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What do you get when you add 20 kindergarten students and a student-led science discussion for the first time? Mass chaos! So, after taking some time to recover, the authors began to reflect on what they could change to help orchestrate quality science discussions in their kindergarten class. They wondered how they could empower young learners to partake in science discussions that would include participating, negotiating, taking turns, and listening to others. From these reflections, a “Science Conversation” plan was formed and implemented. They found that student-led discussions can begin in kindergarten. These young students are very capable… and they have a lot to say!
A selection from Science and Children—February 2009
This article is an excellent resource for teachers to understand how to cultivate a classroom culture where there are student-led science discussions in a kindergarten classroom. With this age group, students need explicit directions which need to be repeated multiple times. It was great to read detailed directions and rules for beginning a student-led discussion as well as photos that show concept maps which came about in student discourse. With clear rules and expectations, there is less room for chaos and non- judgmental disagreements in the classroom. Creating a visual for students to see helps visual learners to see what was being discussed and helps the teacher to use what was conversed as talking points when it is time to debrief about the topic. This was especially helpful because I often find myself listening to a student-led discussion and miss some information. Having something visual not only helps to students as a reference, but it will also help the teacher throughout a science unit.
This article provides good advice on how to promote constructive discussion in a kindergarten classroom. The idea of establishing the rule where the students talk to eachother and work through their disagreements without initial assistance from the teacher is important, this idea will not only help students see both sides of a problem, but it will help develop a life skill. It was nice to see that this article discussed situations when the teacher allowed the students to work through their disagreements as well as when to intervene, and then the follow up to the intervention.
Creating a concept map is a great way to help students share their known vocabulary in science and to introduce new vocabulary. I have used this idea before in older grades but have not done so in kindergarten. I do believe that with the way you presented it, students could be very successful.
I also wanted to compliment you on writing the question mark beside questionable thoughts. Then you used a book, not the internet to find the answer right away. All to often our children think we just google it and sometimes that is alright. However, I love how you showed them that answers are found in books and reading can be enjoyable. This is a great way to teach across the curriculum.
This article provides helpful tips to have often too talkative kindergarten students to participate in large group discussions about science. Initial rules have to be established and reinforced until students accept this new way of discussion. The learning of this skill is a work in progress that gets better the more you use it with your students.
Adah (San Antonio, TX)
I enjoyed this article. I teach K/1 where conversations among students generally go fairly well. While there might be some silliness taking place, usually at least one of the students stays on topic. Sounds like this is more tricky in a room full of kindergarteners. Using an object for students to pass when they are talking helped.
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