Group Talk: As easy as A – B – C

As you know encouraging and facilitating effective group talk is central to establishing a healthy classroom.

The problem is that efforts to do so can often become clunky, ornate and therefore ineffective.

Working at a school with a discrete Oracy curriculum has led me down many an avenue of structured student talk. Something simple that I’ve stuck with along the way is the A – B – C:

A = Agree

B = Build

C = Challenge


In a discussion, students should decide which of these they are doing before the next contribution. This keeps conversations purposeful, but avoids overly baroque frameworks and sentence stems. I use this routinely in group discussion, or as a protocol to develop more thoughtful contributions in student-led debate.

Simple design.

Do you agree? Or build? Or challenge?

Yours, in teaching,

-Unseen Flirtations


2 thoughts on “Group Talk: As easy as A – B – C

  1. Love the simplicity/mnemonic. Totally agree about the tendency of Socratic approaches to get so bogged down in metalanguage that talking about talk overshadows the bone and gristle of the talk itself. Have you considered including Question as well? It doesn’t fit the alphabetic pattern but it’s the other driver for contribution I flag up for kids and, once embedded, it’s a powerful discursive tool. We (and I include me!) often want to move the talk on with our bit without necessarily fully interrogating what is already on the table or using our turn to open up new directions. Maybe bring this in as an additional level of sophistication to move things on once ABC is established? I can see how that would work as development.

    In early days of developing an ABC approach I use a beach ball thrown between speakers to exemplify the connective energy of the shared talk (and the absence of IRE!). Kids also have prompt cards available/displayed with cohesive link words and appropriate language for challenging. A lot of my kids have found the latter hard, lacking a formal vocabulary for challenge and assuming the action itself is ‘rude’ rather than the words/tone adopted.

    I sometimes add a fishbowl/competitive element to the whole thing by introducing scoring/points for contributions which function as ABC turns and are signposted appropriately at the start. Have had some really nice feedback from Y5 to KS5 doing this and it makes noticeable difference to any follow up writing. If you can get all the main points noted on separate post its as the discussion develops then there is a fabulous flexible resource for later planning/drafting. Not suggesting every discussion should be overlaid with such things ..or that all discussion should lead to writing! But often it does.

    Love the crisp succinct clarity in your posts too. Will seek to emulate 🙂

    • Brilliant suggestions! I agree – some simple structuring can have a big impact on the quality of talk, thinking, talk for thinking and potentially writing.

      And thank you for commenting. Will keep you posted…


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