Talk-Less Teaching

Practice, participation and progress

By: Leah Kirkman , Isabella Wallace


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 182 x 222mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781845909284
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2014

Teacher-talk is a powerful tool. But whilst we must embrace teacher-talk as vital, we must also bear in mind that not all teacher-talk is created equally … Long periods of talk will not always keep a class spellbound. We need other techniques on which we can draw to help pupils embed learning and make progress. After all, how can we be effectively checking progress and understanding when it is we who are doing all the talking? How can we be certain that the sea of ‘attentive’ faces before us is not simply contemplating lunch?

The solution is here: a vast bank of exciting, engaging, practical ways to allow learners to access and understand complex topics and skills without relentlessly bending their ears. Strategies which not only prevent pupils from being passengers in lessons, but which also make progress visible to both teacher and learner. In an entertaining and practical way, Talk-Less Teaching shows you how to encourage learners’ responsibility for their own progress without compromising test results or overall achievement.

Discover hundreds of tried and tested practical tips for helping pupils understand difficult concepts and learn new skills without you developing lecture-laryngitis.

Talk-Less Teaching was shortlisted for the ERA Education Book Award 2016.

Picture for author Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and is an experienced AST and trainer. Keeping the needs of both the busy teacher and the discerning learner at the heart of all her training, Leah works with teachers both across the UK and abroad developing outstanding teaching and learning.

Picture for author Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and has worked for many years as an AST, curriculum coordinator and governor. She is a consultant for and contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of Education and presents nationally and internationally on outstanding learning and teaching.

Listen in on Isabella's podcasts with Pivotal Education - click here to listen to Isabella on NQT issues and here discussing the pedagogy of talk-less teaching'.

Click here to view Isabella's Pinterest.

Click here to read Isabella  Wallace’s blog.


  1. The voice of a teacher is arguably one of the most important assets in the armoury of tools required every day. It's so precious, in fact, that it should be protected and used with great care as it can convey so many messages throughout the school day.

    In fact, sometimes we can all over-talk when we are in teacher mode; we get carried away labouring our teaching point that pupils switch off to the main idea we're trying to convey. We've all been in meetings when someone in higher authority is rambling away their really important message, only to suddenly realise we've been mentally somewhere else for the last ten minutes, with no idea what the person is going on about.

    In their book -˜Talk-Less Teaching' by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkham, explore techniques on which teachers can draw to help pupils embed learning and make progress without the need for long periods of teacher talk to keep the class spellbound. Indeed, the authors offer valid reasons as to why talking too long can reveal problems with this method of teaching: talking can be misused as an alternative to thoughtful planning, meaning that differentiation goes out of the window; long teacher-talk sessions mean less thinking time for pupils; lack of getting feedback from your learners, to demonstrate any progress; and ultimately can result in a sore throat.

    Tailoring your teaching to the needs of every learner can sound like a challenge, but the book encourages chameleon teaching, where you adapt for the different needs of each group of pupils. This makes sense, but it's also about being aware of the subtle signals which pupils convey back to you and adapting mid-session (yes, going off-plan if needed) using strategies offered in the book like The Wonderball, Boarding/landing cards, or The Walking Chocolate Bar (disappointingly, no real chocolate is used for this exercise!). There are many strategies on offer throughout this useful book supported by example resources and illustrations created by Sally Townsend.

    We sometimes review books which are ideal mainly for primary or secondary teachers, however this book can be used across all phases of teaching with the strategies offered being easily adaptable for the pupils you have the joy of teaching. The main forte of this book is the variety of practical activities which place the talk and focus on the pupils learning rather than relying on your most valuable asset as a person -” your voice. This book will give you the confidence to step off your soapbox and engage your pupils further in their own learning journey.
  2. Part of the new Osiris Educational series, this is an entertaining and accessible collection of strategies to help improve classroom practice across the board. It's a myth, of course, that an outstanding lesson should not feature Sir's voice It any point whatsoever - but 'talk-less teaching' should definitely be an option found in every educator's toolkit, and if you're starting to feel as though a little less time lecturing and a little more time facilitating independent learning might benefit both you and your students, then you may well find Just what you need within these pages. clear, credible advice underpins an impressive array of practical techniques designed to maximise learners' engagement with and mastery of the content being delivered; It's a thoroughly absorbing read throughout, and whilst it's true that not everything that the authors suggest will necessarily work with every young person, nor every time, there's plenty here with the potential to inspire positive change.
  3. They've done it again. A straight from the heart bible of wonderfully engaging ideas and approaches to elevating any activity, in any classroom. Invaluable CPD that just -˜gets' what teaching should be.
  4. Wallace and Kirkman have followed up their excellent Pimp Your Lesson with this new volume -” Talk-Less Teaching. Pimp Your Lesson was an eye-catching volume -” when reading it I was criticised by some colleagues who mistook Pimp Your Lesson as an irreverent look at the art of teaching. They were so wrong, the whole idea of Pimp Your Lesson was to grab the attention with a catchy hook then under closer scrutiny challenge your teaching with a series of robust, easy to implement ideas while dismissing those lazy, hoary old fallbacks, such as the word search. All this with persuasive reasoning and a clear rationale. This approach of presenting ideas clearly demonstrated that Wallace and Kirkman are gifted and creative teachers who not only present great ideas but also practice what they preach. Always a winner with me.

