I was recently at a PD and we were discussing the NGSS. One of the comments made in the presentation was that the NGSS were written so there wasn’t so much language for students to learn and understand. As an ELL advocate, I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea! Let’s concentrate on the Scientific behaviors, thinking, ideas, enthusiasm and creativity that our ELLs bring to our classrooms during our Science Workshop Labs and take some of the burden of adding yet more vocabulary into their learning day.
Then we were given a Fourth Grade NGSS investigation to try out as a group. As I read the directions of the task, I noticed immediately that I had the wrong idea. Although knowing specific Scientific content language has somewhat been removed as a focus, language itself is a vital part of students being able to think about, talk about, explore and collaborate about the Scientific and Engineering ideas and concepts the NGSS employ. Our students can’t think and talk like Scientists and Engineers unless they have the language to do so. Exploring, designing and investigating all require our students to be able to collaborate, develop, and express their ideas and communicate them with others.
In the true form of an Engineer, I found a flaw in my past design and recognized a need to shift my thinking about the language vocabulary, forms and functions we need to explicitly teach our budding Scientists and Engineers. For our ELLs to be able to achieve the growth and expand the ideas they have about Science and Engineering and encourage the excitement and enthusiasm they already have, we will need to ensure we shelter language instruction and explicitly teach all our students the language of the next generation of Scientists and Engineers in our world. Specifically, the language of thinking, talking, exploring, designing, developing, questioning, and collaborating around inquiry of ideas and concepts.
To that end, I’ve been doing some research and looking for resources that might help us consider and refine our practice in teaching Science and the language of Science to all our students and our ELLs in particular. I hope you find these articles helpful and can pull some ideas and concepts out that will help you in launching your NGSS Workshops!
-Rhonda Walton, guest blogger, is an ELD Specialist at Marrion Elementary