Hands Down, Speak Out

Listening and Talking Across Literacy and Math

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"I sometimes wonder how the world will survive if children do not experience the sort of teaching presented in this book."
—Peter Johnston, author of Choice Words and Opening Minds

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Few skills are as critical or as rare today as the ability to hear and comprehend what other people are saying. The authors of Hands Down, Speak Out argue that we need new tools to teach the art of listening and they’ve put forward a simple yet transformative model for encouraging student conversations that are inclusive, empowering, and rich in content. This guide for K-5 classrooms is particularly needed in the aftermath of two disrupted school years.


  • TEACHING FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS ACROSS SUBJECTS: Hands Down, Speak Out is a practical guide for teaching listening and talking skills that span both literacy and math instruction.
  • K-5 CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT FOCUSED ON DIALOGUE: Too often, the practice of handraising favors the performance of answers by a few students over the construction of meaning involving the whole class. Help all students develop dialogue skills that will deepen their understanding of literacy and mathematics, as well as of themselves, their communities, and the world.
  • 28 STUDENT-CENTERED MICRO-LESSONS: Each of these short, incremental lessons build specific skills during content instruction rather than taking time away from it. Students will be energized by a discourse structure in which their ideas and voices take the lead while teachers focus on listening and facilitating.
  • NURTURING DISAGREEMENTS: Kassia and Christy provide guidance for managing difficult conversations by teaching students to engage in debate and discussion in a way that values listening equally with talking.

“When we build talk communities with children, our greatest hope is that what they learn through talking about reading, writing, and math is matched by what they learn about living in the world with others,” write Kassia Omohundro Wedekind and Christy Hermann Thompson.


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About the Author(s)

Kassia Omohundro Wedekind spent many wonderful years as a classroom teacher and math coach in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia and now splits her time between being an independent math coach and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her favorite days are spent in classrooms learning from the many ways children talk, listen and negotiate meaning together.


Christy Thompson is a Literacy Coach in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. She has spent her teaching and coaching career particularly focused on listening to and learning from the talk of our youngest students.



Product Details

Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Media: 248 pp/paper (est.)
Year: 2020
Item No: 1269
ISBN: 978-1-62531-269-3
Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers