September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

SIOP in the Science Classroom

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Stephanie Fisher

What is SIOP?

SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol. This practice is designed to make lessons as inclusive as possible for diverse populations in classrooms, allowing them to gain topic understanding and practice English language skills at the same time. This is done by building background information and the use realia so students find the content approachable. The correct use of SIOP strategies engages the students and prepares them for independent work. When all parts of SIOP are in place, the hope is that using strategies to increase reading, writing, speaking, and listening will lead to creating a more interactive environment.

How can it be beneficial to our population?

Throughout California we have seen increasing numbers of English language learners in all of our schools. With this increase, we also see designated EL classes being phased out and more diverse general education classes becoming more common.  SIOP was developed using EL/bilingual methods, best practices, and teacher’s experiences; and can be effective when used consistently and comprehensively with EL students in both homogeneous and heterogeneous populations. As a result, SIOP reaches not only EL students but also students that struggle with a concept, and keeps those who have mastered a concept engaged. Students are able to work on mastering grade level concepts while increasing mastery of language. Implementing SIOP strategies allows EL students to work on both language and concept mastery in the diverse classrooms that we are often given.

How can it be beneficial in a science classroom?

Science is a process and includes explaining observations. By increasing the use of concept-based language in the classroom, the chance of improving understanding and concept comprehension increases. Using SIOP not only increases language use as a whole, but also understanding and comprehension of scientific concepts that are being covered. With the onset of NGSS, we work with our students not only to give answers but more importantly, explanations that include the review of evidence, detailed observations, and comparison of events or points of view.

How can it be applied in the classroom?

When used regularly, SIOP can become almost second nature. I use a variety of strategies to enhance my lectures. Unfortunately, lectures can be dry and students often become bored and more like copy machines than teenagers during lectures. To improve student engagement, I break up my lectures with constructive interactive practices for my students. For example, one idea would be to include practice problems every few slides in a PowerPoint. This can serve as a formative assessment and allows students to practice a concept before they go home to apply it to homework. It can also allow misconceptions to be cleared up before they compound.

Another strategy would be to include a more thought provoking question within a lecture, and employ the “Think-Pair-Share” technique in which students work on the question as an individual for a minute or two, then discuss their answer with their table partner. This creates an environment where students are able to discuss in their own language if need be before they are called on or volunteer to answer in front of the class.

If there is a natural break in your lecture, include a graphic organizer (a.k.a. concept map), where students must go back over their notes to fill in commonalities and relationships among ideas throughout the lecture. This lets the student review their notes one more time, synthesize them into a big picture, and provides them with a quick reference point when studying.

Increasing structured interaction within a classroom can be daunting for teachers that have more challenging populations or students that are more social. However, by creating a more controlled environment, students are given specific goals and the tools to meet them. This may take extra time and effort when planning your lessons, but by frontloading your work effort, you are rewarded with students who are more engaged and with a lesson.

Stephanie Fisher is a science teacher at Warren High School, Downey, CA and is a member of CSTA.

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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


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.