May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Meaningful Thinking in 140 Characters or Fewer

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Jill Grace

I’ve learned the hard way that I will get “huffs”, eye-rolls, grunts, and the occasional nuclear meltdown from students if I ask them to summarize their learning in, dare I say it, a paragraph. It’s as though paragraph is a bad word and how shocking that I would ask for one in science class! I even get slammed with questions: “How many sentences to I have to write?” (why are we still asking that question in middle school?), “Do I have to use complete sentences?”, and “Do I really have to write a whole paragraph?” *teacher sigh*

First and foremost, I am a huge advocate of having students produce writing in a science class. I will also admit that this can be a challenge, and so the year that I decided to make the shift to an interactive science notebook it was glaring at me. I would be asking students for writing as a vehicle to share their thinking (in what we refer to as “outputs” in the notebook) all the time. Although we wouldn’t be able to avoid the writing, sometimes I may want to ask my students to share their thinking in a way that will avoid the drama that asking for a paragraph can sometimes generate. (Incidentally, this was all prior to implementation of the Common Core Standards – where anecdotally, in just one year, I’ve seen a big shift in student acceptance of writing outside of language arts.)

Switching to the interactive notebook is when I started to get creative. I greedily snatched up every thinking map I could find. I realized that poetry could be used, even brief poetry. To try and summarize what you have learned in the form of a haiku? Deceptively difficult to do well. How about a concept acrostic? You have to dig deep for that.

And then there was that beautiful day I came across this comic and the wheels started turning:

Great Tweets of Science from Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham

Great Tweets of Science from Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham

I could ask the kids to make a Tweet!

The first time I tried this was when we were knee-deep in genetics and the kids were learning a bit about Gregor Mendel. They were working on an assignment asking them to make sense of his contributions and I decided to have a Twitter “throw down” (a friendly competition for the best work in the class – the winning Tweeters earn extra points).

If Twitter existed in Mendel’s day, what would he have Tweeted?

Tweet requirements:

  • Profile picture
  • Name
  • User name (@…)
  • No more than 140 total characters (includes spaces and punctuation)
  • Date and time stamp

Things that are allowed:

  • Hashtags are #awesome
  • Location allowed
  • Retweets allowed
  • Tagging other users allowed

Here are some of my favorites (minus profile pictures):

Gredor Mendel @daddygenesluvspeas
OMG just found out that parents pass 1 factor of a trait to offspring and 1 is masked! #peasarelife #iambetterthanalbert @alberteinstein
1/22/1860, 12:17 PM
(I didn’t have the heart to tell this student Einstein wasn’t alive yet)

Gregor Mendel @fatherofgenetics
Fact of the day: traits don’t blend #peasfordays #plantlyfe @officialprofessorfranz
4/16/1859, 10:30 PM

Gregor Mendel @monkbiologist
Me: what’s up? My child: just the water flowin’ up my xylem #mykidsarecrazy
11/19/1859, 4:07 PM

Gregor Mendel @geneticsgenius
After lots of work I have discovered traits don’t blend #recessive #dominant BTW my book is out #2principleslaws #readit #youwillthankme
11/14/1866, 3:43 PM

Gregor Mendel @peamonk
Purple + purple = white? #mindblown #peasoupfordinner
5/10/1865, 4:30 PM

This went over so well that I recently asked my students to make tweets to show their understanding of the discovery of the structure of DNA and the scientists involved. This time, I was able to snap some photos for you:

When I ask my students to make Tweets – I see them bursting with enthusiasm. They are so excited about what they have done that half of them find it impossible to sit in their seats, they have to get up and show all of their friends. I’ll take that kind of learning excitement any day! Oh, and it’s also a great formative assessment tool!

Final advice: as with all great power, use it sparingly. To keep students interested, save it for just a couple of assignments in the year when you want to do something to pique engagement.

There are countless ides such as this that can be used to give students a forum to reflect on their understanding. I have to give a tremendous shout-out to my colleagues on our California Middle School Science Teacher Facebook Group for bringing their brains together to reflect on meaningful thinking and helping to compile a great resource called the “Output Arsenal.” This is a collection of possible “outputs,” such Tweet. This resource can both inform teacher planning and also be used directly by students when asked to do outputs. CSTA members can access this resource on the CSTA website.

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is the President of CSTA.

2 Responses

  1. Love it!
    One little caution: It may be hard to believe, but kids from low income non-English speaking households may not tweet or even have mobile phones.

  2. Susan, that is such a good point and so true! That’s one of the reasons the structure is explained to the kids first. I didn’t mention it in the article, but I also screen-shot tweets to show them as examples too.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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