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).

Toolkit Talk Moves

What to say when allowing students to express emotions
“How are you feeling today?”
 
 
“It sounds like [X] made you feel [X]; I can understand why you felt that way.”
 
 
“I can see you’re excited about this!”
 
 
"I am sensing that [X] was tedious for some of you, did anyone find a different way to [X]?"
 
 
"I am sensing that you find [X] upsetting. What might help you to manage it better?"
 
 
"I haven’t heard from this group. What do you all think?"
 
"I hadn’t thought about it that way. That helps me understand this even better."
 
"I like that [student] shared [X] because …."
 
"It made me think of [X] when [student/group] said/asked/did….."
 
"Thank you for sharing, [name]... "
  • "...we should definitely talk more about this!"
  • "...I’d love to hear more ideas so we can unpack this even more." [Open up to class].
 
"I love to see your thinking caps hard at work."
 
"All the hard work you all put in makes me so proud."
 
"As I observed you working/listened to your groups, I noticed... [something positive highlighted across multiple groups]."
 
"Who wants to add on to what [name] said?"
 
"How does that connect to what [name] said?"
 
"Who agrees with what [name] said? Disagrees? Would anyone like to explain why they agree or disagree with that idea or add something?"
 
"Hmm...that's a great question, [name]. What does the class think?"
 
"We just heard [student] describe [X], who else had that observation?"
 
"Talk to your group members, you can help each other."
 
"What does your neighbor think? How does that inform your perspective?"
 
"What experiences has your neighbor had [with this skill/phenomena/etc]?"
 
"Turn to your neighbor and share what wonderings you have after today’s activity."
 

"With your base groups,[1,2] discuss who you think is the coolest science person out there!"

 
"Using your talk moves, let’s discuss as a class what we observed and what you think that means."
 
"I love to see everyone helping each other!"
 
"It's very exciting to see all of you work together to figure things out."
 
"The teamwork in here is impressive. You all worked so well together."
 
"You all listen to each other very well; we are a strong community in here."
 
"The group effort in here is what makes us all grow, and that is super cool. You should be proud to be such team players."
 
"This [thinking/product/answer/model/analysis] that you have created together is powerful! Better thinking and better products happen when we all contribute."
 
"I have experienced (observed, etc.) that, too! Who can relate? Are there other experiences from your own life that this reminds you of?"
 
"This is what [X] reminds me of, but that is only my perspective that I got from my personal experience. What do you all think of?"
 
"We can all learn something from everyone in here, and I enjoy learning more as I listen to all of you."
 
"Can you all help me brainstorm how to..." [call on one group at a time to contribute]
 
"I actually don’t know how/why that works (or don’t know the answer to that question). I’ll have to look into that by [X] and get back to you."
 
"Everyone has such valuable input..."
 
 
  • "...who can share an example of this from their real life?"
  • "...are there other phenomena that you can think of that are interesting to you as an example of this concept/idea?"
"I love to see how each of you thinks about [x]."
 
 
"I'll bet there are lots of connections between [topic/phenomena] and your life outside of school. What connections do you see?"
 
 
"You may not know the scientist in you yet, but we all have a scientist in us and it’s so exciting to discover the ways we already think and 'do' like scientists."
 
"It's okay [not to know / that you found that challenging]. Scientists encounter challenges all the time; that's how they learn new things and make important discoveries."
 
"You're doing what scientists/engineers do."
 
"You all sound like scientists/engineers the way you are asking questions!"
 
"Scientists/engineers do that! How did you learn about/to do [X]?"
 
"If you like [topic], you might think about becoming a [X]"
 
"Good morning [scientists/engineers/biologists/physicists/geologists, etc]!"
 
"There is something in science for everyone--let’s see what part of science speaks to you."
 
"People from all kinds of backgrounds have studied this topic/helped us develop our current understanding of this topic."
 
"Did you know that the scientist who worked on [topic] was/had [include personal characteristics that students can relate to]?"
 
"Like [scientist with whom students can identify], we are going to explore [X]."
 
"Does anyone have an example of a scientist they admire that made a contribution to this topic? Why do you admire this person?"
 
What to say when explaining and clarifying the learning goal for a task
"The reason why we’re doing [X] is to help us understand [Y]"
 
"Why are we doing this today?"
 
