The Chalk Talk Teaching Strategy

One of my favorite teaching strategies is chalk talk. I can’t help but think that the reason I like it so much is the fact that it gets the students thinking rather than talking out.

Chalk Talk is simple. The #1 rule is no talking. You talk with the chalk. Various students are given chalk (markers) to come to the board and write answers to a question or supporting details based on a certain a topic. When they finish, they give the chalk (markers) to another student to add more answers or supporting details. Once everyone in the class has come to the board students can go up a second time if they wish. It is like a silent form of class discussion.

Chalk Talk Teaching Strategy

Chalk Talk Ideas

What you put on the board as a teacher is of central importance. Consider these ways to use chalk talk in your classroom:

1. Mind Map: Write a topic or a question in the middle of the board and circle it. Have students write supporting details or answers in bubbles around the center topic.

2. KWL Chart: Create a KWL chart on the board. Have students silently fill out the K (Know) portion at the beginning of class and then the W (Want to Know) section immediately after that. Then, at the end of the lesson, have students complete the L (What I Learned) section.  (You an really use any you can use any kind of graphic organizer)

3. Venn Diagram: Draw two intersecting circles on the board. Label each circle and have students write similarities and differences within the circles.

4. Freestyle Brainstorming: Suggest a topic and just have students write words or phrases that come to mind in connection with that topic. This is a great way to get students attention and interest at the beginning of class.

Chalk Talk Tips

  • Allow the students some time to think about the answers. Chalk talk can be a great way to follow up bell work at the beginning of class.
  • Summarize and clarify what was written on the board. Don’t just move on after the activity is completed. Summarize what the students wrote.
  • Think critically about the responses. Take the words or statements and pose them back at the students. Ask students to take a stance for or against what other students wrote on the board.
  • Give limits to the amount of writing the students can do. Older students sometimes write multiple sentences on the board. This takes too much time and is hard to summarize for the class.
  • Have students make connections. Often students write what they have thought of at their desks without paying any attention to what others have written. Challenge them to respond to what previous students wrote by drawing lines between other ideas or connecting what they write to previously written thoughts that are on the board.
  • Analyze the results. Have students categorize what other students wrote into various topics. You can suggest the topics as a teacher, but give them the opportunity to do the thinking. Model the analysis first so they understand what you are asking.
  • Watch the clock. This activity can take too long if you let it. Don’t let chalk talk dominate the precious class time you have to actually foster opportunities for learning new things.

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About Jared Dees

Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Ave Maria Press and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator, To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach, and Praying the Angelus.


  1. Great ideas Jared. I’ve never heard of doing a chalk talk like this before. I’ve only used it as a visual supplement to the oral explanations. It’s great to have other options.

  2. Im very happy.. will be using your ideas this Sunday with my 4th graders..
    They’re such great kids.. i like to do activities with them, and now i am looking forward to meeting with them this Sunday at 9am
    thank you for the great ideas.. keep it up!!

  3. Kimberly says:

    This is a great idea! I teach 4th grade and this gives a great alternative to “just talking at them”… Thanks for all the wonderful hints and ideas.

  4. Kathy Delgado says:

    This is a great idea! They’ll be moving around rather than falling asleep. I could also use it to teach WITH and let them add to what I’ve put on the board. Really great idea–and not just for Baptism!

  5. Jared
    I did the chalk talk last week and had the main idea the formation of the NT…they then had to come up and add a supporting detail…it was great!!!

  6. Christi says:

    Could someone video a chalk talk and give me a gist for how it works? I have 9th graders and would love to have them moving rather than staring off.

  7. Janet says:

    I have used a similar idea with teaching prayers. Students form two lines and they can each write only up to three words of The Lord Prayer. Then they hand the chalk to the next person, you hear them saying the prayer over and over again until its their turn. You can correct mistakes too, but only three words. Students that know the prayers help the ones that don’t. I tell them don’t worry about spelling…they love it. You can use it with lots of prayers too.