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Learning Styles Are More About Teaching Styles: Teaching All Learners

Sep 21, 2021 by Judy Higgins

One thing I've learned over the past 20 years of teaching is that learning styles are really more about teaching styles. There are many different types of learning styles and it's important to make sure that we are teaching all learners and giving students the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. One example of how to accomplish this challenge in your own classroom is by improving access to the assigned reading for all students. To help, I am going to share the tools and strategies I use to engage all students in the nonfiction reading component of the KnowAtom science curriculum.

KnowAtom's next generation science standards (NGSS)-designed curriculum uses a similar routine for each lesson so that students begin to know what to expect. For each lesson within every unit, we start out reading. Students then take part in a Socratic dialogue using what they've learned from the reading. Next, we plan for a hands-on experiment, investigation, or engineering prototype. To wrap up the investigation, teams share their conclusions and debrief. As you can see, the nonfiction reading provides the launching point for each lesson.

No matter what level a student is reading at, whether they are an English language learner or whether they are predominantly a visual vs. an auditory learner, it's important that they can access the information in the reader upfront. To help students with different types of learning styles access the nonfiction text, teachers must understand how students learn differently. One popular model is the VARK learning styles theory. VARK identifies four different learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. While most students have a combination of these different types of learning styles, some students learn predominantly from only one.

Connecting new phenomena to past experience

When beginning a new lesson, teachers should consider what knowledge and experiences students bring with them to the class. By establishing a common background when introducing new phenomena, teachers help level the playing field for students who are at different places along their learning journey.

For example, if we're investigating friction and the impact that a dog sled might have moving over snow, that context would be really difficult for a student who hasn't experienced snow to think about. "I don't understand because I don't know what it's like to walk on snow. I don't know the properties of snow. I haven't experienced that," the student is thinking. With the KnowAtom curriculum, the text before every unit helps give every student a common background and some insight into the phenomena they're about to explore.

For students with reading/writing predominance in their VARK learning style, reading the text before the hands-on experiment helps them understand the new concept when it is introduced. But that's not the only type of learning style you have in your classroom. Visual learners are better supported by the visuals in the nonfiction reader, including photos, charts, and graphs with explanatory text. Auditory learners may learn best from classroom discussions about the reading and can be supported by tools like sentence starter frames and annotating the text, so they come to the class discussion with the right questions to ask. Finally, kinesthetic learners learn from doing – and the tactile experience of completing an engineering project related to the new concept will help them better understand the lesson.

Another way students with all different types of learning styles can relate to the nonfiction text in the KnowAtom student readers is by connecting the new information to current knowledge – what they've learned before. Students start to think about, "Oh, I remember learning a little bit about that last year," or "I experienced something like this when I was cooking at home and the water started to boil." When working in pairs, small groups, or as a class – teachers can help students connect new phenomena with current knowledge by asking questions about what they've learned from the text and what it reminds them of.

KnowAtom's introductory text helps students start to think about what they will be exploring in the hands-on activity. It introduces or reinforces the vocabulary needed for the Socratic discourse, so students feel more comfortable joining in the classroom discussion. When using KnowAtom's NGSS-designed curriculum, we challenge our students to act like scientists and engineers, interacting with their peers in a professional setting. This helps level the playing field even further because all students are accessing the same vocabulary when discussing the new phenomenon and understand the rules of engagement when taking part in the classroom discussion.


Tools to strengthen reading fundamentals for all types of learning styles

One of the first things I do to help improve access to the reading material for all students is using prereading tools. The majority of my students are English learners, so they are often not reading at grade level yet. One tool I use to help them access the text is focusing on pictures. Asking students to find meaning in the images in KnowAtom's student readers and using a picture thinking graphic organizer helps them identify the images' object, action, and property. Students build critical thinking and active reading skills as they wonder what they will be reading about through the images and connect it to their current knowledge. This can be done together as a class, or in small student groups, or individually.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, higher order thinking, Socratic dialogue, Expert, Middle School Science Curriculum, Phenomena-led teaching, Next Generation Science, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Remote Learning, 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.

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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

Improving Teacher Expectations of What Students Can Learn with NGSS-Based Explorations

Jul 25, 2021 by Samantha Ozgood

An in depth look at the use of KnowAtom’s science curriculum by fourth and fifth grade teachers by Northeastern University researcher Dr. Tracy L. Waters revealed major changes in both teaching practices and the teacher’s expectations of what students can achieve. The educators who participated in Waters’ study expressed having higher expectations of their students after implementing the hands-on curriculum that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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Topics: science and engineering practices, Inquiry Based Learning, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, New Standardized Testing

New Constructivist Teaching & 5e Model Remove Barriers to Learning K-8

Jul 18, 2021 by Samantha Ozgood

Research from Northeastern University’s Dr. Tracy L. Waters shows that using the KnowAtom Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based curriculum is helping teachers spark excitement from young learners. Promoting differentiation in how students are taught core science concepts, build 21st century career skills, and utilize scientific process for hands-on discovery is helping improve student success and increase collaboration and engagement in the classroom.

