In this Author Spotlight, we highlight the work of


Jeff Zwiers talks about the importance of teaching our kids to effectively communicate their ideas through conversation. This school year brings to the forefront the importance and value of talk, connection, and community. If you are looking to cultivate learning experiences that honor authentic communication, then explore the curated resources that will support improving classroom talk.

“Regardless of the topic, students need to adeptly use conversations, whether or not they are ‘academic,’  to overcome a wide range of life’s challenges and to build relationships, empathy, and social skills.”      

~ Jeff Zwiers, 2019

Jeff Zwiers Headshot

“We need our kids to be better than us”

Jeff Zwiers, Senior Researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, proposes that authentic communication should:

1. Build ideas

“It’s time to let all students build up big cities of ideas in their minds.” ~ Zwiers, 2019

Smaller ideas build up to bigger and bigger ideas.  These ideas can build over days, weeks,  or even years to create a deeper understanding of topics.  Click on the links below to understand  more about building ideas using terms and ideas.

Build Ideas: Brick by Brick Visual Routine

Building Ideas Routine Using Jamboard

Authentic Conversations

2. Clarify and Support

The two main skills used to build up an idea are clarify and support.  Without them, ideas result in weak claims and arguments.  Below you will find a routine to help students build up their thinking.  This routine is a launching point that can be modified to meet the needs of individual classes.

Stronger & Clearer Each Time Routine

Stronger & Clearer Each Time (Video)

3. Fill Information Gaps

Authentic communication occurs when students need to converse with others to learn something new.  Information gaps provide an opportunity to build authentic communication in order to build knowledge.  This activity provides students an opportunity to take a side of an issue and use new vocabulary and syntax to argue and negotiate meaning with a partner. 

Information Gap Cards

Think- Pair-Share Tip Sheet

Additional Resources from Jeff Zwiers

communication effect book cover
next steps with academic conversations book cover
building academic language
academic conversations book cover
Free! Webinar: The Communication Effect: How to Enhance Learning by
Building Ideas and Bridging Information Gaps