “skipping over” sections.
  • CommonLit has leveled texts in Spanish for free, offers a “read aloud” option, and allows students to annotate as they read 
  • Newsela allows you to adjust the lexile level of the text, so an entire class can read the same content, but each student’s version could be specific to his or her reading level.
Talk #2 -Have students respond to each other using apps such as Flipgrid or Seesaw.

-Assign partnerships where students can call or Facetime each other.

-Conduct a class or small group virtual meeting using software like Zoom or Webex.

-Students can watch each other to get new ideas.

-Students regain connection with their peers by seeing each other’s faces and hearing each other’s voices.

-Students are practicing their English.

Write -Ask students to keep a virtual journal.

-Have students email or text their written work.

-Have students submit their assignments using an online platform like Google Classroom

-Provide students with an example (and maybe a non-example) of the assignment. If you are concerned that students will just copy, make your sample about a different topic.

-Offer sentence stems and paragraph frames.

-Provide timely and individualized feedback.

Hopefully the charts above have helped you understand both the routine itself and how it takes shape in distance learning. Like I mentioned at the beginning, many teachers are experiencing success with this routine, including Alma Juarez, who I introduced last week. She used TRTW with her students all year during class, and she has continued to use it now while her students are learning at home. 

She begins each week with a video in which she explains the assignments and shows students how to access everything. This video is beneficial because it is both a visual aid and a permanent record. Students can go back to it as many times as they need to for information or reinforcement. Here is a link to the video that corresponds with one of her recent lessons.

For each lesson, Alma also creates a hyperdoc with a “week at a glance.” (I just learned the term “hyperdoc,” which refers to a Google doc that has hyperlinks embedded in it.) The idea is that students have one place to go for any given class. Below is a weekly lesson plan for her high school ESL class. I don’t imagine very many of us will be using this exact plan, but I’ve included it to highlight some features that we can all use in our lessons. While these features are good for all students who are learning remotely, they are critical to the success of our English learners.TRTW Lesson Plan

The good news about the features highlighted above is that we can use them in any online lesson, TRTW or otherwise. I hope you make a few adjustments to your work based on these features.

There are so many invaluable lessons and “aha! moments” applicable to remote learning here. I’d like to wrap up with a big THANK YOU! I am so grateful to Alma and her team for sharing their path with me. We can all learn so much from how they collaborate together (see the precursor to this post in Part 1), and from how they are helping their English learners grow and collaborate more during distance learning.

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