Teaching in elementary school is a challenging task and educators are often confronted with many obstacles. One obstacle to overcome is carving out the time for science classes. With all of the subjects competing for young minds, it’s difficult to create a flexible schedule that can accommodate all the valuable information children need to master. Another potential hurdle is a feeling of uncertainty among teachers about science itself. I often hear teachers say, “I only took a few science classes. How can I teach science effectively and efficiently?”
There are ways to teach science well and manage time efficiently by counting on just a few resources. I find it’s easier to remember these resources if I organize them by theme: Teachers Helping Teachers, Teachers Helping Themselves, and Communities Helping Teachers.
As the school year is approaching its second semester, I’ve started to both reflect on the progress I’ve made as well as look ahead to the standards that need to be addressed by the end of the school year. As a STEM teacher within Greenon Local Schools, my primary focus is on Science and Engineering Practices. Something that has always been a major challenge is how to accurately take inventory of the standards and then develop an outline that ensures the needs of my students have been met by the time they leave my classroom.
Teaching is personal. In fact, according to my principal, teaching is a work of heart. It’s heart work, not just hard work. And not only is it heart work, the only thing more personal than teaching is going to the bathroom.
As part of a district initiative, I started video recording my teaching practice to improve higher-order thinking and student-led conversations. At first blush, I was mortified at the thought of a camera catching every moment of my class. Not because I was fearful of what anyone would find, but because I was fearful of what I might not find. I thought as an experienced teacher, I knew what was happening in my classroom. Why would I need to video record my teaching and watch it when I was there live?
What I didn’t realize was the power of recording my instruction, watching, and seeking constructive feedback from my peers.
Where are you in your understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?
When districts embark on the implementation of these standards, it’s useful to compare the process to a high-powered microscope. What magnification are you currently using — 4x, 10x, or 100x? Everyone will go through each of these magnifications in phases as they begin exploring the standards deeply.
I’m a big fan of science notebooks for students. My students use notebooks to develop Cornell Notes from content material, record and analyze lab data, and create “interactive notebook” elements like foldables, flashcards, and puzzles.
I’m NOT a big fan of the lengthy process that ensues when attempting to assess student notebooks. What I find most frustrating is collecting notebooks to see what students are thinking. As a high school teacher with multiple sections of students, trying to carry home hundreds of notebooks isn’t only logistically difficult, it’s time-consuming and inefficient.
I love the beginning of the school year because my classroom is a blank slate. A new start gives me a chance to take all the learning I experienced over the summer and put it to use. Some of my time this summer was spent learning with a group of teachers in the state of Iowa around the concept of coherence and phenomena-driven lessons.
National leaders in NGSS curriculum development, implementation, and training shared with the us immersion lessons that demonstrated how phenomena are used to generate student questions, which are then used to guide the learning in the unit.
Science is important for students to learn. No, actually, science is crucial for everyone to understand the world and how we interact with it. Teaching Channel, alongside many educators, is working hard to communicate strategies and resources to improve science instruction and allow deeper understanding and broader access for all students.
August Webinar with Teaching Channel, WGBH, and PBS LearningMedia
Last month, PBS LearningMedia, WGBH, and Teaching Channel partnered to co-host a webinar on Engineering and the Design Process: Real-World Classroom Resources. The interactive, hour-long event provided an opportunity for classroom practitioners to converse with our combined team of classroom educators and curriculum experts.
Wow! What a turn out! Over 800 registrants AND we maxed out the webinar platform!
This is the last in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.
When I talk with other educators about our work at the Creativity Lab, they say, “Great! What do we do to get started?”
Often they want to do it all — fully integrate making into their class, start an elective or club, set up a school makerspace. I encourage them to pick one small thing they can do — do one making project, start a club, find an area of their classroom to use as a makerspace. Taking on too much at once is overwhelming and soon gets dropped, becoming another one of those things you tried once. But starting small and building from there allows making to take hold and become what you do.
It’s a dreary, rainy, Seattle Monday morning, but the spinning disco ball in our room is casting snowball light spots around the room and the lasers are putting on their show. It’s barely 8:45 am and our room is abuzz with activity. School doesn’t start for another 20 minutes, but my students are already diving deep into their work.
Like a whirlwind, Nafiso comes bouncing into our classroom and makes a beeline straight for me. Before I can even open my mouth, her elated screams fill the void.
“Mr. Ewing, Mr. Ewing! They were talking about Andy Warhol on the radio this morning. All about some painting that these people are fighting over!” Nafiso has a big grin on her face. She is so excited to talk art with me.