Relationship Skills

Family Resources on Accountable Talk

Project and Purpose

Students use accountable talk sentence stems in a “ridiculous debate” and translate commonly used phrases into accountable talk.

Essential Questions

Why should we use accountable talk?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students defined the term “accountable talk” and practiced how to discuss or debate issues based on facts while also being respectful with each other. To practice accountable talk, students participated in a “ridiculous debate,” where they had either to defend or disagree with ridiculous premises. Discussion included critiquing the ideas of others (remember the premise each student is stating is ridiculous) while being respectful of the other person.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

People have disagreements often and poor communication can negatively impact relationships. When people disagree, it is always important to understand that the disagreement is about an issue or a belief not about a person. This lesson helps students practice respectful communication, even in disagreement.

Conversation Starters and Practice at Home

The first two items are for follow-up after participating in class activities.

What is “accountable talk”? Why do you think the term accountable talk is used?

Describe the discussion you had using the “ridiculous premise”. What do you think you learned? Show us how to use accountable talk properly.

If you have a disagreement with a friend, is your relationship ruined? Why or why not?

Share a real-life situation where you could use accountable talk? Why would this work?
[Several situations or examples could be discussed.

School to Home Resources on Accountable Talk


  • Accountable Talk Sentence Stems — use as a slide or make copies
    (See Lesson Plan .PDF)
  • Unaccountable Sentences — Cut into strips before class
  • Ridiculous Debate Topics — Cut into strips or announce to each group


1. Discuss: What does accountable mean? What is accountable talk?

  • Accountable means being responsible for actions and/or words and one’s behavior, but it also means that something is explainable.
  • Accountable talk is a way of speaking, usually in debate, where each person is held accountable for their opinions.
  • Accountable talk has the speaker share their idea or opinion, and then support it with evidence.
  • Accountable talk is polite, sophisticated, and makes the classroom a safe speaking environment.

2. Accountable talk is academic talk, but more importantly, it is social and emotional talk. It keeps us accountable to social norms and appropriate behaviors so our minds can process better. Social skills are very important to learn and practice every day.

3. Introduce the Accountable Talk Sentence Stems and point out how there are two parts in the practice of accountable talk:

  • A sentence starter
  • Evidence

4. Have students work with a partner and give each pair at least one of the “Unaccountable Sentences.” Tell students that they have 5 minutes to work with their partners to translate the unaccountable sentence into Accountable Talk sentences. They should write their Accountable Talk Sentence on the back of the paper. Direct students to use the Accountable Talk Sentence Starters to help.

5. Have pairs share their Unaccountable/Accountable sentences with the whole group. Ask the group what they noticed about each of the Accountable Talk sentences: how does it support appropriate social behavior? How does it help steer the conversation in an academic direction?

6. Have each pair join with another pair to create groups of four and have them turn their chairs in to face each other OR stand facing each other. Tell students that they will practice using Accountable Talk in a small group debate of a ridiculous premise. They should decide first which two people will agree with the statement and which two will disagree. They must try to convince each other that their thoughts are correct. Remind them of appropriate behaviors when debating:

  • Participants exhibit positive body language by making eye contact and facing the other group members.
  • Participants listen attentively with limited over talk or side talk.
  • Participants communicate in the appropriate tone and volume.

7. Distribute or announce each group’s topic (see the print out at end of lesson) and give them five minutes to hold their debates. Every person in the group must use accountable talk to express an opinion and/or agree or disagree with another person’s point of view. Be sure to walk around the room checking on the discussions with the groups.


Gather back together to debrief the exercise. Ask students to discuss:

  • How do we put accountable talk into use academically?
  • How do we put accountable talk into use socially?
  • Why should we use accountable talk?
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