September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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.

Science education now emphasizes three-dimensional instruction consisting of Crosscutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. Many districts, including my own, are in the process of adopting curriculum materials from publishers that are specifically aligned to the NGSS Standards. Before this happens, teachers have to creatively adapt existing materials or craft lessons that reflect the Science Engineering Practices and Cross Cutting Concepts.

Our district has focused on the Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts and examined Disciplinary Core Ideas within a grade band until NGSS aligned curriculum is adopted. There are three tools that I have acquired as an NGSS Early Implementer that are invaluable in crafting robust lessons.

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Organizing Science Lessons: Conceptual Flow

As an NGSS Early Implementer, I have learned how to organize ideas under an overarching concept using a conceptual flow map. My lesson study team (Kate Gallegher, Roberta Parker, Kim Plagenza, Juli Ward) and I relied on the following conceptual flow that we created after reviewing the Science Engineering Practices and Cross Cutting Concepts for our lesson on air pressure. Although the Disciplinary Core Ideas are specifically for second-grade physical sciences domain, they reflect California FOSS (Full Option Science System) Module for first grade, that our district has been using.

Instead of disparate facts, the map orders common properties and behavior of air under three main ideas. Air is matter, we breathe oxygen, and the wind is moving air. After mapping the essential ideas, we examined the Cross Cutting Concepts and decided that Cause and Effect and Systems and Models best reflected our lesson. We used to post it notes to order the ideas and CCC and then transferred the notes to an electronic copy. We used the notes to formulate a guiding focus question, “How does the amount of compressed air affect the distance of the balloon rocket?”

5E Lesson Format

After identifying the focus question, we discussed the learning and language objectives and determined how to deliver the lesson and how the students complete the learning tasks. This can be seen in our 5 E lesson Study Template. The 5 E lesson plan is a means of organizing learning tasks into stages which are Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate/Extend, Evaluate. The Engage portion is the hook that catches the students’ attention perhaps with a discrepant event or activity that links past and present learning and experiences to the lesson. The engage serves to focus the students’ attention for the upcoming learning tasks. Students investigate phenomena and use academic language in context during the Explore section. Students then make claims about phenomena using evidence from their observations and information from readings during the Explanation part. The Elaborate/Extend portion allows students to apply their knowledge, investigate their own related questions, and deepen their understanding of the concepts. Teachers assess the students’ learning during the Evaluation stage. The stages of the 5E Lesson format can be used within a single lesson or distributed throughout a unit.

As part of the lesson study format, we presented instruction to two first grade classes. Each time we debriefed, shared observations of the academic discussions and sought ways to improve the lesson.

Reflective Assessment Protocol

Another invaluable tool is the Reflective Assessment Protocol. This tool allows teachers to determine which students met the objective and understood the concepts and which students needed additional support in just 10 minutes. A tally mark indicates the number of students who met the objective while the names of students are placed next to the key concepts to determine next steps. In determining next steps the students’ misconceptions and reasons for the misconceptions are discussed as well as possible intervention. Here’s an example of the RAP Protocol.

These three tools, Conceptual Flow, 5E Lesson plans, and Reflective Assessment Protocol together can assist teachers in preparing for the beginning of the semester. The Conceptual Flow can be revisited throughout a unit.

Elizabeth Cooke is a Science Prep Teacher at Markham Elementary School in Vacaville, California and is a member of CSTA. 

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.

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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

Cal

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.