September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Free Online PD Opportunity Through Stanford University: Reading to Learn in Science

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Reading and writing are fundamental to science, yet are rarely a focus of science teacher education. “Reading to Learn in Science” provides an opportunity for K-8 science teachers to learn strategies that support student comprehension before, during, and after reading. Visit www.novoed.com/science-mooc for more information on the course, or serpmedia.org/rtl for more information about the challenges of science texts and strategies to support students’ reading. Course begins January 13, 2016.

Course Description: Why do so many students struggle to read and comprehend scientific texts? Most science teachers have witnessed it at least once: a student reads from a textbook or article, proceeding calmly and clearly from sentence to sentence, only to reach the period at the end of the paragraph with little comprehension of what he or she has just read. Even children who learn to read quickly—who begin to devour books or blogs, novels or news stories—often seem to struggle with scientific prose. As a teacher, these struggles raise important questions: Which texts should my students read? What should I do if they struggle to understand? Am I teaching a text too quickly? Too slowly? Will more reading become an uphill battle? Will less reading become less rigorous, a slippery slope that will make reading even more difficult for my students? This course is designed to address such concerns, giving teachers the tools to help students read for understanding in science.

With the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Language Arts, the CCSS for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects, and the continuing expansion of high-stakes testing in our nation’s schools, reading comprehension in science seems more important than ever – particularly as reading is key to accessing knowledge and to employment. Students must be able to engage with and read non-fiction texts such as those found in science, trace the steps of key processes, and cite evidence to draw inferences, formulate hypotheses, and support or critique arguments. These skills have always lain at the very heart of the scientific enterprise, but they are often exceptionally challenging to share with our students at the primary and secondary levels. Why?

Simply put: the language of science is unique. It can be used to communicate rapidly enormous quantities of information with extraordinary specificity—and the same features which make it so useful also make it uniquely challenging to learn. You, as a science teacher, are uniquely well positioned to help your students comprehend the language of science texts—and this course is designed to provide knowledge and strategies to help you do so. We will examine the selection of useful science texts; see specific strategies for supporting student comprehensionbefore, during, and after reading; learn how to recognize the unique challenges posed by science texts and how to help students overcome them; and acquire the skills to foster productive discussion around scientific ideas and texts. Along the way, there will be opportunities to apply your learning inside your classroom, and to pool ideas and resources with professional colleagues from across the state and around the country.

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.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. 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.