Teacher Toolkit

Thinking Routines and Discursive Strategies

Silent Conversations

Who is this for?

All grades

Why use it?

Whether students are surfacing their thinking for the first time, consolidating research findings, or reflecting on an essential question at an inquiry’s end, this strategy provides a safe space to find new points of connection, tension, and curiosity, and support, extend, and challenge knowledge claims.

Bloom’s Level


What is it?

This strategy provides a safe space to find new points of connection, tension, and curiosity. This also supports, extends and challenges knowledge claims.


Whiteboards or chart paper


Small groups

1. Generate reflection questions and record one on each whiteboard or chart paper. These should be higher order questions, open to a diversity of responses.

2. Share the questions with students. Ask if there are additional questions that would be meaningful to include. Add or replace questions until all are satisfied that the list is compelling.

3. Divide students into groups of equal number, one for each question.

4. Explain the following to students: This is a silent activity! No talking.

How does it work?

1. Students will first have time to answer the question at their home station. They will record their ideas on the whiteboard or chart paper. (You can also use sticky notes if you want students to be able to rearrange the ideas during or after).

2. After 5-7 minutes, groups will rotate clockwise to the next station, where they will read and consider peers’ responses, and add to what they find by making a connection (self, text, world) or posing a question.

3. After students have visited each station, they return to their own and see the knowledge their peers have built!

4. Students prepare a summary of what they find, and generate a question that peers’ ideas have raised for them.


Small groups share summaries and questions, which the larger group considers together.


Video of students engaged in Silent Conversation from Making Thinking Visible


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Teacher ToolkitSilent Conversations