September 2016 – Vol. 29 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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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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.