September 2014 – Vol. 27 No. 1

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 Director.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

NGSS PD Coming to Fresno, Covina, and Fairfield

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

CSTA_CASCD

Updated September 4, 2014

CSTA and CASCD have teamed up to bring you and your curriculum developers a one-day professional learning opportunity. Both CSTA and CASCD members may register at member rates. Event dates and location are:

Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning
This full-day workshop will highlight the many shifts required of both teachers and learners under the Next Generation Science Standards. In the morning session, participants will engage in an overview of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions. During the afternoon sessions, participants will be invited to experience either a K-5 or 6-12 session. Each of these sessions will further explore the NGSS with an emphasis on the impact it will have within K-5 and 6-12 classrooms. 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 Public Input on New Accountability Rubric

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Accountability in California is undergoing dramatic changes. The Pubic Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) Committee is considering college and career readiness indicators to be included in API calculations for secondary schools (among other changes), and under the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)  LEAs were required to develop Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that outlined how they would spend the money allocated to them to address the eight state priorities. LCAPs are now in the hands of County Offices of Education to review and approve, and the next critical step in the process is to develop the LCFF evaluation rubric (see information about those rubrics below).

This call for public comment is an excellent opportunity for science teachers to add their voice to the conversation and to encourage that the LCFF rubric includes an accountability for science. State priority #2 is for implementing California’s academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the English language development, history social science, visual and performing arts, health education and physical education standards. State priority #7 is for insuring all students have access to classes that prepare them for college and careers, regardless of what school they attend or where they live. Both of these priorities make it clear that students should be provided with access to a high quality science education. 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.

Where Will You Be in December?

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Laura Henriques

I sure hope you answered that question with an enthusiastic “I’ll be in Long Beach for the conference” sort of response!

Come join your science education colleagues for three to four days of professional learning. The conference, hosted by NSTA with some input from CSTA, will take place on December 4-6. With a couple hundred workshops, lectures, short courses and field trips, this is the place to be! You can peruse the schedule on-line and get a sense of some of the outstanding sessions awaiting you. The keynote speakers will address a range of topics that include linkages between science and Common Core ELA, STEM, and science education moving forward. (Go online today to verify your membership or join CSTA today – CSTA members can register for the conference at the NSTA Affiliate Member rate and save $90 on their registration!) Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

The Power of Linking Science to Common Core

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Laura Henriques

If you are like me, there are significantly more things you would like to do in your class than time allows. Finding ways to link my science instruction to other curricular expectations is one way for me to ‘buy’ time. This sometimes means that I grade an assignment for multiple purposes – I am looking at students’ understanding of science concepts and content and also looking at their writing. Students may even get two grades on the assignment. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

ELA in My Science Class? Wait..What?

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Jill Grace

For many science teachers, the thought of having responsibility for the language development of students is a sobering prospect. Burned into my memory are the comments of many of my single subject peers in my credential program that could be summed up with the phrase, “I’m teaching science, not reading, that’s the job of the language arts teacher,” clearly unhappy over the prospect of having to take a course on reading and writing in the subject area. Over the years, these words still echo in staff meetings, on discussion boards, and even over meals between colleagues.

From day one, I was shocked by this mentality. Learn More…

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace teaches 7th grade science at Palos Verdes Intermediate School and is the Middle School/Jr. High Director for CSTA.