The team is currently focusing on student conversation in the classroom, and looking for ways to build the oral discourse skills of English Learning students. Team members brought and shared transcriptions of student conversation.
Question: What is the relationship between a higher gradient and the steepness of the slope?
Student Y: Ummm, the relationship is, hmmm
Student X: I think it’s the same thing, like more lines closer means a hill or a mountain
Student Y: Yes
Student X: And lie if they’re not that close, umm, I think it’s like kind of like flat. That’s what I think, it’s not like a mountain mountain, it’s just like flat, I think, I guess. I’m not sure how to answer.
Student Y: Well the higher one is the steep one, we pretty much know the gradient is closer, like the contour lines.
Student X: Yeah, true.
Student Y: So I think the difference or the relationship – I’m not really sure.
Team members used a rubric to score the conversation skills, and then shared their scores and justifications. Important, significant insights developed almost immediately. The information from this small sample of conversation provided a window into student understanding of the concept as well as their skill in expressing ideas. The discussion very naturally led to questions about prompts and explicit conversation skills that could be used in the classroom to make leverage student discourse into more powerful learning experiences. Teachers wondered how they might explicitly use ‘turn and talk’ experiences to build up ideas, rather than simply confirming or restating facts.
Team members agreed to bring additional transcripts to the next session. The science teacher (of course!!) plans to record a similar conversation between non English learners so we can make some comparisons. Other participants will seek bring additional transcripts to continue this exploration process.
Everyone left with at least one instructional model for building up student conversation skills in the classroom.