    This approach is continued with their second volume -” Talk-Less Teaching. This book has a more narrow focus that Pimp Your Lesson in that the focus here is a bank of ideas that encourage students to take the central stage in lessons and letting the teacher take a step back without compromising results and student progress. The objective of the book is neatly summarised in its introduction -”

    To get the Learners working harder than you, thinking harder than you and talking harder than you'

    Therefore, the approach is very similar to Jim Smith's -˜Lazy Teacher' toolkit, which has been very influential over the last few years and has certainly reformed my teaching work. However, Wallace and Kirkman's approach builds upon Smith's Lazy Teacher concept and offers more strategies and approaches -” the idea of the Chameleon Teacher in that teachers have to offer a variety of methods to meet the needs of all students is a particularly pertinent one -” to add to the armoury of making students more independent.

    The strategies on offer are a mix of variations of tried and tested ideas, such as the use of the Verbal Feedback Stamp and the Boarding Card, as well genuinely new ideas, such as the Crocodile Creek and the Walking chocolate Bar (which is a particular favourite). Many of the ideas require minimal preparation yet have the potential to make a significant impact upon progress and engagement in your lessons. Those ideas that require that little extra preparation are equally attractive as once you have created the framework for the resource, they can be easily adapted for a range of lessons.

    The book covers a range of classroom issues, such as marking, feedback and group work and for all these aspects food for thought is given and the depth of coverage is significant. Overall, an extremely useful book to have as part of your CPD library and certainly you would want to consult if you wanted to make your students more independent in your lessons as well as tackling the Ofsted criteria of the 80:20 active lesson.
  5. This is an outstanding book, full to the brim with practical ideas to promote student participation, engagement, understanding and activities to develop active and independent learners. As a practitioner with extensive classroom experience at all levels of education the authors have challenged me effectively to re-think and tweak many aspects of my practice. I particularly valued their ideas such as the “boarding and landing cards”, prior knowledge questionnaires, why teaching assistants are priceless.... the list is very extensive!! Isabella and Leah are to be congratulated on combining their skills and strategies into a book which will be an excellent resource, since it is so full of practical ideas.
  6. `Talk-less Teaching` engages the reader from the outset with a fluent and accessible style. What struck me most about it was the pedagogical expertise that runs throughout the book but doesn't overwhelm it with technical language or eduspeak. The book is written in plain English whilst providing sophisticated solutions to complex problems that some teachers may not even realise they have-¦they will after reading the book!

    The range of suggestions for tweaking, developing and even totally transforming classroom practice to ensure engagement and immersion of all students in learning is breath-taking.
  7. This book offers stunningly practical advice about how to make all the pupils in your class feel more confident, more involved and learn more. Isabella and Leah thoroughly kill the myth that teaching is just about knowledge and what you impart. What follows is bucket-fulls of practical ideas for teachers to put into practice immediately.
  8. Isabella and Leah are both trained, qualified and experienced teachers, and it shows. This intelligent and rather well-written book sees learning through the eyes of the learners, and presents a range of strategies and arguments as to why teachers should continue to do so. It is balanced, without evident bigotry, and is rather better argued than the contentions of less experienced teachers who feel that, after a two year stint of class tourism, they can assert from an imagined superiority that talking is teaching. It isn't. Teaching is vastly more complicated than just turning up and pontificating. This book knows that and has some cracking ideas to help you turn away from the politically influenced idea perpetrated by blind pawns that boring children is educating them.

  9. What defines this text is the feeling that the authors truly appreciate the direction of today's classroom and, what is more, offer instantly useable resources to support all types of teacher. We will all recognise ourselves in the humorous, astute descriptions - the pressures to 'get through' content and 'be in control' of our lessons, our pupils happy, if not wanting to let us 'tell them' what they need to know - yet the wealth of exciting and imaginative resources in 'Talk Less Teaching' will mean that losing your voice will be for the right reasons! The ideas are flexible and adaptable, the text is not didactic in any way and celebrates the dynamic fashion of our profession.

  10. Beautifully nuanced, balanced, readable, and as free of jargon and ideology as it's possible to be, this outstanding book is a rich repository of ideas for showing that understanding does not have to be the victim of coverage. Steeped in the most rigorous laboratory of all - classroom practice - it joins an impressive list of books for teachers that will last long after His Master's Voice has fallen silent.

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