We Gotta Talk It Out!

By L. Rios

Teachers beware!  You might walk into my Science classroom and cover your ears.  Well, perhaps it won’t be that noisy; however, you will find that my students are thoroughly engaged in Science discussions throughout the day.  I encourage what The Essentials of Science and Literacy recommends in chapter 5: A Culture of Talk!  In Science, students often lack the specialized vocabulary, have misconceptions, or do not feel confident to speak up in class even though they may have the knowledge to share.  Science talk gives students many opportunities to engage in discussion as they work in small groups in order to facilitate the use of the difficult vocabulary and clarify misconceptions.

 After reading Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca, I asked my students to engage in a small discussion focusing on what they believed they would have encountered had they been on that mission to the moon.

 Ricky: It has holes.

Kamyrn: But if the holes are there, why are the holes there?

Prudence: (softly responds) They are called craters.

Ricky: I don’t know…

Prudence: (again responds) They are called craters from the asteroids that hit the moon…

Ricky: Oh, I didn’t know that!

Prudence: …because the moon doesn’t have the Earth’s atmosphere…

Ricky & Kamryn: Atmosphere…

(My students quickly wrote down the information they gathered from their peer in their Science notebook.)

  In South Texas, there are many English language learners.  Among all of my students, engaging in “science talk” benefits them the most.  They are able to exchange ideas within a small-group discussion, listen to the vocabulary being used, write it down for future reference, and feel confident to later participate in the whole-group discussion.  From my observations of the practice of “science talk” in the classroom, I have noticed students applying their own reasoning and learning from each other.  The purpose and use of “culture of talk,” as very eloquently and explicitly demonstrated in The Essentials of Science and Literacy, is crucial to students’ linguistic and cognitive development!  The Essentials of Science and Literacy: A must read!

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