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Support students’ autonomy through opportunities for student decision making and direction

Talk Moves

These are sentence/question stems or discourse moves that teachers might say to students when enacting this MDP. Additional ideas and strategies for developing talk moves and classroom discourse skills for both teachers and students can be found in the Accountable Talk Sourcebook, Open SciEd Teacher Handbook, Talk Science Primer, and Discourse Primer for Science Teachers.

Because the five MDPs are synergistic, some talk moves found in this MDP overlap or align strongly with talk moves or talk move categories found in other MDP sections. These talk moves, or the overarching category, are tagged with color-coded dots showing the alignment with the other MDP(s).

Autonomy Talk Moves

Allow students to make choices that are meaningful to them and consequential for their science learning

What to say when soliciting student input in classroom rules and routines
"How would you like to figure out our small groups? How often should we change group members and what roles should they have?"
"What rules do we want to create as a classroom community for participating in a lab activity? When we notice our classmates not following the rules, what are some strategies we can use for reminding them of what we have agreed on?"
"What are some different ways that you could show your understanding of this topic?"
"To communicate what you think the cause of [phenomenon] is, you may choose to create a PowerPoint, write an essay, or develop a model. I'm open to other ideas as well if you’ve thought of something I haven't."
"This is your [handout/reading/book], so mark it up and make any kind of notes that will help you understand it."

Provide opportunities for students to direct their own learning

"How else could we approach this?"
"Did anyone say it differently?"
"What's another way we could do/say that?"
"Why do you think the procedure is written this way and/or contains these steps? Are there other ways to carry out this investigation?"
"Given this objective and these materials for the lab, what procedures could help us accomplish the investigation?"
"Why do you think that?"
"Why not?"
"What evidence have we collected/what science ideas have we learned that can help us explain this phenomenon?"
"How could we test/further investigate that conclusion/idea?"
"That's interesting - tell us more about that."
"Take your time; say more."
Press students with a counterexample or restate a student response in a "devil's advocate" question (e.g., "Sure, but let's say I did decide to combine the substances--what would happen then?")
"After listening to our discussion, who has changed their thinking?"
"How has your thinking changed from before to after the investigation?"
"What questions do you have?"
"What new questions does this raise for you?"
"What still confuses you about…?"
"Take a few minutes to brainstorm with your group about what else you might need to do/learn to answer our driving question."
"[Student] had a great question about [X]. How might we be able to investigate that?"

Provide rationales and support instead of using controlling language/actions

"Since you're looking for the mass of the aluminum foil, what could you do? What do you think you need to do to get it all on the scale?"
"How many different ideas have you come up with? Discuss those and see what you can figure out as a team by the time I come back."
"Where could you look for help?"
"What do you all think of that idea?"
"Would anyone like to add to what [student] said?"
"How does that connect to what [student] said?"
"Do we agree with that idea? Who has something to add?"
"How could we gather more evidence/find out more about that?...[after collecting responses]... Who will take that on for us?"
"I noticed your work has slipped lately; do you know why that might be?"
"What do you think would happen if you tried [X]?"
"I noticed you are struggling with [X]. What are you finding difficult about it?"
"Remember when we decided on our rules for participating in a lab activity? We agreed that [X]."
"It is important to put on your safety goggles to protect your eyes when mixing substances."
"Why do you think each group member has a different role? Why is each role important?"

Acknowledge students' perspectives

"How are you feeling today?"
"It sounds like [X] made you feel [Y]; I can understand why you felt that way."
"I can see you’re excited about this!"
"I know that [X] was tedious for you, did anyone find a different way to [Y]?"
"I know that you find [X] upsetting. What might help you to manage it better?"
After restating/helping to reframe a student's comment: "Am I/Did that accurately reflect your thinking? Is there anything you want to clarify?"
"What do you still think is important for us to find out about this topic?"