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Accountable Discussions

Accountable discussion empowers students to draw up arguments based on evidence. Students learn how to respect the views of their peers while strengthening their communication skills. They get practice in being good conversationalists, participating in conversations in a polite manner.

How to use

1. Introduce

Conduct a class discussion by defining accountable talk. Explain that in a learning discussion, each contributor to the conversation is held accountable to give reasons and evidence for opinions. 

2. Practice

Call on some student volunteers to read accountable discussion cards about a concept you have just studied. Prepare these cards in advance to contain the accountable sentence stems (see templates provided), such as “I believe ____ because ____” and “I agree with ______ because ______.”  Afterwards, ask the students, “What evidence of accountable talk were we good at?  How could we improve?” Pass out the list of accountable talk sentence stems.

3. Ask

Pose an open-ended question and guide students in an accountable talk discussion.  After letting students discuss, highlight some positive ways they used accountable talk along with areas to improve.

When to use

Use Accountable Discussion sentence stems at any point in the lesson to structure meaningful conversation:

  • Before introducing new material to tap into prior knowledge
  • After watching a film clip to gauge a reaction
  • During a read-aloud to get students thinking about a thought-provoking question
  • When debating a current event or issue that’s important to students
  • When discussing any concept in which students should “explain” or “prove” their thinking


Small Group Accountable Talk

Break students into groups of 3-4 and provide them with sentence stem cards that they draw at random to formulate conversations. Ask students to record the sentence stem(s) and their completed idea(s) in their notebooks or journals to hold them accountable for the conversation.

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