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 and is a CSTA member.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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