Practice Brief 27 -- Topics: Equity Instruction Implementation

Engaging English Learners in the Science and Engineering Practices

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should know NGSS practices are heavily language-dependent—and teach accordingly to make experiences inclusive for multilingual students.
  • District staff and PD providers should learn about local approaches for supporting disciplinary language use with English Learners and help science teachers apply these.
  • School leaders should develop teachers' collective expertise to ensure approaches to developing language are coherent across subject matter instruction.

What is the Issue?

Routinely engaging all students in the practices of science and engineering is a crucial fixture of the new vision for K-12 science education. The practices can be seen as a barrier to participation for English Learners (ELs), or they can be viewed as an opportunity to provide rich instruction that builds science-related competencies and identities. Certain elements of the practices and related instructional approaches can be beneficial for students learning science while also learning the language of instruction.

Authors:

KERRI WINGERT AND TIM PODKUL


Reflection Questions

  • Consider how science learning supports language development. Does language development also support science learning?
  • How can you remove the language barriers to accessing science in your setting? How can you support comprehension by connecting new content to the prior knowledge of students?
  • How can you build a community of learners that includes students with varied language skills?

Things to Consider

Language Practices in STEM Receptive Practices

Listening: Use a poster, slide, or picture to support student listening in science (e.g., the GLAD Pictorial Input Chart).

Reading: Preview science texts with students, discussing salient text features such as tables, graphs, and photographs before they read it. Provide summaries and include native language texts.

Productive Practices

Speaking: Provide sentence stems for all students to use, especially to support complex verbal practices like argumentation, explanation, and communication.

Writing: Engage ELs in authentic vocabulary exploration as they try to make their thoughts meaningful to others through writing. Provide dictionaries or Google Translate. Look beyond grammar and spelling to understand student ideas.

Attending to Equity

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