Is it worth it? Can I do it? Building Students’ Science Understanding and Language Proficiency.

Focus and Relevance
Science provides students with multiple opportunities to simultaneously build science understanding and language proficiency. However, not all teachers know how to maximize opportunities to teach and support language acquisition within a science lesson. This workshop will outline an interactive word wall professional development and provide the resources needed to support pre service and in-service teachers as they acquire new insight and skills designed to support academic language development during science instruction.
District leaders and instructional coaches know that being a change agent can be difficult. Jim Knight (2009) suggests that teachers will more readily adopt new practices if the professional development addresses two questions. First, Is it worth it? And second, Can I do it? To address the first question, “professional development should provide teachers with experiences that demonstrate the value of a program” (Knight, 2009, p. 510). Providing teachers with step-by-step instructions and support as they experiment with the new practice in their individual classrooms addresses the second question; Can I do it? Personal experience increases the probability of successful implementation because teachers need to experience success to believe in and continue to use new teaching practices (Knight 2009).
Building Academic Language during Science Instruction
Interactive word walls support academic language development during science instruction because they strategically target academic vocabulary, visually display connections between inquiry science activities and academic vocabulary, and are student generated. Students work individually, in pairs or in groups to create labels or select items for interactive word walls (Jackson & Narvaze, 2013). Claims, evidence and reasoning (CER) statements structure scientific explanations that justify placement of artifacts on the word wall. CER statements also create opportunities for students to practice speaking and writing about science concepts represented on the word wall during and after word wall construction (Jackson, Durham, Dowell, Sockel, & Boynton, 2016).
The interactive word wall professional development that will be presented is structured as a full-day (6 hour) professional development. It begins by providing teachers research-based vocabulary instruction viewed through the lens of visual literacy (Is it worth it?). Followed by an overview of an easy to follow 5-step structure that supports planning and implementing interactive word walls (Can I do it?).
Is It Worth It? Visual Literacy
Visual literacy refers to students’ ability to “interpret, recognize, appreciate, and understand information presented through visible actions, objects and symbols, natural or man-made” (Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills). Students’ everyday lives reflect the dominance of images on screen that are colorful and animated. Academic language development benefits when school experiences and explanations incorporate visuals, models or symbols that are natural or student-generated. Interactive word walls combine visual literacy and academic language development. They are worth it.
Is It Worth It? Practices of Science.
The practices of science outline how scientific knowledge is developed and refined through scientific investigation (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Attendees will use visual literacy and the practices of science to describe the difference between traditional word walls and interactive word walls. Interactive word walls strategically target academic vocabulary, visually display artifacts from inquiry activities that incorporate the practices of science, and highlight connections between inquiry science activities and academic vocabulary. Interactive word walls support all students, not just students with prior knowledge. They are worth it.

Is It Worth It? English Learners
Dr. Jim Cummins (1984) studied what makes language acquisition easier or harder for English Learners. His Framework for Evaluating Language Demand in Content Activities divides classroom activities into four areas based on two factors: cognitive demand and contextual support. Cognitive demand refers to the rigor of a task and contextual support refers to activities within a lesson that offer clues about the meaning of words. Contextual supports include gestures, demonstrations, and visual cues such as pictures, charts, graphs, and tables. He advocates that students should learn a new language in a context-rich environment and then, as language skills improve, move to a context-reduced environment. Context-reduced environments lack visual supports and rely exclusively on auditory skills.
Sheltered instruction suggests that English learners benefit when learning environments are contextually rich and include real items (realia) and pictures that explicitly link content instruction with vocabulary acquisition (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short 2009). Using real items, models, and color photos to support science instruction allows students opportunities to use the practices of science and it creates a visually stimulating and context-rich environment for students learning a new language. Word walls that include real items, models, color photos, or student-generated materials are worth it.

Can I Do It? 5-steps that Support Planning and Implementing Interactive Word Walls
Interactive word walls are visual displays that organize science concepts, visual supports, and academic vocabulary in meaningful ways. They are planned by teachers but assembled by students. This part of the workshop will present an easy to follow 5-step structure guides planning and constructing interactive word walls.

Is It Worth It? Can I Do It?
Interactive word walls are useful to students in not only unifying related terms and concepts, but also in helping students visually link science experiences with academic vocabulary. By combining visual literacy and language acquisition research with the practices of science, we can demonstrate that interactive word walls are powerful tools that support academic language development. We believe the 5-steps for planning and implementing interactive word walls are easy to follow and answer the question “Can I do it?” Powerful strategies that are easy to implement underpin successful professional development. With regard to interactive word walls, Are they worth it? Yes. Can you do it? Absolutely.

Post conference support is available at and via email or Google Hangout.

ASTE members charged with training pre and in-service teachers, curriculum developers, and researchers seeking an instruction strategy they can use to improve the science achievement of English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and at-risk students may be interested in this workshop.

Learning objectives & assessment

1. This workshop will provide attendees with experiences that demonstrate the value of interactive word walls vs. traditional word walls that are static lists of words.
2. Attendees with experience building an interactive word wall.
3. Attendees will experience using an interactive word wall to generate genres of text, both written and verbal forms, that are intrinsic to science.

Formative assessment will occur throughout the session as attendees participate in the practices of science activity, build an interactive word wall, and then use the interactive word wall to generate written and verbal text.

Attendee participation level – This session will be a combination of lecture and hands-on participation. Attendees will participate in a practices of science/visual literacy activity then they will follow a 5-Step process to plan and construct an interactive word wall. Finally, they will use the interactive word wall to generate written and verbal text.

Presenter bio sketch – Dr. Julie Jackson (aka the Science Toolkit) is an associate professor at Texas State University. She developed “interactive word walls” which have transformed K-12 science and vocabulary instruction. She has a record of sustained and powerful site-based interventions that have improved teaching practice and student scores on high-stakes tests. She has broad classroom teaching experience and has published research articles in international and national peer-reviewed journals. Her main research interest is the seamless integration of research-based practices into the day-to-day planning and execution of highly effective, standards aligned, science instruction that benefits diverse populations.