Children ‘talking out’ their theories

Over the years I have had the pleasure of observing some remarkable teachers setting the conditions for authentic learner-centred inquiry. Most of these teachers made this somewhat challenging task look quite easy. A common element in their approach was the use of ‘talk’ in their lessons and, more importantly, the way they facilitated this. These teachers often used particular structures or frameworks to support the facilitation of these conversations. For example, adopting an inquiry stance (Kimberly Lasher-Mitchell), Philosophy for Children, Science Talks (Karen Gallas) and democratic class meetings. What all of these approaches had in common was the teacher honoured the learner’s theories, they facilitated rather than owned the conversation and they joined the inquiry to co-construct meaning with their students.

Recently, Sara and Kate (both participating in CfG) did a fantastic job of modelling these behaviours during their workshops on our ISE Day. This reminded me of a teacher I worked with in a previous school, Anna, who masterfully applied the theory developed by Karen Gallas around ‘Science Talks’. Below is short section of Gallas’ book on the importance of talk in science. Below this article is a rare glimpse of children’s thinking at the start of a unit on sound. It is worth pointing out that this thinking was in a Grade 2 class during the first provocation for the unit. In the first document you will observe the students’ initial theories around how sound travels. These theories were collected as the students completed some simple experiments. The second document is a transcript of the incredible Science Talk which followed.

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