May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.