Invite students to recap/summarize/synthesize: "What have we learned/discovered?" (also supports understanding)
 
"I see that your team has [X]. A good next step might be to [Y] because it would [connection to learning goal]."
 
"Before we get started, can someone tell us in their own words what you are expected to do for this assignment?"
 
"What questions do you have before we get started?"
 
"Can someone please read today’s objective for us?" [student reads objective] "Thank you [name]. How will that help us to better understand [phenomenon] (solve the [design [problem])?"
 
"Recall that yesterday we [summary of activity and/or learning] and we wanted to know more about [topic/question]. So today we are going to explore [topic/question]."
 
"Looking at today's aim, does anyone have any ideas how this connects to [phenomenon/design problem/driving question]?"
 
"While you work on this, remember you have the following resources you can use: [describe resources/scaffolds]. I've listed them on the board in case you need a reminder. With [Resource X] you can [explanation of how resource X will help students]."
 
"You'll have about [time frame] to complete [section/part of project/task]. You don't need to go past [portion of project/task] so focus on [focal part of project/task] today. We'll work on the other part tomorrow."
 
"I've put up a couple of examples of what your project might look like. What are some features you notice that you think you might include in your project? [student responses] Are there any parts you would like to know more about? [student responses]"
 
"I expect this next task will take about 10 minutes. I'll check in with you in about 8 minutes to see if you need more time."
 
"Remember, after you read about [topic], we are going to discuss it in our groups, and then share out about how it applies [e.g., phenomenon]."
 
"This is a lot of work, so I will check in with about 5 minutes to go in class to see if we might need time tomorrow. Let's see if we can do it all today."
 
"In about [time] you can start to go to the library to look for more resources. I'll let you know table by table so it doesn't get too crowded over there."
 
"When you and your partner complete a section, move on to the partner discussion we talked about earlier."
 
"Once you get to [part of lesson], we'll pause so I can take you through how to do [task] since it is the first time you all have done [task]."
 
"[Task] is really challenging work, and I know you can do it. You might think about [strategy/next step] next."
 
"I see that you have really been working hard on [task]. I would like to challenge you to [achievable and challenging learning goal]."
 
"Challenge is good. People learn from challenging experiences."
 
"Scientists and engineers are challenged all the time because they are figuring new stuff out. They are often not sure what the 'right' way to do things is. Some of the most important scientific and technological advancements came when someone got stuck with a problem they weren't sure how to solve at first."
 
"It's okay if you have a setback or make a mistake while you're working. The work you're doing is challenging and sometimes it takes a few tries to get the result you have in your mind."
 
"It will be very exciting in [time frame] when you will be so much better at [skill]!"
 
Concluding feedback on written work: "I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them."
 
Return to a student if you've gone elsewhere to get a question (fully) answered: "It really helps to get multiple perspectives on these challenging questions. Can you summarize the responses for us?"
 
"You are really working/thinking/challenging yourself like a [scientist/engineer]. The next step they might take is..."
 
"If you really wanted to push this further, you could try [describe extension activity]"
 
"I'd love to see you challenge yourself and see where you can take this."
 
"[Name] saw that this reading is similar to the one we did last week. That's important because it means we can use some of the same strategies we used then to identify the important information."
 
"One reason to record initial ideas is to be able to see the progress you have made in your learning."
 
"What if you and [student] work together? I think the two of you would be a great team to figure this out."
 
"I saw that [name] had a nice strategy for doing that, maybe they can give you some tips?"
 
"What did you do to figure that out?"
 
"Your strategies got you this far; what else might you try at this point?"
 
 
"What did you do on [earlier task] that helped you? Do you think that could work again here?"
 
"And if we get stuck while working, what can we do to get unstuck?"
 
"Do you have strategies to help you with that step?"/ "What resources might be helpful for you in completing that step?"
 
"How might you break this problem into smaller steps?"
 
"I can see how that would be difficult. I do see that you did [task] successfully! What do you think your next step is?"
 
"Use what we've learned in class and ask for help when you need it." (instead of, "Good luck!")
 
"When I find something difficult/don't know the answer, sometimes I use [strategy] and that helps me."
 
 
"When I don't know something/struggle with something, I try to [X]"
 
 
"Here's how I’m thinking about this..."
 
 
"As scientists, we know that we need evidence to support our claim, so I think I'll try designing an investigation to collect more observations."
 
 
"As strategic readers, we [explain reading strategy]."
 
