TRTW - Talk Read Write Talk

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


"I'm going to a workshop on Talk, Read Talk, Write...heard of that strategy?" asked a teacher I was trying to setup a meeting with.
"No, I haven't, but it sounds like a fun way to approach checking for understanding," I replied.

In fact, that sounded like a clever way to do what Mike Schmoker kept recommending in the September, 2019 article I had just read on ASCD's website and have linked to here several times.

"Yeah, it's another fancy acronym (TRTW)? Last year, it was 'Think-Pair-Share!'"

We both laughed.

Schmoker, Checking for Understanding and TRTW

Have YOU heard of Talk, Read, Talk, Write? It's a book by Nancy Motley. In this write-up of the book at Language Magazine (great article) Mike Schmoker gets quoted so I knew I was on to the right track:
As Schmoker (2011) clearly explains, however, “It should go without saying that most students won’t optimally learn facts (much less care about them) without abundant opportunities to read, write, and talk.”
The article goes on to cite other researchers:
Many leaders in the field of literacy, as well as those in educational research, contend that in order for students to achieve at the highest levels, they must actively participate in learning through conversation, reading, and writing (Wilkinson and Silliman, 2000; Tovani, 2004; Daniels and Zemelman, 2004; Gallagher, 2004; Zwiers, 2008). Students develop deep conceptual knowledge in a discipline only by using the habits of reading, writing, and thinking (McConachie et al., 2006; Schleppegrell, 2004).
To be honest, I got the Nancy's book confused with Laura's book, which had a similar title. Here's a bit of insight into TRTW in case you're wondering:
[TRTW] was initially designed for the core classes, and its specific purpose is to help develop students' abilities to read academic texts as the primary source of their learning. This, of course, implies the need to train them how to read that type of text successfully. Nancy's book lays out the strategy and even discusses the need for building reading stamina specifically regarding academic texts as well as releasing more and more responsibility over to students for their learning in the classroom. Source: Amy Lenord
Fascinating, huh?

What is the TRTW Structure?

One of the things alluded to in the magazine article (Language magazine) is the TRTW structure, but it's hard to get that just from reading the article and I've bought too many books this month. But I am going to add this to my reading list.

Again, the following is taken directly from Amy Lenord's blog. Wow, this was written in 2016. This underscores my own ignorance that it's been out for so long and I missed it.

Now, a quick note: I apologize for such a long quote in advance but it's gold and I don't want it to disappear for whatever the reason. I have reformatted it a bit but it's otherwise unchanged. (Thank you, Amy).

From Amy Lenord's Blog with minor formatting adjustments


  • Talk 1 - Give students a compelling question to discuss that is connected to the lesson, but not the central focus or question of the lesson. This is the hook, the activator and the connection to their prior knowledge. It is short and open-ended (Motley, 20).
    • Read - Give them a text that will serve as their primary source of new information and their learning for the lesson (Motley, 32).
    • Before Reading be sure to tell them or show them the purpose for their reading. The reading purpose should connect with your learning objectives or instructional standards.
    • During Reading give students an accountability task that ensures students are reading and thinking rather than skimming the text mindlessly. Some of the strategies in the book are 
      • Pay Attention To lists, 
      • Annotation or 
      • Highlighting+. 
    • These accountability strategies also serve as informal assessment of what students are understanding as they read, and they present opportunities for teachers to engage with learners as they move around the room observing them as they work.
  • Talk 2 - This talk, "provides students with a much-needed opportunity to process the information they encountered during reading," (Motley, 49) and is, "the bridge from one independent activity (reading the text) to a second independent activity (writing a response)" (Motley, 50). 
    • This talk should be structured to ensure that all participants get an opportunity to both talk and listen to each other's perspectives on what they read. 
    • All that being said, the structure you put in place during this conversation must ensure that students have understood what they have read as well as be something students want to talk about. 
    • Motley suggests two strategies for this talk:
      • Envelope, Please which is a series of questions pre-prepared and placed in an envelope that help guide the conversation, or a
      • Check-In Conversation during with students share their thoughts, questions, annotations, etc. to help support each other after reading.
  • Write - The Write section of the TRTW model is an intentional effort to get students to generate their own thoughts by writing a compelling argument or explanation of a topic by writing complete thoughts using complete sentences (Motley, 60). 
    • Motley explains in her book that students must understand who their audience is, and she says this is "the most critical factor for student writers to remember when they write" (Motley, 62). 
    • She suggests that students should either write an explanation or make a claim with evidence as their writing products.

Amy Lenord goes even further in her amazing blog entry and shares a lesson plan. DO read her blog entry.

Books I'm Reading

Although my book budget has been exhausted this month, I hope to pick up a copy eventually. Curious about what else I'm reading? Check out my list.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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