Accountable Talk refers to talk that is meaningful, respectful, and mutually beneficial to both speaker and listener. The strategy, developed by the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, allows teachers to engage students in meaningful conversation, observe their interaction and thinking process, ask and pose questions, and create an environment that feels safe for exploration. Watch this demonstration of Accountable Talk in a classroom.

Teachers start by introducting their students to the Accountable Talk sentence stems, and using them to model how to ask and respond to questions/statements. Many teachers actually print out the sentence stems and place them around the classroom so they are easily visible to all. Explain that in a learning discussion, each contributor to the conversation is held accountable to give reasons and evidence for opinions. Next, practice by posing an open-ended question and guiding students in an accountable talk discussion. At the end of the discussion, highlight some positive ways they used accountable talk along with areas to improve.

Most teachers find that within a few weeks, students begin to use the sentence stems without prompting, allowing for more lengthy, productive conversations.



Teachers can use Accountable Talk sentence stems with students of all ages and in any subject area when discussing concepts in which they want students to “explain” or “prove” their thinking. The features of Accountable Talk include:

Accountability to the Learning Community

  • Careful listening to each other
  • Using and building on each other’s ideas
  • Paraphrasing and seeking clarification
  • Respectful disagreement
  • Using developmentally appropriate Accountable Talk Sentence Stems

Accountability to Accurate Knowledge

  • Being as specific and accurate as possible
  • Resisting the urge to say just “anything that comes to mind”
  • Getting the facts straight
  • Challenging questions that demand evidence for claims

Accountability to Rigorous Thinking

  • Building Arguments
  • Linking claims and evidence in logical ways
  • Working to make statements clear
  • Checking the quality of claims and arguments