 
"I like that you [specific feature of student response] because it shows me that you [comment about strategy use or effort]."
 
 
"I really like the way you planned out your steps, that really shows me that you thought carefully about your strategy."
 
 
"That's a really important point because [reasoning]."
 
 
"I can really tell the effort you showed to do [task]; look at the improvement you've made!"
 
 
"I noticed that you made progress on [task/skill/ learning goal]."
 
 
"Great use of evidence to support your claims."
 
 
"I noticed that you backed up the claim you made with evidence. That helps the rest of us to determine if we agree with your claim or not."
 
 
"That's great. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this because…"
 
 
"Maybe if you try [strategy] you’ll figure it out."
 
 
"I have very high expectations for my students. The reason I'm pushing you with these suggestions is that I know you can handle this work and meet those expectations."
 
 
"It's okay to make mistakes. Some of the most important scientific discoveries happened as a result of mistakes, so it's important to think about what you might learn from this and how you can use your new knowledge next time."
 
 
"Why do you think you made that error?"
 
 
"Show me what you've done so far so that we can think together about what to try next."
 
 
"It looks like you might be struggling a bit; that's okay. That is how we learn new things. If it were super easy then you probably wouldn't learn much from it. But maybe we can find a strategy to help tackle this."
 
 
"Here's what you did well..., and here are some suggestions for improvement..."
 
 
"Looking at what you have here, [suggestion] would strengthen this because [provide rationale based on rubric description or evaluation standard]."
 
 
"Remember that we're working toward [goal/product], so I think [strategy/suggestion] will help us because [reasoning]."
 
 
"You're not there yet, but I think if you work hard on [strategy], you’ll see improvement."
 
 
Getting students to use evidence to support and evaluate claims
"What's your evidence for that?"
 
"How do you know that?"
 
"What did you see/observe that makes you think that?"
 
"How can you support or defend what you just said?"
 
"Is that evidence sufficient? Are there other kinds of evidence that could support our claim?"
 
"Interesting idea, [name]. How could we get more evidence for 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?")
 
"Why do you think that?"
 
"Why not?"
 
"What did you do to figure that out?"
 
"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."
 
"After listening to our discussion, who has changed their thinking?"
 
 
"How has your thinking changed from before to after the investigation?"
 
 
When students do change their thinking: "What changed your thinking about this?"
 
 
"What new questions does this raise for you?"
 
 
"How could we gather more evidence/find out more about that?" After collecting responses: "Who will take that on for us?"
 
 
"What still confuses you about [X]?"
 
"What questions do you have?" (instead of "Any questions?" or "Does that make sense?")
 
"Groups were struggling with [X], so how about we talk about why that was challenging and discuss the things we did in response. Let's start on this side of the room. Group A, what did you find challenging about [X]?"
 
"It's okay not to know. Some of the most important scientific discoveries happened as a result of mistakes, so it's important to think about what you might learn from this and how you can use your new knowledge next time."
 
 
"It looks like you might be struggling a bit; that's okay. That is how we learn new things. If it were super easy then you probably wouldn't be learning much! Maybe we can find a strategy to help us tackle this problem/challenge more effectively."
 
 
"As you prepare for [assessment], think about how you're going to show your understanding and explain your thinking instead of just memorizing facts."
 
"Let's talk about some ideas for how to practice thinking through these concepts at home to prepare for the [assessment]."
 
"I'm looking forward to seeing your thinking on [assessment]." (instead of "I'm hoping to see some good/better scores")
 
"I can see from the [assessment] that maybe we should spend some more time discussing [concept] together so that we really understand it."
 
"The most important thing is that you really understand this stuff. It’s less important whether you got it the first time around or have to revisit it a few times to get it to click."
 
"Scientists have to revise their work all the time."
 
"I noticed that you made progress on [X]."
 
 
"I was happy to give you extra time because you were all working so thoughtfully and it’s important that you have that time to figure this out."
 
 
"I can see how hard you worked / I can tell you put a lot of effort into this because…"
 
 
"You're becoming an expert."
 
 
"I like that you [specific feature of student response] because it shows me that you [comment about strategy use or effort]."
 
 
"I really like the way you planned out your steps, that really shows me that you thought carefully about your strategy."
 
 
"Look at the improvements you’ve made. Your hard work really paid off"
 
 
"Why do you think you made that error?"
 
 
"Show me what you've done so far so that we can think together about what to try next."
 
