May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Bridging the Communication Gap Between Teacher and Parent

Posted: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

When I think back to being a brand new teacher, one of my biggest regrets was not communicating with parents more.  To be honest, learning how to bridge the communication gap between teacher and parent is still one of my biggest challenges each new school year.  Here are some tips on how to develop a good relationship with your classroom parents, and whether you have 25 students or closer to 200, you can always find creative ways to do this.

  • Keep parents informed on a regular basis about what you are doing in your classroom:

♦ Parents really appreciate hearing about all the daily/weekly/monthly activities going on in your classroom.  This can be done in a variety of ways, such as a weekly or monthly newsletter, class webpage, or take-home letters.  You can include projects, activities, fun events on campus, etc.

♦ It’s helpful to regularly update parents on their child’s academic and behavior performance as well.  As a middle school teacher I send out weekly or at least biweekly updates via text message and email to my students’ parents about academics and behavior.  This has helped greatly with keeping students on track, and also helps the individual student stay accountable for their actions and work ethic.

  • Disciplining students:

♦ Parents will be much more supportive of your discipline plan both inside and outside the classroom if you contact them as soon as negative behavior starts.  Waiting too long to contact parents gives little time to correct the issue and make positive corrections.  If a parent does not know about a behavior problem, it makes it difficult for them to support what you are doing in your classroom.

  • You can always say no to parents:

♦ Remember that you are the final decision maker in your classroom.  You can always politely, gently and firmly, say, “No!”  Sometimes parents need to learn restraint just as much as their children do.  Feel confident in your decision to say no when it is appropriate.

  • No news is not always good news:

♦ Parents enjoy hearing about the positives much more than the negatives.  Just think about the typical student who has a lot of behavior problems, is talkative in class, and does not turn in homework; the parent of that student may only hear about these negative behaviors, and probably doesn’t relish the constant reminders.  However, sending short emails, phone calls, or text messages about something positive can really make a difference.  I like to send home updates on high test scores, vast improvements in class participation, “light bulb” moments during discussions, etc.  A balance of positives with the negatives definitely helps parents to remember that their child is capable of learning, and can do well in school, even when faced with the challenging behavior issues mentioned above.

  • Never give up on a parent (even if they seem to have given up on you):

♦ Not every parent can show up to meetings, or be reached by email or phone, and sending home notes is not always successful…so what do you do?  Continue making phone calls and leaving messages (document all of your attempts), send letters home in the mail (instead of sending them home with the student), and if your school or district allows, make a home visit.  Persistence can be the key to communicating with a seemingly unreachable parent.

  • Additional ways to work with parents:

♦ Encourage parents to participate in class and school-wide activities.

♦ Reward, recognize and thank parents for their efforts (even for the small things).

♦ Ask parents to come into the classroom and share their hobbies and talents.  Just because you can’t paint with oils on canvas, doesn’t mean one of your parents can’t.  Students can learn a lot from the talents of others, including your own classroom parents.

♦ Assure parents that you are truly invested in their child’s learning and remind them that the reason you need their involvement is for the benefit of their child.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member of CSTA.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.