Science Talk

Fourth-grade students in Rebecca Osborn's and Josephine Dale's class at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy in Rochester, NY, engage in a "science talk," an instructional practice that promotes inquiry and collaboration. Science talks allow all students to do exactly what scientists do: think about, wonder about, and talk about how things work, the origins of phenomena, and the essence of things.

In this video, students and teachers are engaged with a protocol/engagement strategy from EL Education's grades 3-8 ELA curriculum.


- Today we’re gonna continue to be scientists. Jala, can you read that learning target for us nice and loud?

- I can effectively participate in a Science Talk about simple machines.

- I want you to think for a minute and then I want you to share with a partner. What are those components that make this Science Talk effective and make you an effective participant?

- You should be prepared.

- When we use the Science Talk protocol in our classroom, we begin by talking about scientists and what good scientists do. What is it going to sound like, and look like, and feel like when we’re having these conversations.

- So here we are, preparing using evidence. The next one, I can ask questions about the topic being discussed. The next one, I can build on others’ ideas when responding to their statements and questions. And then the last one, I can follow our class norms when I participate in a conversation. Is there anything else that you think that maybe we need to add to this norms chart to make our Science Talks successful? Jala?

- Have polite words because sometimes people are arguing in our groups.

- I like those, polite words. We’re gonna add those to our norms. Our first thing that we do in a Science Talk is we think about that guiding question. How do simple machines impact our lives?

- Once we have them thinking about this question we ask them to go ahead and go and gather evidence.

- [Teacher] From our Simple Machines text, which you have in your folders, you’re gonna gather the evidence and you’re going to put it into your graphic organizer. You have about seven minutes to prepare your evidence.

- They’re looking for evidence that supports how simple machines impact our lives each and every day. Keep going.

- I feel like a pully, a elevator, because elevators make us go up and down.

- [Teacher] Boys and girls, about one more minute to finish up with your evidence that you’re working on. As soon as you get in your science crew, you may begin. The dynamics of our class are very diverse. We modify this particular Science Talk. You break them up into small science crews, so that they can really get more out of a smaller group setting versus a whole group setting, and really try to meet the needs of those students in the classroom.

- This level is needed to lift a load with a double pulley. You use energy to pull a double pulley.

- A pulley makes me think about a steeler because it helps people climb up mountains.

- Pulley makes me think of an elevator because--

- [Teacher] We’re hearing evidence. We see them listening to each other. If they have their own ideas or their own questions about something they’ve heard, they’re able then to take notes and wait their turn for when it’s an appropriate time to share that piece as well.

- How did you find information for the fist one that you did?

- [Teacher] They’re engaged and you can almost see those light bulbs going off because they’re on the edge of their seats, wanting to share or write down their information as well. During the Science Talk, we’re walking around and filling out our criteria checklist, just to make sure that scholars are meeting their target or where they’re falling short.

- Maybe there’s one specifically that we need to know for next time. You need to focus on this to make sure that they meet that learning target for the next Science Talk.

- [Teacher] The discussions are rich and they’re on topic and it often leads to them going back and wanting to find out those answers right then. That’s, I think, what we want as educators. We want to fuel them with that energy to want to learn more.

- [Teacher] What were some of our challenges in our Science Talk today?

- We had a hard time taking turns because we were so excited to share our work so everybody was just going out of turn.

- That’s a challenge and it’s something that we can work on but it’s also an exciting challenge because you are so excited about your learning. Awesome job today. Very, very proud of the work that you have done and you should be proud as well.

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EL Education

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