Academic journal article Science and Children

Making Talk Productive: How to Incorporate the Reasoning Talk Move into Science Conversations

Academic journal article Science and Children

Making Talk Productive: How to Incorporate the Reasoning Talk Move into Science Conversations

Article excerpt

During the launch of our new unit, my fifth-grade students could not have been more excited about studying space. As we began to explore more content, however, it became increasingly evident that they struggled with building onto each other's ideas. Too often, students simply nodded their heads "yes" or "no" to agree or disagree with a classmate or did not contribute at all. Others dominated what was meant to be a cooperative group task. How could all students be supported to improve their level of discourse?

Rich discussion not only gives children a chance to dig more deeply into content but also motivates them. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) outline how participation in academic conversations is an essential part of engaging in the science and engineering practices. Unfortunately, the space unit I was using did not explicitly suggest how to get students interacting with the language of science. This article describes how to use the agree/disagree, or "reasoning," talk move to support students as they formulate arguments during investigations.

Listening and speaking inform our views and allow us to make sense of new information (Vygotsky 1986). Students negotiate meaning and refine thinking based on others' claims and contributions. Academic conversations involve language structures that set them apart from the kinds of talk students encounter in other settings. Therefore, our increasing awareness of the language demands associated with science content is critical in order to help all students meet the NGSS (NGSS Lead States 2013, Appendix D, Diversity and Equity). By taking a closer look at science curriculum, we can find ways to support structured, academic discourse in our lessons.

What Is the Reasoning Talk Move?

Talk moves (see Figure 1, p. 69) are ways to frame questions and responses when guiding discussions with students and support teacher-student and student-student discourse. Some of these talk moves include revoicing, restating, agree/ disagree (reasoning), adding on, and wait time. These five moves serve as a base for teachers to get started with modeling what productive talk sounds like in the classroom (Chapin, O'Connor, and Anderson 2009). Using talk moves can help expand responses and involve a variety of students in the conversation, creating more equitable opportunities for all to participate in constructing knowledge around academic content.

Research suggests that incorporating academically productive talk into lessons can have a positive impact on improving students' scores on standardized tests while supporting the development of metacognitive thinking, reasoning, and communication skills, as well as enhancing motivation to participate and learn across subject areas over time (Chapin, O'Connor, and Anderson 2009). The example in Table 1, page 68, contrasts the reasoning talk move with the Initiate-Response-Evaluate (IRE) pattern (Cazden 2001), illustrating its potential to extend students' reasoning while holding them accountable to the discussion and to one another. Below, I discuss how to incorporate the reasoning talk move into instruction.

Step 1: Setting Conversation Expectations

First, deliver a series of lessons to establish expectations using the framework for Accountable Talk (Michaels, O'Connor, and Resnick 2008; see the Accountable Talk sidebar, p. 70), which includes (1) Responsibility to Others (Learning Community), (2) Responsibility to Knowledge, and (3) Responsibility to Thinking (Accepted Standards of Reasoning). This helps with brainstorming a list of norms for group work (see Figure 2, p. 69). Encourage students to contribute specific examples of what each expectation should look and sound like, and revisit the chart and make revisions, if necessary.

Consider conducting a fishbowl activity to contrast "productive" and "unproductive" group talk, which allows students to visualize and analyze the norms for group work. …

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