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Modern middle school science curricula use group activities to help students express their thinking and enable them to work together like scientists. We are studying rural 8th grade science classrooms using materials on energy. Even after spending several months with the same curriculum on other physics topics, students' engagement in group activities seems to be restricted to creating lists of words that are associated with energy. Though research suggests that children have rich and potentially valuable ideas about energy, our students don't seem to spontaneously use and express their ideas in the classroom. Only within or after certain interactions with a teacher do students begin to explore and share these ideas. We present and characterize examples of student-teacher interactions resulting in students' deeper engagement with their ideas about energy. This preliminary analysis of video-recorded classroom dialog is a step toward helping teachers improve their students' learning about energy.