September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Tips for New Teachers: Back to School

Posted: Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

by Judith Aguilar

As a brand new teacher, setting up your new classroom and preparing for that first day of school can be an emotional roller coaster. You’re excited to meet your students and you’re brimming with new ideas, yet you also feel a little nervous and don’t want to forget anything important. It’s easy to begin with the most obvious needs, and you’ve probably already been obsessing about how you’ll set up your room, prepare the seating arrangements, what to put up on your walls, and the organization of your teaching materials and supplies. These are all significant, but perhaps the most essential element to consider when preparing for the new school year is classroom management. A good plan should include not only rules and consequences, but also routines and procedures. Setting these daily, weekly, and monthly routines are a must to keep you as well as your students on the track to success.

Of course you already realize that you must take grade level into consideration as you create your classroom management plan. Not surprisingly, my first experience teaching middle school was vastly different from my first experience teaching 5th grade – the middle school students were measurably more mature than 5th graders. I quickly discovered, however, that even the older students still need plenty of structure. I learned this the hard way when I jumped in expecting my middle schoolers to take notes and complete an assignment on the first day, when in retrospect I wish I would have approached them like I did with my 5th graders by doing a hands-on, getting-to-know you activity.* No matter what their ages, students benefit from having classroom leaders, love rewards, and need to know that you care. The more clearly you can communicate expectations, the better! Deadline reminders on the whiteboard as well as their student planners, a designated place for handouts, and an easily accessible classroom calendar help students feel more confident in knowing what the should be doing and when they will be tested.

Finally, although the first day is central to setting the stage for the year, it is the entire first four to six weeks when you’ll teach your students the classroom rules, procedures and routines that will help keep you, and them, sane. Create the structure, be consistent, follow through, and establish a safe learning environment for your students.

*An introductory activity can be something as simple as a gallery walk of the curriculum they will be learning in the new school year.  You might include diagrams, pictures of well-known scientists, illustration of a concept, or maybe even some formulas you might be using.  Give them an empty list and ask them to go to each picture and write down what significance the picture has for your class.  For example, you might have a picture up of Isaac Newton or of an atom. This can give you an idea of what prior knowledge students have coming in to the classroom and you can observe student behavior. This type of activity can also help you establish the expectations for group activities and their parameters, such as noise level and movement.

Judith Aguilar is a science teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District and a member of CSTA.

Written by Judith Aguilar

Judith Aguilar is a science teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District and is a member of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Dear friend, thank you for your valuable insights! Although we have gone separate ways in our teaching careers, I still love science! I make an effort to implement a science activity with my toddlers and preschoolers! They always have a blast. Keep up the good work!!!

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LATEST POST

CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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

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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

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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.