To me, a big part of facilitating good science discussions involves getting students to let me "in"– in on what they are thinking.
My pre-game warm up for this includes trying to answer the following questions:
- How will people react? What will they say?
- What specific ideas might come up at first? What questions will arise?
- What lines of reasoning might someone take? How might others respond? Are there counter arguments or supporting examples?
- Will people change their minds? Why or why not?
- What new ideas or questions will emerge later in the discussion that didn't at first?
Post Game Review
After the discussion, I go back and review my notes. For the rainbow activity, Benedikt and I were able to anticipate a lot of the ideas, questions, and arguments that actually came up. But I also heard lots of ideas and question we didn't anticipate. Here are just a few
- What would happen if we compressed a rainbow down, gradually making it smaller and smaller so the colors get closer? Would the colors look different? Would it look white if we compressed it all the way?
- If rainbows are made by tiny rain droplets, why do wet get one big rainbow? Shouldn't we get a zillion little rainbows?
- White light comes from the sun, and this light is being emitted from atoms. Since the sun only has certain atoms, do we only get certain frequencies of light? Does that mean we don't have all the colors?
- A suggestion for what "in" means. A color is in the rainbow only if you can show someone else where it is by pointing to its location.
- Is color even "a thing" that can be "in" something? How can something be "in" a rainbow?
- Computer monitors as a "light" palette for testing out how to make different colors? Is that the same as mixing rainbow colors?
The more I do this, the better I get at anticipating how conversations will go. The better I get at anticipating how conversations will go, the better listener I become. The better listener I become, the better guide I can be for my students.
Next week, I'm getting more practice. I'll be trying the "Are all the colors in the rainbow?" question in my science teaching course. I'll let you know how it goes. It comes on the heels of a reading called, "Making thinking visible: Talk and Argumentation in the Classroom"