Structured Talk pdsa identified Problem of Practice

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Structured Talk PDSA

Identified Problem of Practice: How can we help students participate equitably in substantive science talk in small group conversations?

What we are focused on improving: Increased involvement in discourse at the WHY level for ALL students, and EL students in particular. Focus on small group interactions. We would like to aim for 75% or more of the students reasoning at a How or Why level of the scientific explanation toward the end of a unit of instruction. This might sound like students making partial explanations or asking questions about parts of a causal explanation they know they have yet to learn.
What we believe drives us to these changes are reflected in our driver diagram (4 quadrants).

Plan for data collection: Engage in as many PDSA cycles as possible by the first school year convening, November 10, and help us refine our understanding of the practices and problems of practice. Any time you try structured talk (where you tell the students about A/B roles), record data on the data snap tool (the kind of structured talk, other practices you had in play & student data). For one of the lessons take a short 3-5 min video (or have a coach take it), upload it to IRIS connect, and share it with colleagues/coaches.
Student voice: We would like to engage students in recording their own level of explanation and describe their experiences with the structured talk format in an exit ticket. This will help us evaluate the impact of the structured talk on their learning.
What How Why exit ticket clip art

STRUCTURED TALK DATA SNAP TOOLdescription: ec description: s3 description: aa


Date_________________________ Class Period_______________________
1) Science lesson topic_______________________________________________________________________

4) PLAN your A/B question(s):

PLAN your student voice data:
2) Who tried the practice?

  • Teacher

  • Teacher + Coach

3) How often have students used A/B talk in your class?

  • This is the first time

  • They have tried it 1-2 times before

  • They have tried it 3-5 times before

  • This is done regularly in my class 1-2x/week

  • This is done regularly in my class 3-5x/week

  • We practice A/B talk daily

5) Below are driver for supporting ambitious and equitable instruction in small group interactions. These were determined by a yearlong inquiry into these practices. Bubble all that applied to this lesson:

What-how-why: Give them the “what”

  • as a part of the launch, build in what level observation then as a why

  • have students compare and contrast data and talk about what happens

  • as a part of tools/ models start with what questions and provide visuals of the “what”

  • provide modeling keys

  • students have readings/videos that help them develop a “targeted why”

  • have targeted questions about the why

  • ask 3 rounds of structured “why” questions

  • remind students about resources (journal etc.)


Equity: Structured Turn & Talk- A/B partner talk

  • Directions on how to do A/B talk were shared with students

  • The directions were specific to this lesson

  • Students were given feedback on HOW they engaged in the talk

  • Have students engage with their partner's ideas "listening for understanding"

  • Be explicit about how much students are talking – engage them in self-monitoring/ give an exit card about how the AB talk supported their science reasoning


Small Group Discourse: Accountability in Modeling

  • have all students participate in written forms of models (using color pencils/pens)

  • have students use role cards

  • Students were given a “model scaffold” to work on together

  • Students had an explanation checklist


EL supports- Empowering ELs to share what they know & develop fluency with academic talk

  • EL students are identified

  • use sentence stems for EL students

  • differentiate questions for different levels of EL students

  • intentionally pair students to support use of language and language development



6) Main data collection: Have students complete exit tickets at the end of class (see attached sample).

7) Additional data collection (if you have an observer): Choose 2-4 underserved students (EL or not) and listen in on their conversation and/or look at their work. List evidence of what / how / why level engagement for each student (use initials).


Student describes what happened. Student describes, summarizes, or restates a pattern or trend in data without making a connection to any unobservable/ theoretical components.


Student describes how or partial why something happened. Student addresses unobservable/ theoretical components tangentially.


Student explains why something happened. Student can trace a causal story for why a phenomenon occurred or ask questions at this level. Student uses important science ideas that have unobservable/theoretical components to explain observable events.

Student 1:

intermediate EL

advanced EL

not EL

Student 2:

intermediate EL

advanced EL

not EL

Student 3:

intermediate EL

advanced EL

not EL

Student 4:

intermediate EL

advanced EL

not EL

Notes about student discourse for the entire class:

7) Analyze the exit ticket data. How many students reported engaging in each kind of activity? What did they want to try next time? (You can use the table provided to note percentages, make tallies, etc.)




