September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 and is a CSTA member.

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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.