Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NSTA Chicago!!!

Tomorrow, I get on a plane to fly to Chicago for the National Science Teachers Association national conference. I haven't been to the national conference since 2006 during my first solo year teaching. That year was incredibly memorable (especially meeting Bill Nye) and started me on a path of continuous reflection and professional growth. 

This year, I'm overjoyed to be presenting Write Like a Scientist! A session that grounds literacy integration in the experience of outdoor data collection. Please come!

Write Like a Scientist!
Friday, 5:00—6:00
(Grades 2–8) W178b, McCormick Place
Science Focus: GEN, SEP4
Joey Lehnhard (@joeyelle), Monterey Bay Aquarium
Explore the biodiversity of California’s rocky shores and use your data and observations to motivate students to write authentically about science. Then, plan a biodiversity project at your school site! Led by education staff of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Resources posted here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CSTA/NSTA Regional Long Beach, CA

I'm super excited to be able to attend and present at CSTA/NSTA Regional this year! I'll be presenting two sessions:

Write Like a Scientist! 
Thursday, December 4th
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Casablanca Room, The Westin Long Beach
Grades 2-6

Otters in Action!
Friday, December 5th
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Centennial Salon D, The Westin Long Beach
Grades 2-6

All resources will be posted here. They are also on the NSTA learning center site.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Place-Based Education

Getting kids outside to do science contextualizes the content and motivates kids to learn, but it also inspires the next generation of environmentalists.

Take a look at this video that talks about why taking our kids outside to do instruction helps the whole child.

Friday, August 29, 2014

NGSS Elementary Content Shifts in California

Most of my work with teachers on preparing for NGSS is focused around the Science and Engineering Practices. But some teachers are really interested in understanding the content shifts- the answer to the ever-present "Yeah, but what am I going to have to teach?"

So, I'm working on this document that shows the topic shifts for elementary teachers in California. Take a look, and comment!

CA NGSS Content Shifts

UPDATE: A colleague on the NGSS NSTA listserv fleshed this out a bit:

Content Shifts Expanded

Friday, August 8, 2014

Science Notebooks, Blogs, and Portfolios

The literature on the efficacy of using science notebooks to increase students conceptual understanding, language ability, and internalizing science habits of mind are substantial. It should absolutely be one of the first steps elementary teachers take in integrating literacy and science in their classrooms. But what makes notebooks so powerful are also a weakness: ownership, safety, reflection.

These are key ideals when setting up and using a science notebook. Students need to feel like their notebook is a place they can make mistakes, a place where they can look back on their learning and on the progression of their learning. And it's also inherently their's and their's alone. We have them decorate the cover just to solidify this feeling.

Finding a real voice

But then we talk about audiences, writing to different audiences, writing to communicate, writing to persuade or refute - all important science skills that can be honed in the notebook - but, the notebook isn't the place for publishing. A partner might read it, a teacher, a parent, but honestly ... no one else will.

First, we have to stop pretending to write for audiences. We have to show students that they really do have a voice. I've seen so many persuasive essays on school uniforms or healthier lunch options that go no where. I've done it myself. Students wrote and revised and wrote and revised, even made a poster. I put it on the wall of my classroom. And, "wow, isn't that great" my principal said. But really, when we do this, we end up teaching the skills in a vacuum. And we've been doing this for decades. We can't afford to do that to students, especially not in science. Let's be more authentic. 

I work with an amazing teacher (no really, she's amazing) and her class did a project on the snowy plover. Her kids wrote about the detrimental effects of planned construction on their habitat. They sent it to local politicians and news outlets. They got some press about it, her students spoke on the topic on the news. They felt heard.

We can't all do that. And even if we could - it's probably not something that we could do all year long.

Finding an audience can be hard. And it is super scary to think that strangers are reading your work. But that is what scientists do. They send their papers off to journals. Peers and experts review and comment. So what can we do? Where do we put the final drafts of our science writing? How can we complete the writing process while still using the notebook to its fullest capacity?

Blogging for authenticity

Blogging is a transformative experience. It gives students a voice, the opportunity for anyone, all over the world to read what they are thinking. It is the ultimate motivator. It motivates students to actually revise. And to be excited about the response they might get from their work and effort. It can also engage students in conversations of creating a safe online presence. But it's not the place to put just any piece of writing. It's a place to put products. But it's also a place that needs to be updated with new content regularly. Monthly at minimum (perfect for checking out that computer cart.)

Finalized lab reports, compare/contrast pieces, claims and evidence writing, detailed observations (with a scientific illustration), discussions of how they progressed through the science process and more can all be terrific opportunities to blog.

Structured time to comment on each others blogs is also helpful to hone review, comprehension and questioning skills. The power comes from the fact that it is not just the teacher that reads it. That anyone in their class, their school, their extended family anywhere in the world, in addition to other students working on similar projects at different schools can read their blog.

From Blogs to Portfolios

The blog lies between the science notebook and the performance portfolio. A teacher and student might pick one of the 5-10 blog posts to put in a portfolio - a place to put their absolute best work. A portfolio (especially in elementary school) might be interdisciplinary and therefor include pieces from ELA, math, art, etc.  Traditionally, we put these pieces in their cumulative folders. And then where do they go? A deep, dark filing cabinet in the office somewhere. Not to be looked at again. It is completely useless to the student and their families. Often, teachers don't even really look at the contents - merely the students picture and grades. But it could be a really powerful tool. We would just need access to it. And ways to use it.