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Topics: Middle School Science Curriculum, 5E Instructional Model, Next Generation Science, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction

Teachers Using KnowAtom Engage Students in More Hands-on Science Investigations

Jul 11, 2021 by Samantha Ozgood

One of the highlights of Northeastern University researcher Dr. Tracy L. Waters’ review of fourth and fifth grade science classrooms using the KnowAtom curriculum is a shift in both teaching methods and belief in what students can achieve together. Dr. Waters evaluated classrooms using Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) led by teachers who had been teaching the KnowAtom curriculum for at least two years and who ranged in teaching experience from 2 to 25 years.

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Topics: Professional Development, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, science education

New Research Results on NGSS Curriculum Effects on Students and Teachers

Jun 21, 2021 by Raquel Jenks

A new era of learning has arrived. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 has dramatically transformed the way students learn, leading to a deeper level of understanding of critical scientific concepts. The eight fundamental science practices of the NGSS are designed to generate curricula that nurtures students’ capacity to think critically about key scientific theories, utilize skills learned in other areas of study to communicate their findings, and collaborate with their peers to work towards common goals.

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Topics: Professional Development, Elementary, Middle School Science Curriculum, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Evaluating Curriculum

Research Shows Changing Beliefs and Attitudes About Teaching and Learning Science

May 28, 2021 by Samantha Ozgood

Connecting students with phenomena-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning opportunities is a driving force behind building the workforce of the future. For school leaders and teachers just starting to implement new hands-on learning models and those who have been incorporating collaborate STEM education for years, understanding the measurable effect on student learning and engagement levels is important. One Northeastern University researcher set out to evaluate the impact of implementing the collaborative, hands-on KnowAtom science curriculum in elementary and middle school classrooms.


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Topics: Case study, Professional Development, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, NGSS-Aligned Curriculum

Do teachers have a new role in the NGSS classroom?

Aug 22, 2019 by Sara Goodman

As new science curricula appear in the market claiming to be designed for the Next Generation Science Standards, more and more teachers are starting to ask what their purpose is in a next generation classroom.

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Topics: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards, Next Generation Science, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, STEM Education Policy, Teaching in 3 Dimensions

How to Incorporate Formative Assessment Into Your Next Generation Science Lesson

Aug 2, 2018 by Sara Goodman

In general, it’s important to have straightforward expectations that you hold students accountable to in each part of a science or engineering lesson.

Students need to understand that they’re being held accountable to these expectations. Straightforward expectations help both parties to engage and provide feedback, and to do so in a way that's meaningful to each other.

Here we’ll walk through a KnowAtom lesson, which has 5 parts that unfold over the course of a week or a week and a half, but these ideas can be applied to any lesson.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Assessments, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Teaching in 3 Dimensions

3 Features Shared by All Next Generation Formative Assessments

Jul 26, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

In any part of a next generation science lesson, formative assessments provide useful feedback to both the teacher and the students in the moment.

Formative assessments can come anywhere in a lesson, so they can be verbal, written, electronic, and take a variety of different forms. However, they all share three characteristics.

3 Features Share By All Formative Assessments

  1. Similar to a milestone, formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena, which includes planning and carrying out investigations. This allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process.
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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Assessments, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Teaching in 3 Dimensions

Why Are Formative Assessments Essential to Effective Next Generation Science Instruction?

Jul 19, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

The Next Generation Science Standards are all about students developing the skills to work with ideas, both their own and those of others.

That means that it's not sufficient to know about something. Students have to be able to form an opinion, have an idea, to work with that idea to be able to inform themselves, and also to refine the idea over time, perhaps through experimentation or through prototyping.

This is a significant shift from traditional science instruction, one that will require changes from both teachers and students. 

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Topics: NGSS Assessments, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction

How Do Formative Assessments Benefit Elementary and Middle School Students?

Jul 13, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

Formative assessment needs to be a key part of any next generation science instruction.

At its core, a formative assessment is an opportunity for useful insight on behalf of both parties—the teacher and the students. Often, formative assessments look a lot like a conversation because they’re bilateral, with both parties offering ideas, listening, and acting as a critical skeptic to the other.

Benefits to Students

Students get frequent, focused feedback that is useful for improving their learning in the moment.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Assessments, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Teaching in 3 Dimensions

3 Key Features of Next Generation-DESIGNED Science Curriculum

Feb 27, 2018 by Francis Vigeant

Curriculum is what translates the Next Generation Science Standards into a classroom experience where students can be scientists and engineers. It is what helps students gain experience performing the expectations and making connections on an everyday basis in order to reach mastery, so that over time they can generalize those skills to a variety of situations.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum

5 Steps to Use Science Phenomena More Effectively in Your Classroom

Feb 9, 2018 by Sara Goodman

There are 5 steps educators can adopt in their own classrooms to use phenomena most effectively in the classroom.

 Step 1: Find a real-world anchor phenomenon.

If you're a KnowAtom user, you don't need to find anything because phenomena are the basis for all of our lessons. If you don't use KnowAtom, that's fine. These are all things you can do in your class.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Phenomena-Based Learning

4 Features of All NGSS-Designed (Not Just Aligned) Curriculum

Oct 28, 2017 by Sara Goodman

Those educators responsible for choosing a curriculum will need to be critical consumers to avoid investing in resources that are superficially “aligned” to NGSS but don’t fully articulate the vision of the NGSS so students can achieve the levels of mastery that will be expected of them.

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Topics: 3-dimensions, Implementing New Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

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