March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Teachable Moments

Posted: Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

What do natural disasters, national holidays, international wars, and bizarre events all have in common?  These can all be incorporated into your classroom as “teachable moments.”  A teachable moment is not something that you can typically plan for, and often may cause you to digress from your original lesson plan; however, it provides an organic way to maximize “the moment”, which in turn, captivates the interest of the students in ways that pre-planned lessons might not.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate teachable moments in the classroom is to start with my current events bulletin board.  Each week, I bring in articles about current topics within the scientific community. These are often brief articles, such as one on a new fossil organism that was discovered, or perhaps an explanation on a large solar magnetic storm coming up. Students can borrow the articles to read during silent reading and free time, and it gives them a great opening to ask questions and inquire about the world around us.

Living in California provides a multitude of teachable moments, especially when it comes to natural disasters.  Depending on where you live in California, each year you may deal with flash floods, extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures, wild fires, and of course, earthquakes.  Even if a major earthquake occurs in another country students may hear about it on the local news and ask about it in class.  I find that because I teach science, that my students think that I am the “knower of all things science-related.”  I’ve found that even though I may not be the most knowledgeable about earth science, or an expert on the ins and outs of earthquakes, I can still use the moment to tell the students what I do know, and let them know that I will do my own research and expand my own understanding about it, too. It’s great when we can show our students that even though we’re teachers, we’re still learning, too!

Great ways to incorporate discussions can come from a variety of methods: oral discussion (with lead-in questions, such as, “Did you hear about…?”; “Why do you think that…?”; “What might have happened if…?”); written work like drawing pictures of the event or process leading up to the

event or writing poetry about the event; compare and contrast with another previous event (Hurricane Sandy versus Hurricane Katrina); mathematical investigations (altitude of clouds; changes in barometric pressure; graphing “p” and “s” waves in a recent earthquake); interviews (asking family members how they felt about a major historical event of the past, and making connections to how current families feel about the recent event); and so many more!

New teachers are often so caught up with trying to cover more than they have time for, already, that they miss out on these teachable moments or feel like they just can’t possibly take advantage of them.  The longer that I have been teaching, the more I’ve adopted a, “go with the flow,” mindset, because I figure if my students are more interested in the meteor that hit northern Peru than my planned lesson on Newton’s Laws, I am willing to part with my plan and discuss the meteor. Learning to be flexible was difficult for me as a new teacher, but has proven more beneficial for my students in the long run.  Although it can be unsettling to be off of your pacing guide or divert from your normal lesson plan, it is usually well worth it in the end.  Ultimately, as science educators, our goal is to educate children within the vast world of science; not just stick to the plan.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member of CSTA.

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California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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 CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

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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 Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

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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.

Learning to Teach in 3D

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

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I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. 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.