What if the portfolio was a folder on Google Drive? It could be easily passed on to teachers, administrators, families, support providers but still stay safe. And it would still be available to students. It would be worth it even if your whole school doesn't go for it. Even if it's just you.

You could use it at parent-teacher conferences, you could use it during IEP meetings. You could have your student's look through their own and write about one transformation they saw. One thing their proud of improving upon.

Start now

It is the start of the new school year and a perfect time to set up science notebook, blog, and portfolio routines and expectations. But even if this finds you half way through your school year ... start now! Try it out, have fun with notebooks, blogs, and portfolios. Enhance your day-to-day science teaching with notebooks. Engage your students in real audiences and provide your students and families with an interdisciplinary portfolio.

Resources to help:

Are you a Google school? Try Blogger with your students.

Need something other than Blogger? http://kidblog.org/home/ 

Get an audience for your students: http://comments4kids.blogspot.com

Need some science notebook motivation and advice? http://www.classroomscience.org/taking-the-interactive-science-notebook-plunge 

Real science blogs to emulate? http://scienceblogs.com/

Friday, August 1, 2014

Refutation Writing

I've been reading a lot about refutation writing lately and its role in overcoming students misconceptions. I see a lot of similarities between how we teach persuasive argument in ELA and how we can teach refutation writing in science. Writing refutation texts can aid students in seeing the connection from language arts writing skills to science writing skills. It is also a great way to continue to practice arguing from evidence, making students thinking visible, and directly addressing common misconceptions. This could be especially helpful when discussing the nature of science in the beginning of the school year. Students could refute the common misconception that there is a single scientific method that all scientists use or that scientific ideas are absolute. You can find more common misconceptions from Cal, here. Below is a quick summary of the standards, structure, and basic uses of both a traditional "persuasive" or argumentative essay and writing refutation texts.

Refutation Writing
According to the Common Core, starting in 6th grade, students are to:
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
According to the Common Core, starting in 6th grade, students are to:
Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
In the Next Generation Science Standards, – Connects to NGSS Science and Engineering Practice #7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence and starting in grade 3, students are to:
·   Compare and refine arguments based on an evaluation of the evidence presented.
·   Distinguish among facts,
reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in an explanation
1. Claim
2. Evidence – text-based
3. Counterclaim (starting in 7th grade)
4. Conclusion
1.    Counterclaim
2.    Claim
3.    Data – investigation, text
4.    Evidence
5.    Reasoning connected to science concepts
6.    Conclusion
Best Uses
To help students evaluate others’ claims and clarify their own thoughts.
To spur conceptual change, to address misconceptions.

To help our students start to write refutation texts, I've used this simple graphic organizer with sentence starters:

Students jot down ideas in each of the four boxes, share their ideas with a partner, then go on to translate this organizer into a more formalized piece of writing. To continue the conversation, students could post their writing on a blog and comment on the strength of their peers' refutations.

This is a writing activity that could result in real conceptual change for our students - can't wait to see how it turns out!

Here's my current Prezi on Refutation Writing:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NGSS: A Case for Writing in Science Part 1

For most of us in the PD world, NGSS is at the forefront of our minds these days. We talk a lot about how to read them, how to introduce them to teachers, and how to reconfigure our own lessons and presentations to be more aligned with the ideals of NGSS.

We've been focusing a lot on the practices. And as I've gotten to know them as more, I've also noticed the incredible emphasis placed on literacy in the performance expectations. Coming from a science background, I know how important "doing" science is but, the reading, the writing, and the meaning-making of the data takes much more of our time. NGSS focuses more on an authentic scientific process (not method) and I think it is going to be great for our students ... albeit a bit of an effort for our teachers. NGSS really requires our students to take a more active part in the development of experiments, asking questions, planning investigations, etc. But I'd also like to take a look at the ways literacy is integrated into these new standards, especially with regards to how the practices are translated into performance expectations.

The Science Practices (setting aside, for now, the Engineering Practices):
  1. Asking questions
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Lets take a closer look at the highlighted practices as they are described in third grade performance expectations:

Here, students are asked to construct an argument. An important piece of arguing from evidence is the interaction between the writer and the other claims or opinions. Students negotiate their claim through the science they do, data analysis, talking, reading, and writing which may support, refute or strengthen their final argument. This is a sense-making activity. In a journal article this would occur before and after writing (peer review) but also during the discussion section that may include counterpoints.

In this performance expectation, students are asked to support an explanation. This type of assignment scaffolds the experience so that students don't necessarily have to develop the claim themselves (although they should have through the related investigations.) In science writing, it is often this sort of conclusion (the explanation of the evidence --reasoning) that ends a paper on a particular investigation.
Here students are required to read and synthesize, investigate and explain then, communicate a phenomenon. All very strong literacy skills that all scientists engage in especially during the literature review stages of their writing.

These are just 3 of 15 third grade performance expectations that have clear literacy demands as apart of the science process modeled as actual scientists experience them. It's a synergy of science and language instruction we're striving for. 

It's time to start taking science writing more seriously in our classrooms. It's time to give it the explicit instructional attention students need to make those connections between writing conventions and real world applications. I'm hoping to explore more ways we can help our students be successful writers in science in the coming year.