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Encouraging respectful club discussions: accountable talk

Builders Club meetings are a great place for middle school students to lead and participate in group discussions. Advisors can encourage meaningful and positive discussions by introducing “accountable talk.” It’s a way of sharing ideas and opinions in a respectful way while strengthening individuals’ communication skills. It requires members to listen fully to what their peers are saying and to follow up their thoughts and opinions with reasons and clarification.

Accountable talk will take time and repetition for club members to master, so it is important to review how to use it at the start of each meeting. Here are a few steps for introducing accountable talk:

  1. Define it. First explain what accountable talk is—a way of speaking and responding to others in a respectful and thought-provoking way.
  2. Give examples. Give each member this handout and explain that each time they want to respond to a question or share an idea, they should use one of the sentences on the handout as a starting point. 
  3. Practice. Pose an easy question (such as, what is the best holiday and why? Or, what’s the best show on TV right now?) to the club and have members respond by practicing this new format. 
  4. Use it. Encourage members, especially club officers, to use accountable talk at every meeting and club discussion. Review the handout before every discussion and remind everyone to use it. 
Advisors will know that accountable talk has been successful when members start using the language without being prompted or reminded.

Tell us how it works! Share examples. Email or share at