 
"Looking at what you have here, [suggestion] would strengthen this because [rationale based on rubric description or evaluation standard]."
 
 
"You're not there yet, but I think if you work hard on [strategy], you’ll see improvement."
 
 
"Your strategies got you this far; what else might you try at this point?"
 
 
"I’m not asking you to be right, I’m asking you to share your thinking."
 
"Tell us your best guess right now so that we have as many ideas/predictions as possible to return to later." (emphasizing that we can update our understanding of a phenomenon as we gain evidence)
 
"[Name] just suggested [X] - do we agree with that idea? Who has a different perspective or something to add to our thinking about [X]?"
 
"We just heard [name] describe [X]; who else had that observation?" With follow-up: "What other observations did you all have?"
 
When enforcing wait time: "Take your time and think about it for a minute. It is not important that you get your answer before others. It is important that you take the time you need to think through the question. I'll ask for volunteers in a few minutes."
 
"Did anyone say it differently?" (affirms original response/right answer while communicating value in hearing different ways of expressing the same idea)
 
"What's another way we could do/say that?"
 
"Don't worry about how your neighbor did. Instead, I'd like you to spend a few minutes looking over my comments. See if you can identify where you are making mistakes and what you need to keep working on."
 
"The way you are thinking about this in this assignment is so much more sophisticated than how you were thinking last week - I can tell you've really grown a lot in your thinking."
 
"Oops, I made a mistake there, but that's ok…"
 
  • "...that’s what happens when you try something new/difficult."
  • "...it gave me the chance to learn [X]."
"Thanks, [name]. Your comment/question helped me find an error in my thinking/my work. This is why it's helpful to discuss our ideas with others."
 
"I made a mistake there. Looking at it again, it looks like I went wrong when I did [X]. Next time I think I’ll use [strategy] to check my process."
 
"When I find something difficult/don’t know the answer, sometimes I use [strategy] and that helps me."
 
 
"When I don't know something/struggle with something, I try to [X]."
 
 
"Here's how I’m thinking about this..."
 
 
"As scientists, we know that we need evidence to support our claim, so I think I'll try designing an investigation to collect more observations."
 
 
"As strategic readers, we [explain reading strategy]."
 
 
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."
 
"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?"
 
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?")
 
 
"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."
 
 
"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?"
 
"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?"
 
"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?"
 
Getting students to connect current learning to personal interests, curiosity, and experiences
"I love to see how each of you thinks about [X]."
 
"How many of you are familiar with/know about [person, place or thing]?"
 
"Have you ever wondered about…?"
 
"I know you're interested in [X], how might this apply to that?"
 
"Where have you seen this in your life?"
 
"How do you think your life would be different without [X]?"
 
"What else does this make you wonder about?"
 
"Everyone has such valuable input, who wants to tell me..." [what you think will happen if/when...; your thoughts about how this can be used in the real world?]
 
"Why is it important (to your community)?"
 
"Why might we want to know/do this?"
 
"How can your community or society in general benefit from knowing this?"
 
"How might this affect you or your family?"
 
"These are tools (or skills) that scientists and engineers use to answer questions and solve problems."
 
"How could you use these skills in your everyday life?"
 
"What can people do with this knowledge?"
 
"You may use this in your life when…"
 
"Scientists describe things in the natural world, which you are doing"
 
"What kind of jobs is this knowledge helpful for?"
 
"Scientists (or other career field) use this when…"
 
"This is really cool; you can check out other parts of it at home."
 
"Are you ready to have your minds blown?"
 
"These are some cool ways that scientists communicate their findings."
 
"What you are doing right now is what scientists do!"
 
"I think this is great because it helps prepare us for the careful observations we are about to make."
 
"How does this connect to [previous topic/skill]?"
 
"Who wants to share how your prior knowledge informed your original prediction, and what this investigation has taught you now?"
 
"This will prepare you for a more sophisticated exploration of [X] in [context]."
 
"I saw/read [X] recently and I thought it was really cool because [Y]"
 
"Did you notice [particular phenomenon] happening this weekend/this season?"
 
“There’s an exhibit about [X] at [local institution] - I encourage you to check it out!”
 
"I heard about [local issue/news story] and I thought about [science concept from class] because…"
 
"Are any of you or your families involved in [local event]? I bet you never thought about how science plays a role in that! [Give explanation]"