September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Book Review: Success in Science Through Dialogue, Reading, and Writing

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Judy Sovel

Don’t let the title fool you…this book is not just for science teachers.  If you are an elementary or secondary teacher wondering how to build literacy using Common Core strategies, this book is an absolute necessity in your library.BookAlthough it is written for secondary science teachers, I can’t emphasize enough that this book is an amazing guide to implementing Common Core techniques across the curriculum throughout the grade levels, including elementary.  Authors Beauchamp, Kusnick, and McCallum call it a “Science Literacy Framework,” but all of the ideas included can be adapted very easily to social studies, math, or any other curricular area.  Best of all, the authors teach the reader to keep the (science) content at the forefront while using productive dialogue, purposeful reading assignments, and meaningful writing prompts as support systems to deliver content.

Every chapter is designed to increase student engagement.  There are sample lessons to illustrate what this approach looks like in the classroom, along with a dozen dialogue protocols offered as effective and engaging tools.  Want to learn how to support purposeful reading for all reading abilities in your class in a specific content area?  Nine techniques are outlined and all are easy to implement immediately. These promise to result in more engaged readers who focus on comprehension rather than just getting the assignment done.  Finally, you can learn to use writing as a window into your students’ thinking, mirroring the types of written challenges students will face in state testing and future careers. The sample writing prompts provided demonstrate the importance of giving interesting, motivating written assignments that lead to improvement in written communication.

After reading this book, I was astounded that the authors could illuminate my way toward 5th grade Common Core while still laying out science literacy for secondary teachers.  I recommend you read the book front to back and avoid skipping around because it falls together like a beautiful 3-D jigsaw puzzle in the end.  If you are a secondary science teacher who isn’t sure how to incorporate literacy in your content, this book will convince you it is not only possible but necessary and will leave you excited about trying it!  Elementary teachers, take heed.  You won’t want to let this gold nugget pass you by.  This book earns 5 brilliant stars!

Authors:  Arthur Beauchamp, Judi Kusnick, and Rick McCallum

ISBN:  978-0-692-01253-6

Published by:  The Regents of the University of California, Davis, 2011

Available by contacting:

Judy Sovel is a 5th grade teacher at McNear School in Petaluma, CA

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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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.