September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Share Your Thoughts on Reading in Middle School Science

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Christina Morales

Signaled by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the movement to integrate reading and other disciplinary literacy instruction is rapidly gaining momentum. Take, for example, this long list of workshops and short courses offered at this year’s Science Education Conference aimed at helping teachers prepare for the implementation of the CCSS and NGSS. The prominence and popularity of sessions like these reflect the urgency with which literacy instruction is being incorporated in science classrooms all over California.

As a doctoral student in education at Saint Mary’s College of California and a curriculum developer at the Lawrence Hall of Science, I often hear about the rich rewards, such as bolstering science learning, of providing explicit instruction for reading science and other technical texts. I also hear about the challenges, such as stuffing even more instruction into an already packed curriculum. However, most of these insights into implementing reading instruction in science are anecdotal. Few studies provide a comprehensive picture of what incorporating reading instruction in science looks like from middle school teachers’ perspectives. For this reason, we don’t have a lot of data that tell us how it’s going.

There are many different perspectives on the role of reading in middle school science classrooms, and one perspective that is often overlooked is that of the science teacher herself. Today, both the CCSS and NGSS have launched a new wave of discussions about integrating opportunities for reading and discipline-specific reading instruction in science. It is important that your perspectives regarding what kinds of reading and reading instruction are (and are not) feasible in your classroom shape these conversations.



For my dissertation, I am conducting a study to learn more about the day-to-day realities, frustrations, and successes of incorporating reading and writing instruction in middle school science classrooms all over California. I have created an online survey to capture middle school science teachers’ diverse perspectives and experiences on this topic. My hope is that insights from teachers like you will inform the development of simple, flexible, and effective resources for helping students learn to read science and other technical texts.

As you know, it is teachers’ voices that make projects like this one successful. Please add your voice to this often overlooked area of educational research and help me with my dissertation. You can follow this link to read a letter of support for my study from Jacqueline Barber, the Associate Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science and Director of the Learning Design Group.

If you are a middle school science teacher currently teaching in California,please follow this link to read more about my study and complete an anonymous online survey. The survey will take about 15-20 minutes to complete. As a “Thank You!” for your time and input, everyone who completes this study by February 8, 2014 will be entered into a drawing. Four winners will receive a $100 gift certificate from

Christina Morales is Curriculum Developer in Learning Design Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science and is a member of CSTA.

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:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.