Added on


Used evidence

Looked for similarities/differences

Reported engaging

Would like to try

8) What did you learn from the data (exit tickets, listening, observing)?

9) What parts of the practice seemed to work for these students? What did not?

10) What is still puzzling you about this practice?

11) What might you try next time to better support these students? Highlight ideas on the driver diagram/add to the drivers if needed?


Sample questions for student tool accompanying the structured talk PDSA:
When you engaged in structured talk with a partner, which of the following did you try on? (check ALL that apply)

 I shared my idea

 I listened to my partner’s idea

 I agreed with my partner’s idea

 I added on to my partner’s idea

 I disagreed with my partner’s Idea

 I used scientific evidence to support my idea

 My partner and I looked for similarities and differences in our ideas

  • Other: ___________________________________

Is there any of the following that you did not do that you would like to try next time? (check ALL that apply)

  • Share my idea

  • Listen to my partner’s idea

  • Agree with my partner’s idea

  • Add to my partner’s idea

  • Disagree with my partner’s idea

  • Use scientific evidence to support my idea

  • Look for similarities and differences between ideas

  • Other: ___________________________________

What were you and your partner talking about? Be specific. (free response question)

Mark the kind of explanation that you feel best describes most of the talk you and your partner did:

  • We mainly talked about what happened. Many of our ideas were about things we saw.

  • We spent most of our time talking about how something happened. We were really trying to explain the steps or processes involved.

  • We worked on figuring out why something happened. Some of the things we talked about were things we can’t see, but we think they’re involved.


Structuring Student Science-Talk For Students Learning

English as an Additional Language1

  • Support the development of student-to-student interaction that is consistently equitable, status-free, and scientifically productive (i.e. student interactions consistently include students’ scientific reasoning, sensemaking, representations, claims, explanations, argument, justifications, and evidence).

  • Support the development of academic English language skills

  • Support increased participation of students identified as English Learners (ELs)


  • Introduce the task and implement the structure. Provide students with the task – carefully worded to assure emphasis on scientific reasoning, sensemaking, representations, claims, explanation, argument, justification, and evidence. Introduce any sentence stems, model their use, and encourage the students to use them in their partner talk.

  • Monitor the science-talk. Listen for trends in student thinking and use of sentence stems. Invite students who are normally quiet in whole class discussions to share a specific idea or insight using evidence when it comes time to whole group discussion.

  • Facilitate a whole class discussion of student ideas. Invite students to report about their thinking, their partner’s thinking, and/or their combined ideas. Question to focus, scaffold, and/or advance student thinking and use of evidence to support that thinking.

  • Reflect about the process of A/B partner sharing. Have the students reflect on how they worked with other: each having roughly equal times to share and talk and interact, respectful interactions and pushing on ideas using evidence, etc.

Additional Planning Tool

Types of Science-Talk A/B Partner Talk for 3 Different Purposes

Listen and Re-Voice

  • Use Private Think Time

  • Form A/B partners

  • A – explains his/her ideas through scientific reasoning, representations, claims, explanation, and evidence

  • B – silently listens to understand A’s scientific thinking. Then re-voices what A’s ideas without judging, adapting, or commenting on correctness of ideas

  • A – clarifies as needed

A and B reverse roles.

Sentence Stems for the Students to Use

Build On an Idea or Challenge an Idea

  • An add-on to the structure above

  • B – builds on or challenges A’s ideas using representations, explanation, and evidence.

  • A – responds to B’s ideas or challenge using representations and evidence

  • Continue until consensus is reached or until both agree to disagree for the moment.

A and B reverse roles.

Sentence Stems for the Students to Use

Identify Similarities and Differences

  • After A and B both have opportunities to share and interact with each other’s ideas, they jointly discuss similarities and differences in their ideas.

Sentence Stems for the Students to Use

1 Adapted from Teachers Development Group, How Science Teaching Matters - “Structuring Student Science-Talk” © 2014 10/4/14

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