Section 5: Alignment to NGSS and CCSS

  • The following pages outline how student discourse is demonstrated or supported by the NGSS practices. According to Zwiers (2007), student discourse deepens student learning of academic language literacy and content understandings in the classroom. In order to learn content, students need to develop their literacy by reading and writing complex texts. Students also need critical and creative thinking in order to develop academic language. The following practices discuss how NGSS and discourse are related.

    Practices That Can Be Demonstrated  With Discourse

    Scientific and Engineering Practice

    Student Discourse

    Asking questions and defining problems

    Students learn the ability to ask good questions that are investigable and can be used to frame a hypothesis for constructing an explanation or to challenge the premise of an argument. Students can also generate questions to determine relationships between variables in the data and to seek additional information.

    Analyzing and interpreting data

    Students can answer the questions generated from the above practice and use that as a tool to clarify the data, analyze relationships, or formulate conclusions based on empirical evidence. Through discourse students are able to consider limitations of data analysis.

    Constructing explanations and designing solutions

    Developing explanations allows students to explore explicit details of observation. It is necessary for students to develop their academic language through verbal communication. This language development can be mediated through diagrams, lists, charts, and other elements of models.

    Engaging in argument from evidence

    Argument serves as a discourse practice whether it is practiced in writing or verbally. Students learn to clarify both their language and thinking by using the evidence and logic to connect cause and effect, and to analyze the validity of claims or warrants.

    Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

    This practice emphasizes listening and speaking skills. It is interrelated with the other practices because students must obtain, evaluate and communicate information as they engage in the process of building and critiquing explanations.

    Practices That Can Be Supported by Discourse


    Scientific and Engineering Practice

    Student Discourse Supporting Practice

    Developing and using models

    The students use discourse to develop a conceptual model that demonstrates their knowledge on the subject matter. The students can also use discourse to evaluate the limitations of a model or develop multiple iterations of a revised model.

    Planning and carrying out investigations

    Students use discourse to establish initial claims being investigated. As students conduct investigation, discourse allows students to work collaboratively in experimental design and data collection to be used as evidence to support claims.

    Using mathematics and computational thinking

    Students use discourse to make sense of the mathematical problems and construct arguments using mathematics as evidence. Students can also use mathematics as a model and discourse supports the student's explanation of the model.

    Language Demands and Opportunities in Relation to Next Generation Science Standards for English Language Learners: What Teachers Need to Know (Quinn, Lee, Valdes, 2013)

    As you can see, academic discourse is a vital component of the Next Generation Science Standards. As teachers begin to shift their teaching practices to implement the science and engineering practices, it is important to recognize the role that academic discourse plays in the classroom.

    We will now explore the Common Core Connections

    CCSS Appendix A: The special role of Speaking and Listening in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects
    If literacy levels are to improve, the aims of the English Language Arts classroom, especially in the earliest grades, must include oral language in a purposeful, systematic way, in part because it helps students master the printed word. Besides having intrinsic value as modes of communication, listening and speaking are necessary prerequisites of reading and writing (Fromkin, Rodman, & Hyams, 2006; Hulit, Howard, & Fahey, 2010; Pence & Justice, 2007; Stuart, Wright, Grigor, & Howey, 2002). The interrelationship between oral and written language is illustrated in the table below, using the distinction linguists make between receptive language (language that is heard, processed, and understood by an individual) and expressive language (language that is generated and produced by an individual).

    Receptive and Expressive Oral and Written Language


    Receptive Language

    Expressive Language

    Oral Language



    Written Language


    (decoding + comprehension)


    (handwriting, spelling, written composition)

    Oral language development precedes and is the foundation for written language development; in other words, oral language is primary and written language builds on it. Children’s oral language competence is strongly predictive of their facility in learning to read and write: listening and speaking vocabulary and even mastery of syntax set boundaries as to what children can read and understand no matter how well they can decode (Catts, Adolf, & Weismer, 2006; Hart & Risley, 1995; Hoover & Gough, 1990: Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

    Science Speaking and Listening Activity

    Instructions for the Activity

    The Speaking and Listening Standards for each grade level can be found on the following links for each respective grade level. The two sub-strands are identified in bold print (which are applied to every reading standard at each grade level): Comprehension and Collaboration and Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

    Click on the following link to the Speaking and Listening Standards for your specific grade level. *Remember to return to this site once you are finished with the webpage.
    Below is an example of what the worksheet will look like for your grade level. Download and fill in the document. Save a copy of this document for your records. This will be very useful when planning your lessons around discourse.

    The information can also be found on page 29 (for elementary) and 65 (for middle school) of California's Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.


    Please complete the reflection form for Section 5: Alignment to CCSS and NGSS. Do NOT move on unless you have received a confirmation page that says this: "Your answers have been submitted." 


Discourse in Science Reflections