Not Just Hands-On

A scientist is posed with the question of how the changes in climate are impacting rainforests. How will they go about researching this? Needless to say, there are many steps involved, but it wouldn’t be surprising for them to seek out and study papers that had been published in scientific journals related to the topic. They might also speak with other scientists doing similar studies, and/or gird up any areas in which they feel their background knowledge may need deepening.

Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? All of that foundational work and the scientist hasn’t yet done a hands-on activity.

The instructional shifts associated with 3-D science standards are significant. While no one is disputing the value and necessity of hands-on investigations, it’s worth considering that, in order to get our students taking a scientific approach to investigations, we have to help them to be successful in areas other than hands-on experimentation.

Language Routines

In order to design, develop, and execute their own experiments, students have to be comfortable with academic reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. The Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) Language Routines are designed to support your instruction and your students’ success. Let’s take a look at one example.

Stronger and Clearer Each Time

This is an extension of the “Turn and Talk” routine that you may already be aware of. “Stronger and Clearer Each Time” allows students to help each other to revise and refine their ideas through paired conversations.

  • First have students compose their own idea for solving the problem or explaining the phenomenon and write down any thoughts or questions they may have about it.
  • Then, let them think about what they will say to their first partner to explain their idea or solution. Make it a rule that students cannot look at what they wrote while talking to their partner—this will help develop their speaking and listening skills. For those who need a little extra support, you could let them have a cheat sheet or give them another fun way to get to look at their notes to gain confidence.
  • Pair students up in such a way that it will be easy to have them move on to new partners. For example, you can have an outer circle of four students and an inner circle of four students. When it comes time to change partners, have one of the circles move one person to the right.
  • With their first partner, each student takes a turn to explain their ideas to the other student. The listening student should consider what they could add to or edit in their explanation based on what the speaker shared.
  • Switch partners and have students again share their thinking, but they should strengthen and clarify their ideas each time they talk to a new partner. It may take some modeling when you first introduce the routine but it is well worth the time as your students will not only learn to benefit from each other—they will also build their communication skill set.

The SCALE Language Routines are just one way that Twig Science supports your students. For more information on the routines or on what Twig Science has to offer, read more of our blog articles and visit our website.