Multilingual Learners and OpenSciEd - OpenSciEd


OpenSciEd intentionally uses the term emerging multilingual learner (EML) because it is asset-oriented, highlighting students’ multiple resources and knowledge of languages in addition to English. An estimated 5 million students, or 10% of the total student population in the United States, are EMLs (this is likely an underestimation because these numbers only reflect students who have been legally identified as English Language Learners (ELLs) and thus are entitled, through state and federal laws, to academic coursework with specialized support to help them reach certain thresholds for English proficiency). EMLs are not a uniform student group. The term EMLs captures an extremely diverse group of students that vary amongst many factors, including (but not limited to) race, family and schooling backgrounds, immigration circumstances, generational status, languages they know and speak, English language proficiency, and the types of programmatic supports they might be receiving (or have received) in school to address their English language development (e.g., sheltered English instruction, pull-out programs, ESL programs, bilingual classroom aids, etc.). Most importantly, EMLs bring into our classrooms multiple resources, as well as rich lived experiences and ideas about how our natural world works. As a student group who has historically received unequal access and inadequate instruction in science, it is critical that teachers learn to notice, value, and leverage their EMLs’ contributions in the classroom. Doing so will only enrich the classroom community’s science learning experiences. 

We highly encourage folks to check out pages 47-49 of the Teacher Handbook which includes information about why it is important to consider EMLs in light of current science reform movements, the role of language in scientific sensemaking, and how OpenSciEd recognizes and draws upon their cultural and linguistic resources all the while supporting their learning experiences (if and when needed). 

How do OpenSciEd materials support emerging multilingual learners?

When exploring OpenSciEd materials, consider the following resources, supports, and features of the OpenSciEd instructional model: 

  • WebinarThis one-hour webinar reviews different strategies and ways in which OpenSciEd provides multilingual learners with rich learning opportunities in science. 
  • OpenSciEd Strategies for Supporting Multilingual Learners toolThis handout provides different strategies that teachers can carry out to enhance their multilingual students’ learning across the following four areas: (1) student engagement, (2) student expression of ideas, (3) use of language for scientific sensemaking, and (4) representation of content. 
  • Teacher Edition: Within each lesson teacher guide there are embedded sidebar callout boxes for key moments where teachers can use specific strategies to draw on multilingual learners’ strengths and reduce potential barriers to learning. 
  • Student materials: OpenSciEd currently provides Spanish student editions, handouts and assessments for students who are users of Spanish.
  • OpenSciEd Instructional Model
    • The instructional routines that make up the OpenSciEd Instructional Model provide many scaffolded opportunities for multilingual students to practice talking in partners, small groups, and then finally as a whole class.
    • Activities include options for students to express their ideas in many ways,  with an emphasis on students using both linguistic (e.g., talking and writing) and non-linguistic (e.g., drawing, graphing) resources to share their thinking.

Teacher Experiences

Hear from some teachers in the field about their experiences using OpenSciEd in their classrooms with multilingual learners.