March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Eliminating Holiday Distractions: How to Keep Your Students Focused and On-Track

Posted: Thursday, November 1st, 2012

by Amanda Smith

The holidays are a time to work smarter, not harder. We all find ourselves busier than usual during the fall holiday season, both inside our classrooms and in our personal lives. However, we don’t want our students to lose their focus during these critical two months despite the numerous days off, fall/winter fundraisers, special events, and classroom parties. With this in mind, here are some of my personal tips on how you and your students can make the most of this year’s holiday season:

  • Keep to your pacing guide: It can be hard to stay on track in light of all the season’s distractions, but students thrive on stability – and frankly, so do we! Give your students activities and routines they can count on, such as consistent discipline, weekly homework, and classroom rules.
  • Call your parents: This is a great time to update parents about how their child is doing, not only in terms of their academic progress, but also about how well they follow your classroom rules and expectations. Although it takes a substantial amount of time to call every single parent in my spare time, these are such meaningful conversations to have and are an asset in the long run.
  • Add holiday cheer to your lessons and activities: If your school allows you to include holiday-themed lessons and other activities, use that to your advantage within your curriculum. For example, ask students to research how snowflakes crystalize for your science lesson.
  • Beat the holiday stress through efficiency: Take advantage of the fact that by this point in the school year, your students can work independently and/or in small groups. Try grading papers and working on lesson plans while students work on their own, and encourage them to find creative ways to keep busy (such as reading silently between activities).  Consider having students do an oral presentation so that you can evaluate their work during the presentation rather than taking written items home. Try structured peer review to let students help each other learn – you can always pair them up by your choice of method. For example, think about the purpose of the task, and decide whether the student would benefit working with a friend versus with a student with a higher grade.
  • Notice and reinforce success: Providing your students with genuine information about their abilities and competences can prevent many behavior problems in your classroom.  Be sure to commend behavior you have seen rather than behavior you wish to see, such as a direct reminder to the group: “Remember class, we all agreed to walk to recess quietly and in one line.” It’s also important to use positive words that do not single out a particular student, such as, “Many students did a great job cleaning up today after our activity, so now we have more time to read our story.”
  • Revisit personal goals for your students: At the beginning of your school year, you probably set some goals for both yourself and your students. Now is a great opportunity to reflect on your progress! Consider how your students are doing in terms of academics, social interaction, behavior, etc. Ask yourself if your goals need to be revised, or if it’s time to make brand new goals for the future.  It is never too late to make goals for yourself, either. Use your holiday breaks to revisit lessons that you have taught during the fall months, make notes in your planner about what worked, and what didn’t (it will be too hard to think about these things in June!). Last but certainly not least, make sure to make time for yourself and your family during this busy holiday time.

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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California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017


CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Learning to Teach in 3D

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”

I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: