Start 2018 Right! 3 Great Reads for Science Teachers

pic2It’s that time of year again…the time where we reflect on the past and set goals for the year ahead. As I reflect on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and what’s had the most positive impact on science teacher practice and student learning over the last few years, three readings immediately come to mind.

Check them out, along with corresponding New Year’s resolutions, below.

New Year’s Resolution 1: Engage students in modeling how and why phenomena occur.

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Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 2

In case you missed it, you can read the first half of this blog here

Now that we have an understanding of the standard by doing the math and identifying the standard (see Part I), we are ready to move onto the remaining steps in the lesson planning process:



media-blogtwo2Step 3: Review the End Goal

Before customizing the lesson, I want to calibrate the level of rigor I am seeing on a variety of A.APR.1 assessment items. There are no questions on the Mid or End of Module Assessment directly related to this lesson, so we will look at the Exit Ticket, an item from the Regents Exam, and a non-calculator and calculator item from the Fall 2017 PSAT.

  • Exit Ticket:


In the exit ticket, students are asked if the sum of three polynomials will produce a polynomial. In the Teacher’s Lesson, the answer to this question is “yes”, but does this really demonstrate understanding?

The Teacher’s includes a Closing that directly relates to the student outcome:


The first question in the Closing may be an ideal supplement to the first question on the exit ticket.

  • June 2014 Regents Exam: This item requires students to substitute the expressions in for A and B, and accurately subtract the second quantity.


  • June 2016 Regents Exam: This item requires students to have the relevant vocabulary associated with polynomial expressions.


  • Fall 2017 PSAT Items: The no calculator question requires that students recognize function notation, distribute, perform the indicated operation, and combine like terms. The calculator question is relatively straightforward, requiring students to perform the indicated operation and combine like terms.

calc no calc 2In general, the questions require:

  • procedural fluency with adding or subtracting relatively simple polynomial expressions (3-4 different types of terms with the highest degree being 3)
  • conceptual understanding that adding polynomials results in another polynomial
  • knowledge of vocabulary associated with polynomial expressions

media-blogtwo9Step 4: Align & Assign

To better understand what the learning outcomes mean in relation to the standard and assessment, consider all of the lesson components and decide which outcome it’s best aligned to. This will give us an idea of:

  • the emphasis of each learning objective — are there multiple lesson components that align to the learning outcome? Some? None?
  • how the lesson components within a learning outcome build a cohesive sequence of learning?
    • ·  How does the complexity increase from one question to the next?
    • ·  Do I need to include strategic scaffolded supports so that students can access the learning outcome?
    • ·  Do I need to provide additional, meaningful practice so that students are able to master the conceptual demands and procedural fluency inherent in the outcomes? Just because students see or do something once does not mean that they have full command of that skill.

We also want to ensure the learning outcome is aligned to the end goal and that we are placing the right emphasis (time spent) on the learning outcome based & lesson components based on what students are expected to do on the end goal. This will also guide us to ensure the level of rigor of the end goal matches what we expect from students.

This leads into the final step, which is to rewrite the outcomes, if necessary.

media-blogtwo10Step 5: Rewrite Outcomes

Based on the end goal (Exit Ticket/Regents/PSAT), emphasis of lesson components and its relation to the standard(s), rewrite the learning outcome(s) to be specific, measurable and concise. In this lesson, there seems to be four different outcomes which I will write as the following objectives:

  • SWBAT relate polynomials to the system of integers
  • SWBAT define relevant vocabulary associated with polynomials
  • SWBAT understand that the sum or difference of two polynomials produces another polynomial
  • SWBAT add and subtract polynomials

These may not be perfect objectives and they may differ from others’ interpretation, but ultimately it is giving me ownership of discrete, measurable knowledge that I can hold my students accountable to by the end of the class period. It also makes conceptually and procedurally intentional objectives (relate, understand, define = conceptual, add = procedural).

So What Does This Look Like?

The following lessons are examples of all of the customizations I made as a result of going through this lesson planning process. To supplement the lesson, I used problems from eMathInstruction (Unit 7, Lesson 1: Introduction to Polynomials).

I broke this lesson into two separate lessons. This first lessons begins to relate the structure of polynomials to integers, and gives explicit practice on the many terms introduced in this lesson.

In the next lesson, I wanted to make the relationship of relating polynomial addition to integer addition intentional by providing several examples. The lesson concludes with students adding and subtracting polynomials.


After reading the lessons, what adjustments resonate with you? What would you do differently? Do the customized lessons meet the needs of students without compromising the rigor?

How are you already using this lesson planning process to customize your lesson? In what other ways are you customizing your lesson?

Feel free to share your thoughts or tips in the comment section below.

Planning engageNY Math: Tips to Remix, Part 1

The EngageNY Lessons for Mathematics grades 6-11 are an excellent interpretation of the Common Core State Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. But often the lessons are dense, progress in complexity too quickly, or assume [a lot!] of prior knowledge.

