Doing and Talking Science: Engaging ELs in the Discourse of the Science and Engineering Practices

  • Rita MacDonald
  • Emily Miller
  • Sarah Lord
Part of the ASTE Series in Science Education book series (ASTE)


The NGSS “implicitly demand students acquire ever-increasing command of language in order to acquire and perform the knowledge and skills articulated” (Council of Chief State School Officers, Framework for English language proficiency development standards corresponding to the common core state standards and the next generation science standards. CCSSO, Washington, DC, 2012, p. ii). Yet, at a time when the EL population continues to be the most rapidly growing segment of the K-12 student population, instruction of ELs is too often characterized by three persistent problems of practice: the frequent use of IRE patterns, group work focused primarily on procedures and tasks rather than on students’ collaborative reasoning, and language instruction that is viewed primarily as vocabulary instruction. Classroom practices such as these are not likely to foster the rich academic discourse through which students learn to reason deeply and critically, express their reasoning, and challenge and critique that of others, nor are they likely to include ELs in that critical discourse. The need for resources to support effective engagement of ELs in these essential academic discourse practices is critical. This chapter shares the successful findings and materials of an approach that offered science teachers a set of resources to support their facilitation of students’ collaborative and discourse-rich reasoning in science, along with the development of the language needed for these critical functions—all of this in ways fully inclusive of ELs as sense-makers along with their classmates.



We would like to thank the National Science Foundation for its support of this work, funded by grant number DRL-1346491; H. Gary Cook (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) for serving as Principal Investigator and constant inspiration; and our colleagues Melissa Braaten (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Okhee Lee (New York University), and Judit Moschkovich (University of California-Santa Cruz) for their valuable contributions during the early development of these resources. We extend our gratitude to the unnamed school district leaders, teachers, and students with whom we learned during this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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