Believe it or not I hadn’t heard of Chalk and Talk until a couple of years ago. I never heard the phrase during my PGCE, but most teachers I know are very familiar with the phrase – and it’s often seen as a very unpopular method of teaching.
I recall my own GCSE History lessons in particular. They would usually consist of 30-40 minutes of the teacher talking about a topic and writing notes on the blackboard (yes, I am that old…). We would go through two or three sheets of A4 lined paper per lesson making notes and / or copying what was written on the whiteboard, followed by answering questions from a text book, cloze exercises, etc. At the end of the 4th Year (that’s Y10 in old money) I had a pretty full lever-arch file full of notes all ready for revision.
Nowadays it’s all about chunking, scaffolding, pacey lessons, engaging students, starters, plenaries, mini-plenaries, mini-starters, checkpoints, self-assessment, peer-assessment, kinaesthetic activities and so on.
I’m not suggesting the old method had none of these things, nor that these newer* ideas are a bad thing – but the lessons we had (in a mixed ability class in an inclusive secondary school, no selective grammar stuff here) were formulaic, taught rather than facilitated, taught engagingly and helped me to learn an awful lot of stuff. I enjoyed them.
That said, we are encouraged to teach in a more modular style these days – do this for ten minutes, then think about that for 5, then reflect and move on to something else. The idea of standing at the front of the class and talking to (at) them is generally frowned upon. And yet…
My GCSE Computing students have been learning to program in Python for about 6 weeks now. We’ve looked at various concepts (input, output, variables, assignment, selection, iteration and comments for those who are interested, although it’s not essential to my point) and while some students are away with it and are really enjoying themselves there are a couple of students who are struggling. And you know what they asked for? A lecture.
They asked for me to spend at least 1 full lesson with a pen and a whiteboard just talking through some of the concepts so that they can make notes in a book. We have discussed the concepts as I’ve introduced them, I’ve written them a text book with all of the concepts explained, with examples, and we’ve done lots and lots of practical exercises and written tasks. All chunked, evaluated, reviewed, with starters, with plenaries, with checkpoints, etc. But what these students want is for me to do what my History teacher did all those years ago. To stand at the front, to tell them what I need to know (albeit in an engaging manner) and to let them write this stuff down in their own words.
So talk and chalk. It’s not an anathema to teachers, nor to students. It’s another valuable tool in our arsenal and we shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.
* I’m aware that these concepts aren’t necessarily “new” as such, but certainly they are more prevalent in lessons and lesson planning now than they were 15 years ago when I was in Y10