So how do you customize the lesson to make it accessible for students without compromising the rigor?

In this two-part blog, I will share a lesson planning process that has helped me to remix lessons to make them a hit for teachers and students alike.

Below is an overview of the process. Part 1 will cover the first two steps, and Part 2 will cover the remaining three steps.

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From Disillusionment to Rejuvenation: Bridging the Gap with Self-Care

You go out of your way to give that one kid in your homeroom an individualized behavior tracker and a pep talk every morning to set him up for success. You positively narrate, give wait time, and strive for 100%. You feel like things are finally starting to gel in your room.

All of a sudden, the days are shorter and darker, and routines you thought were solid in your classroom start to feel like they just aren’t working the way they were in October. Read more

Stepping Back: 7 Ideas to Transform Student Science Discussions

“The person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.”

stem-blog-121317There is little point in covering material if students don’t have the time to process and internalize it. We need to stop trying to fill students’ brains with so much information and focus on depth over breadth.

Now that we have Google, there is a plethora of information right at our fingers. We don’t need to store random facts in our heads. Carving out time for students to make sense of and apply those facts to new situations will have a much stronger return on investment in the long run.

Not only should teachers NOT be the ones articulating the science content to students (as this only serves to deepen the teachers’ understanding), but they should NOT be the only ones evaluating students’ ideas.

Put the onus on the kids! Read more

Out of Bulletin Board Ideas? Build a Domain Wall!

bulletin-boardWe all create bulletin boards for our classrooms and hallways, and we are all aware that they serve a variety of purposes, from highlighting student work, as an end of unit/module showcase, to that one board you create every year that never changes. You intend to mix it up, and yet, somehow it never happens. It gets to the point neither you, nor your students, even see that board anymore, and it ends up taking up valuable classroom wall space that could be used in a much more meaningful way.

It’s time to change up this practice by replacing the bulletin board with a Domain Wall.

You may be thinking, “But I love my Autumnal Poetry board, so why should I scrap my tried and true bulletin boards of years past?” Read more

STEM Matters: 5 Facts to Share with Parents and Students

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In the United States there are significantly more job openings in STEM-related than non-STEM occupations. At the same time, there is a shortage of qualified people to fill these careers opportunities. For the U.S. to continue to compete in a global economy and succeed in addressing our environmental challenges, we must do a better job of educating and engaging our students in STEM. It is more important than ever that all students have the foundational knowledge and skills needed to be an informed citizen and to pursue a career in STEM if they so choose.

Here are 5 things to know about the STEM field:

1. STEM is the fastest growing job market: Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was 3X greater than that of non-STEM jobs (source).3x-block

Looking to the future, the Economics and Statistics Administration and the Center on Education and the Workforce expect the field to increase by another 17 percent.
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We’re TchAUSL! How Can We Help You?

TchAUSL-mockupsThis year is our sixth school year with TchAUSL and I’m as pumped as ever to share exciting new practices from across our network to help you become the teacher that you want to be. TchAUSL was created to help our coaches capture and comment on practice, but I think we’ve grown into a place where every teacher can learn and grow.

What does our site have to offer you?

Our App Makes It Easy to Record, Share and Annotate Your Practice

We designed the site and our Tch Recorder app with an eye on making it simple to capture and share your practice. With just a few steps, you can record instruction, upload it to our invitation-only site, share it with others in a group or keep it private in your workspace. TchAUSL also allows annotation of video with timestamping to draw attention to specific points of your instruction. Want to learn more? This short clip will get you started and you can pick it up here if you have an Apple device or here if you’re an Android user. Read more

Special EDition: DL Professional Learning Continues

The AUSL DL Professional Development Series is Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.49.40 PMstill going strong. Session topics this year have included Behavior Management, IEP Development, and Universal Design for Learning. In February, educators from 18 AUSL schools explored the 5 W’s of Progress Monitoring. Progress monitoring is a standardized method of formative assessment that tells us how well students are responding to instruction. The data collected allows practitioners to estimate rates of improvement over time, compare the efficacy of different forms of instruction, and determine when an instructional change is needed. At this session, participants learned how to establish a baseline, set goals, and create a plan to monitor individual student progress. Additionally, several useful sites to guide this process were shared, including the following:

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Using Summary Charts to Press for Evidence and Promote Coherent Science Instruction: 8 Tips!

To the average student, science class feels like a series of disjointed learning activities. They don’t really know why they are learning what they are learning, nor how what they’re learning connects to the real world.

There are two things teachers can do to address this lack of coherence:

  1. Plan each instructional unit around a specific science phenomenon (read more about how to plan science units around intriguing phenomena here).
  2. Use a summary chart to help students keep track of what they learn from their lesson activities and then use their learning to help them explain how and why that phenomenon occurs.

In this blog, I focus on summary charts as a high-leverage tool in science classrooms.

What is a summary chart?

Alexa Summary Chart Nabisco Factory

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