• More than words: co-constructive dialogue as a strategy for technical, academic language acquisition (TALA) in an indigenous, middle school science classroom

      Ladwig, Joachim H.; Patterson, Leslie; Siekmann, Sabine; Martelle, Wendy (2019-05)
      This teacher action research study investigated how secondary science students respond to small group co-construction activities designed to help them produce collaborative summaries of scientific information. The principle research question guiding this study asks, "How do middle school students engage in content learning and in the use of technical academic language (TAL) during a science writer's workshop?" Building upon the work of previous investigators I studied how emerging bilingual Grade 8 students participated in a science writer's workshop as they co-constructed written summaries in small groups. After initial instruction about the science content, participants worked in table groups to begin their summaries and become comfortable with the process. Participants were regrouped for the final phases of the workshop as they revised their earlier work. Twelve classroom sessions were digitally recorded and from them 25 language-related episodes (LREs) from two small groups were identified for further investigation. LREs were transcribed and analyzed for patterns of student interaction and then correlated with students' written summaries. These deeper interaction patterns became the targeted categories of this investigation: teaming; going beyond the content; and disagreeing. Each of these patterns provide different opportunities for students to learn more about the science content and to use scientific language. The extra time for this collaboration allowed for more TAL usage and seemed to make a meaningful difference in these students' final writings. Further, analysis reveals that TALA is a complex sociocultural process and that the dialogic process inherent in the science writer's workshop is more important than the words alone. In this context, dialogue about science in the context of the science writer's workshop supported both content learning and the acquisition of TAL for these emergent bilingual middle school students.