Author Archives: Deb Porcarelli

Discourse in Three

Have you ever been motivated, engaged, and thinking about something in a new or different way?

What was the conversation about that made it meaningful? In science classrooms, teachers are asked to engage students in scientific discourse and make it meaningful. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) lists eight Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They are essential for all students to know, helping them better communicate and understand scientific knowledge. In particular, I want to highlight Practice Seven, “Engaging in argument from evidence.”

Making sure students participate in active discourse about the science they are learning helps them to learn, know, and use the SEPs. One way to do this might be to change the classroom discourse parameters by requiring everyone to participate, support their claims from evidence, challenge other ideas respectfully, and revise. When was the last time you really got into a conversation this way? Think about that conversation, and how it helped you and rethink as you learned.

The parameters above may sound familiar because they are similar to parameters teachers set for the discourse that happens in mathematics and language arts. The Common Core State Standards (Math and ELA-Literacy) have practices in mathematics and student capacities in language arts, and discourse is a disciplinary skill students need for all math and language arts, as well as science.


An even better way to look at how using discourse in science, math, and language arts overlaps is to use the three-circle Venn diagram (as shown below), which was originally created by Tina Cheuk, a Stanford ELL educator. The Venn diagram shows the commonalities of the practices and student capacities in the three content areas. They intersect in discourse and its use. This diagram reveals an opportunity to share skills and goals in three different content areas, with communication as the focus.

It takes time and practice for students to learn good communication skills. Teachers in the three different content areas can use the practices and student capacities for an opportunity to collaborate and share in the development of making students better communicators. They can exchange and share ideas so students engage in discourse frequently. The languages of science, math, and language arts may be a bit different, but through discourse students will learn to share information about their developing understandings. The more discourse the better, and when that discourse can be had in three different content areas, that helps to create proficient conversationalists.


If Only I’d Had the NGSS

For four years, I taught science every morning from 8:20AM – 9:10AM. I had a third and fourth grade combination that period because the third-grade teacher and I had swapped a couple of subjects. She took my Art class and I took her Science class. I thought that was a pretty good deal. I put… Continue Reading

One Week, Two Countries, and Three Conferences

Last week, three of us from the AIMS Professional Learning Division had the opportunity to participate in, and present at, three different conferences in the United States and Canada. The three conferences were the Montana Educators conference in Missoula, MT, the Florida Association of Science Teachers Conference in Orlando, FL, and the Manitoba Teachers of… Continue Reading

Playing Our Part to Roll Out Next Generation Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. They were finalized in April of 2013. California is one state that has adopted the… Continue Reading

Reading Is The Key

Some weeks I wonder about what to share in these posts. I think about what to write as soon as I have submitted my previous post. To get my creative juices flowing, I spend time reading about current affairs in professional learning. I like reading and knowing about current events in education, and I usually… Continue Reading

Are You a Lifelong Learner?

We should always be learning. Are you a self-professed learner for life? I like stories about people’s lifelong learning journeys. We are presented with daily learning opportunities, but it is the how and why of people’s stories that I like the best. People who have a yearning for more information and knowledge are what make… Continue Reading

Help “ALEXA”

Technology allows us to have and use many different, highly sophisticated tools in our classrooms. Amazon’s Echo is just one such example that is being used in many classrooms. The Echo, which responds to the name “Alexa,” is Amazon’s digital assistant built into the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, which are wireless speakers with built-in… Continue Reading

Educator Advocates Have Been Heard

Last week I got an exciting email from Learning Forward’s President, Stephanie Hirsch. The subject of the email read, “The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies voting to reinstate Title II funding.” Lawmakers in Washington put $2.1 billion back into the federal budget and it will go to… Continue Reading