January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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