Section 6: Application for English Learners

  • The number of English language learners in schools across the nation has increased dramatically over the past decade. At the same time the gap in science proficiency between English language learners and non-English language learners has widened. As you have previously explored in section 6, the NGSS science and engineering practices are language intensive and require students to engage in classroom science discourse (NSTA, 2015). 

    Oakland Unified School District created a series of videos that emphasize why academic discussions are so important for our English Language Learners. There is a common set of themes as you watch the videos. The fourth video is a middle school teacher from Spokane, WA that demonstrates creating a classroom culture of science discourse for all students.

    1. Use of Talk Moves: This video showcases a teacher that uses discourse to support her students' analysis of complex text. Take note of how she pushes her students to participate using the Talk Moves.

    Click on the image below to watch Ms. Groves in action:

    2. Having a Protocol for Accountability: In this video, the teacher uses a participation protocol to structure her students' discussions and cite evidence. Take note of how you can use or modify this in your own classroom.

    Click on the image below to watch the use of a participation protocol:

    3. Opportunities for Reflection: This teacher video tapes herself and her students and then transcribes their discussions. By doing so, she can provide feedback for her students and for herself. Students can think about how they have participated in the class discussions. 

    Click on the image below to watch videotaping in action:
    4. Building a Culture of Talk: This science teacher creates a classroom culture where students have ample opportunities to discuss the science behind the activities. Watch how the teacher creates a platform where his students are engaging in a productive argument.

    Click on the image below to watch the culture of the classroom discussion:

    GLAD Strategies

    OCDE Project GLAD® (Guided Language Acquisition Design) is a project housed in the Orange County Department of Education in California. GLAD strategies are divided into 5 themes. For the purposes of this module, we will be focusing on two of those themes: Focus and Motivation, Input, and Guided Oral Practice. Project GLAD does not simply build basic English conversation skills, but it specifically develops academic English, building the vocabulary and linguistic structures that students must use to participate in context-rich discourse. This is vital in the science classroom. 

    Focus and Motivation


    Guided Oral Practice




    ·  Activate, focus and build background knowledge

    ·  Provides students with new information

    ·  Sparks interest

    ·  Builds excitement

    ·  Students set purpose

    ·  Diagnose students

    ·  Direct teaching of skills

    ·  Active participation

    ·  Graphic organizer

    ·  Patterning

    ·  Visuals

    ·  Real items

    ·  Academic discourse

    ·  Negotiating for meaning

    ·  Interact with text

    ·  Processing and metacognition

    ·  Builds self-esteem

    ·  Primary language support

    ·  Phonemic awareness




    ·  Super Scientist Awards

    ·  Cognitive Content Dictionary

    ·  Observation Charts

    ·  Inquiry Charts

    ·  Big Books

    ·  Comparative Input Charts

    ·  Narrative Input

    ·  Graphic Organizers

    ·  Pictorial Input

    ·  Extended Name Tag

    ·  Exploration Report

    ·  Picture File Cards/Word Bank

    ·  T-Graph for Social Skills

    ·  10:2

    ·  Poetry/Chants

    ·  Sentence Patterning Chart

    Let us explore one of these strategies: the 10:2 Strategy. This strategy has been backed by research which states that it is important to allow at least 2 minutes of student processing for every 10 minutes of teacher input. During this 2 minutes of processing time, students can discuss the information with their partners or small-groups. This allows students to negotiate for meaning and also provides a low-risk environment for English language learners to try new vocabulary and concepts.

    Main Street Elementary, Copyright 2015

    10:2 Strategy - Step-by-Step Guide
    1. Establish a routine where students know to turn and face a partner whenever you indicate that is is time for a "10:2".
    2. Teach students to take turns answering the question you provide (you can use a protocol such as Think-Pair-Share or Talking Sticks where each student, including English learners, have to contribute to the conversations.
    3. Monitor conversations by walking around and taking notes of any particular comments, especially with English learners. 
    4. Teach students the quiet signal, such as hand in the air, you will use to indicate when it is time to face you again.
    5. Use the 10:2 strategy whenever you are providing input (big books, pictorials, narratives) or for soliciting information from children (sentence patterning, process grid, editing cooperatively). 

    Los Angeles Unified School District compiled all of the strategies into a resource book. This resource book contains the specific strategy and a step-by-step guide to implementing each strategy for your classroom.

    Click the image below if you would like to explore more of the strategies that can help support instruction for your English Learners (*Optional)

    There are five areas where teachers can support science and language for English language learners that are outlined below: (Fathman, Crowther 2006; Lee and Buxton, 2013; Rosebery and Warren 2008) 
    1. Literacy strategies for all students
    • Activating prior knowledge
    • Discussing reading strategies (for example, CLOSE reading)
    • Using academic language functions (describe, explain, predict, infer, conclude)
    • Incorporating a variety of scientific genres of writing (science notebooking, blogging)
    • Using graphic organizers and concept maps
    • Encouraging outside reading with science themes
    2. Language support strategies with English language learners
    • Using hands-on activities and realia
    • Representing information using multiple modes (gestural, oral, pictorial)
    • Using science vocabulary IN CONTEXT of classroom activities
    3. Discourse strategies with English language learners
    • Facilitating English learner participation in classroom discussion
    • Structuring activities to reduce the language barrier for participation
    • Maintaining rigor of science content and processes
    4. Home language support
    • Introducing key science terminology in both the home language and English
    • Allowing for code-switching (alternating between two languages within conversation)
    • Partnering bilingual students to assist less English proficient students in home language
    5. Home culture connections
    • Eliciting students "funds of knowledge" related to science topics
    • Using students' cultural artifacts and community resources

    Please complete the reflection form for Section 6: Application for English Learners. Do NOT move on unless you have received a confirmation page that says this: "Your answers have been submitted."

Discourse in Science Reflections