May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Integrating Common Core into Everyday Teaching

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Joanne Michael

If your school is anything like mine, math and language arts have recently been overhauled to meet with the Common Core Standards. Just as everyone seems to be getting their heads slightly above water with the changes, in comes NGSS, flipping the standards around and creating more panic. What?! We need to somehow integrate more science into our lessons? With the new curriculum that I am barely understanding in the first place? How am I supposed to do that?!

With practice, Common Core and NGSS can be easily integrated. Under each NGSS standard is a list of the language arts and math standards that can be aligned with relative ease.

Common Core Connection Box - from NGSS Grade 4. Structure, Function, and Information Processing

Common Core Connection Box – from NGSS Grade 4. Structure, Function, and Information Processing

However, many other standards in language arts can also be incorporated into science (and vice versa). Below are just a few ideas that I have used in my own classroom, or helped colleagues use in theirs.

Even though it is not mandated for another couple years, I have begun introducing science vocabulary with my students. As a science specialist I teach grades K-5, so my hope is that by the time NGSS is fully operational even my youngest students will be fluent in the science vernacular. For classroom teachers, this can easily be done as well, and will definitely help them (and you!) out as the year progresses.

Especially with the younger ones, the more complex the vocabulary, the more intimidated they are. Once they understand what it means and how to use it, though, they are excited to practice! For example, instead of asking 3rd graders “what happened when baking soda and vinegar were mixed?” changing the prompt to, “state your observations when the baking soda and vinegar were combined” gives the students a chance to practice reading advanced terminology and subconsciously encourages them to use higher-level terms, themselves.

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Once the students start using higher-level terminology (while still appropriate for their grade level), they can start to write lab reports for their experiments. One of the language arts standards for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade is to “write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly” (Text Types and Purposes-2), as well as “Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences (Text Types and Purposes- 3). Using the baking soda and vinegar experiment, the students can write a story about an imaginary student doing the experiment – complete with pictures, if desired, to make it a children’s book for younger grades. Particularly for the 4th and 5th grade – why not have the student write up the purpose, procedure, results, and the effect this information can have on future experiments, or how can knowing that baking soda and vinegar produces carbon dioxide bubbles help the general public?!

Many of my students like science, but claim that they don’t like math and don’t understand why we have to do math when it is clearly science time! If only it were that easy to completely isolate one subject from another – fortunately, it can be fun to do both… and integrate the new Common Core standards at the same time! Every grade level has the same basic eight mathematical practices:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them;
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively;
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others;
  4. Model with mathematics;
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically;
  6. Attend to precision;
  7. Look for and make use of structure; and
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

While some lend themselves to elementary science more easily than others do, all eight can be done. For example, is your class discussing weather patterns? If you build a working (rudimentary) thermometer, you have used practice #5. Tracking the weather at your school and at a few other schools in different parts of the country, and charting the data to analyze for patterns, incorporates practices #3, #4, and #8, and depending on how you present the material you may also be meeting other practice standards as well. If your school has a “sister school” in another city, exchanging postcards with them can help bridge language arts standards as well as help form relationships between the students, to hopefully make them WANT to learn more about the sister school’s location.

Bridging between Common Core and the science can go the opposite direction as well. If studying fractions, have students measure ½ a cup of baking soda, and add ¼ cup of cornstarch to it. How much is there now? Theorize what would happen if ¼ cup of vinegar was added to this baking soda/cornstarch mixture. They know baking soda and vinegar, but does cornstarch and vinegar have any kind of chemical reaction? After combining them, the students can write a math equation, work on a lab write-up, and theorize as to why they observed the reaction that they did. Math, language arts AND science, all disguised as a messy time? Sounds like combining Common Core and NGSS to me!

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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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.