August 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 12

Getting Your Primary Classroom Ready for Science!

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

It’s hard to believe summer vacation is almost over and it’s time to plan for a new school year. As primary teachers, you know the importance of building the foundations with your young students during the year to support their futures as students, lifelong learners, and informed citizens. A critical component of these educational foundations is science! But, where do you start?

There are many questions to consider as you plan for a successful year of science learning. What initial steps will you take with NGSS? When is the best time of year to cover life science, physical science, and earth science? When will science fit into your school day? How will students record and share what they observe, do, and learn? How will you manage science hands-on activities and realia in your classroom? Will you plan a field trip to enrich and enhance students’ science learning? What routines will you need in place for “Science Talk?” The list goes on!

With so many questions, possibilities, and of course circumstances specific to each school, workable, effective plans will vary widely. Ultimately you’re the best judge of what works for your situation, so here are some ideas and options to consider, combine, and adapt as you plan.

Classroom Set-Up
Giving thought to your classroom set-up now will allow you greater access to making science successful through the year. Science-ready classrooms include a corner or table where you and your students can share science related realia, specimens, and books to support a unit of study. Plan where to keep your science supplies, materials, and resources. You might also consider seating arrangements geared for science. Since early explorations are often with partners and small groups, some teachers like clustered seating or table groups. Figure out where “Science Talk” will take place at the end of each science lesson.

Science Routines
Establishing classroom routines is also a vital component to successful science experiences and learning. These routines fall into three categories: 1) hands-on science experiences, 2) recording/sharing science learning, and 3) “Science Talk.”

Routines to establish for students’ hands-on activities include establishing who will gather materials, who will perform the activities, and who will cleanup materials. Some teachers use a card or job system to establish who will be the “Getter,” “Recorder,” and “Worker.”

Recording and sharing science experiences and learning begins with a science journal or notebook, so determine what your science journals/notebooks will look like. Some options are teacher-made individual unit journals or whole class booklets or charts. It can even be binders or three-ring pocket folders for older primary students. The choice you make will set the groundwork for the remainder of the year.

The routines you set for science notebooks should include rules for making entries. For example, they should always include the date, and drawings should be accurate (e.g. no pink butterflies just because they like pink) and labeled. Of course developmental abilities of the students must always be taken into account. For a kindergartener entries may involve dictation, sentence strips, stamped dates, or content printed on self-stick labels. Establishing the routine is the critical part, one that can be built upon through the years.

A third routine to plan for is “Science Talk,” where students share what they experienced and begin to make claims based on evidence. A second grade student might say, “I noticed the ice melted and became water (liquid), and became ice (solid) again when I froze it” and “When we cooked the egg, it went from a liquid to a solid, but we couldn’t make it a liquid again. Therefore I think some changes made by heating and cooling can be reversed and some cannot” (NGSS 2-PS1-4).
Expectations and rules about taking turns, making comments about other student’s statements or ideas, and how to use evidence to support claims need to be established in the very first “Science Talk” and practiced throughout the school year.

CSTA believes science should be taught to every student, every day, every year. While that is our goal, we understand that the real constraints placed on you – by your principal,parents, district, and state – have a direct impact on your ability to teach science. Thedesire to teach science as often as possible, combined with a thoughtfully set-up room and practical routines established at the outset, will help you to find time for science in the classroom more effectively and frequently

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

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Where California K-12 Science Teachers Go for NGSS

Posted: Friday, August 14th, 2015

RegisterNowMedNow is the time to register for the 2015 California Science Education Conference presented by the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA).  Attending the CSTA 2015 conference is a great way to gain professional development, and network with other science teachers from across the state, and obtain new classroom ideas, in one place over three days!

The California Science Education Conference is your best source of information on implementing NGSS in your classroom.

The California Science Teachers Association hosts this conference to focus on what California science educators need to know to hone their craft, stay updated on standards, and apply best practices gleaned from experts throughout the state. 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.

What Is the Role of Lecture in NGSS?

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Is there a role for lecture in NGSS classrooms? Anyone who has spent much time working on the NGSS knows that NGSS is learner centered, more about helping students to develop the tools to investigate the world than about teachers supplying knowledge. The traditional teaching style of the teacher talking and students taking notes seems to be opposite of this vision.

This vision is supported by research indicating that traditional lecture is not an effective way to teach science. Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Carl Wieman makes a strong case against lecture as a way to teach science.  Click here to read a summary of his findings. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Middle School Integrated Science – Getting Over It!

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

6th graders design bionic hands as they study how body systems work together in a unit that was moved to 6th grade this year- photo by Peter A’Hearn

6th graders design bionic hands as they study how body systems work together in a unit that was moved to 6th grade this year- photo by Peter A’Hearn

Last spring I wrote an article/blog post that addressed the growing discussion about the decision to teach middle school integrated or discipline specific science. The article gives the rationale for the change and also some different models that were considered for how to transition.

There was a lot of feedback to that post: strongly supportive, deeply skeptical, and many follow up questions. Now that Palm Springs USD has finished the first year of the transition, I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how it went.

The middle school teacher leaders who helped to make the decision chose the “fast” transition plan below. Year 2 was what we just finished. 6th grade teachers (and kids) were introduced to structure and function in living things. 7th graders tried chemistry for the first time, and 8th graders played with waves. Everyone tried a little (or a lot) of engineering. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Staying Connected by Volunteering

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Lisa Hegdahl

As an 8th grade science teacher in a district that is participating in the CA NGSS Early Implementation Initiative, I spent much of my summer break training with members of other Early Implementer districts (see NGSS Blog- Middle School Integrated Science- Getting Over It! By Peter A’hearn. Just as our students want to feel connected to each other (see Starting the School Year Right, by Joanne Michael) teachers also seek opportunities to connect and collaborate with other educators – even more so now with NGSS implementation actively happening in California. Perhaps connecting with others is the reason why, this year, the California Science Teachers Association had a record number of its members volunteer to serve on its committees. Teachers know that we are stronger when we come together to overcome our challenges. Learn More…

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

Where to Go in Sacramento: Field Courses for the CSTA Conference

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

When it comes to conferences I’m pretty much a workshop guy. You get lots of great ideas in a short time, lots of choices, and you are hearing it straight from teachers. But looking at the field studies being offered at the 2015 California Education Conference in Sacramento this October, I’m thinking I might just spend the whole conference learning science on the amazing field courses being offered.

Here are your choices:

AHearn_Field_Course_Photo_1The Science in Your Beer: Chemistry, Microbiology, and Sensory Analysis at Sudwerk Brewery – Visit with the scientists at the UC Davis Brewing Program, the yeast geeks at White Labs, and the brewers of Sudwerk Brewery to learn about the biochemistry and microbiology that goes into the beer you love to drink. We will share NGSS aligned activities (classroom appropriate) on reaction rate and population biology. You will also explore the chemistry of beer flavor and learn how to make taste testing scientifically rigorous! Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.