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Classroom Protocols in Action: Science Talk

This video shows primary students using a Science Talk protocol as way to collectively theorize, build on each others' ideas, work out thoughts, build literacy, and think, wonder, and talk about how things work. First, the teacher revisits the guiding question ("How does a spider's body help it survive?") and has students review information. She then reviews the Science Talk norms and has a small group of students model. She reviews sentence frames (e.g., "I agree with... because...") that will help students speak like scientists. Students then participate in Science Talks in small groups; the teacher circulates to listen, probe, and coach. We see students building on each others' ideas in a format that promotes equitable conversation. Finally, students reflect on their learning, revisiting the guiding question and the big idea (every part of a spider has an important function that helps it survive).


- ♪ Come on, let’s talk about why they’re great ♪ ♪ One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight ♪ ♪ I like spiders ♪ ♪ They make insects so afraid ♪

- [Narrator] Anne Simpson’s first graders are ending their unit on spiders with a Science Talk protocol. Science Talks provide space for students to collectively theorize, to build on each others’ ideas, to work out thoughts in a format that promotes equitable conversation, and build key literacy such as academic vocabulary and oral language.

- Spider body parts help it survive because--

- [Narrator] Most importantly, Science Talks allow students to do exactly what scientists do, think about, wonder about, and talk about how things work.

- In order to get ready to do our Science Talk we need to go back. We need to look at our drawings to answer our big question.

- [Class] How does a spider’s body help it survive?

- [Class] How does a spider’s body help it survive?

- [Narrator] Before beginning the Science Talk, Anne had her students review facts about spider’s physical features on diagrams they had created the day before. Pairing the protocol with an activity on the same topic helps students to express their knowledge and verbalize their understanding during the Science Talk.

- What is a Science Talk all about? I need three people to show me what it looks like.

- [Narrator] Before releasing students for the Science Talk, Anne used a fishbowl to review Science Talk norms. One, students sit in a circle. Two, the person with the microphone shares thoughts about the topic.

- Should not squish spiders because they’re a good help to our ecosystem.

- Everyone else listens.

- And they control the pests--

- [Narrator] Three, students take turns commenting.

- I’m ready for comments.

- [Narrator] Every student takes a turn.

- I agree with you that they--

- Okay, pause. If you forget what a good comment should sound like, take a look up here. I agree with you, Christian, because. It could be I disagree with you, Christian, because.

- [Narrator] With expectations discussed and modeled, Anne released her class for the Science Talks to answer the guiding question, how does a spider’s body help it to survive.

- They need their legs because it can smell, and taste, and walk.

- I agree with you that they need their legs to smell, and taste, and walk.

- I agree with you, Sophia, because I had the same idea.

- What do spiders need to live, Versan?

- Food.

- [Narrator] Science Talks provide a window on student thinking that can help teachers figure out what students really know and what their misconceptions are.

- And spiders...

- Need food to ride.

- Need food to ride.

- Does anyone else have a comment?

- Good job.

- Mashing and venom go together, because when you put venom in your prey it mashes your prey.

- I disagree with you because a spider has to mash it. The venom, it doesn’t mash by itself.

- Oh no, I mean venom and mash go together because when you put venom in it it makes it all gooey so it can get mashed.

- Oh.

- You guys did such a lovely job becoming an expert in answering this question.

- [Narrator] Anne ended the protocol with the whole class synthesis, allowing students to share their knowledge and make sense of the guiding question.

- What can we say about a spider’s body and how it helps it survive? Jonathon?

- It’s spinnerets help it get its food.

- [Teacher] Why is that important to help it survive?

- Because spiders need to eat to survive.

- I thought that was a really great way to think about how a body part helps the spider survive. Okay, so now I want to talk just quickly. What is the big idea? What is the big idea? Tell me. Arianna, share with us.

- The main idea is all of the body parts has a job that helps it survive.

- Every part of the spider’s body--

- [Narrator] The Science Talk protocol is a powerful way to get students talking like scientists. It reinforces students’ understanding of the science content and concepts, builds students’ academic vocabulary, promotes oral language development and equitable conversations, and empowers students to be better able to write about the topic later.

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