School Login

KnowAtom's Blog

The Best Cooperative Learning Involves Release of Responsibility

Oct 17, 2021 by Judy Higgins

What is cooperative learning? Cooperative learning is an instructional model designed to improve student learning outcomes by promoting teamwork. Do you allow students to work together on small group learning projects? If so, you're already modeling cooperative learning strategies in your classroom. When our students work together on interactive classroom activities, they strengthen communication, social, and critical thinking skills. When collaborating in small groups of two to four peers, students have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. Collaborative learning strategies require teachers to give up some responsibility for classroom instruction to their students, letting them take the lead.

Continue reading

Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, higher order thinking, STEAM, interactive science, Professional Development, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

The Best Formative Assessment for Accelerated Learning in Student Centered Classrooms

Oct 3, 2021 by Judy Higgins

To help students achieve accelerated learning in the classroom, teachers need to improve how we set and communicate our expectations. In student-centered learning, students choose what they will learn, and they set the pace. Teachers become classroom facilitators when their students take the lead in an accelerated learning program. Implementing formative assessments in a student centered classroom will improve outcomes because students better understand the expectations because they are getting continuous feedback in the moment.

What's the difference between formative and summative assessments? Formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena. This real-time approach allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process and refining their skills in the moment. In a formative assessment, the teacher's role is an interested skeptic, engaged in the student's argument but pressing for evidence and reasoning. A formative assessment requires a shift in responsibility. Instead of a student trying to guess what the teacher wants, the student is productively struggling to develop skills and content knowledge, with support/coaching from the teacher. Summative assessments are more high stakes and occur less frequently, typically at the end of a lesson or unit.

Continue reading

Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, interactive science, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

The Best KWL Chart is Actually a Picture Thinking Routine

Sep 15, 2021 by Judy Higgins

What is a KWL chart, and how is it used in teaching science? Let's take a look first at what the 'KWL' stands for – it's an acronym for what students KNOW, WANT to know, and will LEARN during a lesson. KWL charts are graphic organizers that help students collect information before, during, and after a unit. Using a KWL graphic organizer supports the constructivist teaching model – the idea that deeper learning happens when students are actively involved in the learning process instead of passive recipients of new information.

When teachers use KWL charts to introduce new ideas and topics, they help students identify what they already know about the topic and better understand the objectives of the lesson. KWL charts can also be used by teachers to monitor student success. KWL charts help guide students through nonfiction texts, as they track their progress in three columns titled KNOW, WANT, and LEARNED. There are many different KWL chart format examples, and they can be used to teach a variety of topics and subject areas. I am going to share how I used a Picture-Thinking graphic organizer (one type of KWL chart) with the KnowAtom science curriculum to implement the Picture-Thinking reading strategy. This graphic organizer is even better than a KWL chart because students are working within a context to identify what they know, want to know, and what they've learned. I have been a teacher for about 20 years, and for the last five years of my teaching I have used the KnowAtom curriculum.


KWL Charts and Picture-Thinking Reading Comprehension

The picture-thinking routine is one of my favorite routines. I started using this in my classroom about two years ago, and it really made a huge difference in my students' engagement with nonfiction texts. When I made it part of my regular classroom routine, students started thinking in such different ways. I'm going to take you step-by-step through exactly how to implement this routine in your own classroom, using the Picture-Thinking graphic organizer to help.

What is a "picture thinker?" A picture thinker is someone who thinks more in pictures than in words or sounds. Incorporating the picture-thinking routine in your classroom will help not only those students who think "in pictures," it's a great way for all students to make strong connections between the context and new vocabulary words, concepts, and what they already know. Here's an example of a Picture-Thinking KWL graphic organizer I use in my classroom:

Continue reading

Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, interactive science, Inquiry Based Learning, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, science education, KWL Chart, Picture Thinking

Constructivism In the Classroom: Concept Mapping for NGSS

Aug 23, 2021 by Judy Higgins

As a science teacher for over 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of teaching strategies come and go. Today, the focus is on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to help prepare students to join the workforce of the future. The teaching methods required by NGSS are based on constructivism – the idea that learners actively create new knowledge and understanding based on what they already know. Concept mapping is one way to help students link new ideas to knowledge they already have.

Continue reading

Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS Assessments, STEAM, interactive science, Professional Development, Inquiry Based Learning, STEAM Curriculum, Phenomena-led teaching, Next Generation Science, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, science education, Remote Learning

5 Reasons Inquiry Science in Schools Gets the Best Results

Dec 14, 2017 by Maryellen deLacy

If you asked a child if they wanted to sit down and read and/or memorize a list of scientific facts, what do you think they would say? You’ve probably experienced this exact scenario with your students at some point. Being the awesome teacher that you are, you probably found a way to make this activity seem more exciting than that, but it likely still involved some hard work on your part. On the other hand, what if you asked that same child to design and perform cool experiments using everyday objects along with tools they’ve never used before? You would probably be greeted with a much more positive response, right?

Continue reading

Topics: STEM, interactive science, Science Curriculum

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore STEM Curriculum

Nov 29, 2017 by Maryellen deLacy

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The changes being discussed in curricula and educational standards involve major revisions to the way we teach. However, there are compelling reasons you shouldn’t ignore STEM curriculum that go beyond standards and assessments.

Continue reading

Topics: STEM, interactive science, STEM schools

New Jersey Educators Focus Summer on Fall Science Implementation

Jun 7, 2016 by Sara Goodman

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have received considerable support from many states, 17 have already adoptedNGSS, and this summer many K-12 educators will be working the 3-dimensions into new science curricula for the first time. New Jersey is one such state, and its educators are hard at work making their New Jersey Science Curriculum more robust and better aligned with these new standards.

Having adopted the standards in 2014, New Jersey administrators are trying to meet the New Jerseytimeline for integration of the NGSS standards, with full integration of these standards beginning in the 2016-2017 school year for grades 6 through 12. Full implementation for Kindergarten through 5th grade is expected to occur in September of 2017, the following year. 

But at the same time its classroom educators who are ramping up their science curriculum efforts, some are going even further, they’re raising an interesting question: wouldn’t STEM be better off as STEAM--including the arts

Continue reading

Topics: interactive science, state-level standards, New Jersey, summer

Redefining "Museum": A Fireside Chat with Dr. Carol Tang of the Children's Creativity Museum

Mar 18, 2016 by Sara Goodman





"There's not one way to do science. Each of us have our own strength, our own approaches. We could get to the same answer, or we could actually come up with different answers, and maybe that's what's exciting. ... Museums need to be that place where society can come together and create things together."

Dr. Carol Tang, executive director of the Children's Creativity Museum of San Francisco, joined KnowAtom CEO Francis Vigeant via webinar to talk about her own journey from exploring museums as a child to directing one; the overlap between classroom and museum education; and the advantages and challenges of doing "stealth education." What follows is a transcript of their conversation on Jan. 29, 2016.

In this interview, you'll read about:

  • Her childhood in Buffalo and how visits to museums shaped her love of science and her eventual career path
  • The idea of co-creating content in classrooms and museums versus delivering it 
  • Higher order thinking
  • How the museum environment is uniquely suited for explorative thinking and play
  • How the Next Generation Science Standards complement museum education
  • Additional resources for teachers seeking to recreate museum activities in their classrooms
Continue reading

Topics: NGSS, higher order thinking, Creativity, interactive science, Museums

Teach to Transform with Free Next Generation Science PD Sessions. Learn More!

Posts by Topic

see all

Stay Up to Date With Our Latest Posts

Pick How Often: