When it comes to Next Gen Curriculum and Standards, it's important to unpack curriculum mapping. NGSS Standards are performance expectations (PEs), and there are infinite routes to student mastery but for students to get there requires the skill and knowledge of teachers to create deeper learning opportunities.Continue reading
Whether you are currently using KnowAtom or not, all teachers know the importance of a great discussion. I'd like to share with you some of the teaching strategies I've learned over the past 20 years to help prepare your students for meaningful scientific discussion. If you're not a science teacher, many of the cooperative learning and growth mindset strategies I am going to discuss will work with your students as well.
What is a growth mindset? The education concept was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck and shared in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She writes, "In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits…. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort." In contrast, "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning…." says Dweck.
Teachers who use the KnowAtom curriculum understand first-hand how implementing cooperative learning strategies, including Socratic dialogue, in the classroom improves student engagement and strengthens learning outcomes. I've also seen how as I give the reins more to my students, letting them take the lead in classroom discussions and small group projects, they can accomplish amazing things together. Seeing this first-hand has definitely strengthened my belief in a growth mindset!
Preparing for student-led discussions
Giving students the tools they need to prepare for a great discussion is something that we really need to remember to do because students don't always know how to do it on their own. With this support, we can create students who are confident in their ability to discuss their ideas. With Dweck's growth mindset in mind, we can prepare students to engage in cooperative learning strategies that strengthen their critical thinking skills and set them up to become lifelong learners.
When using the KnowAtom curriculum, there are simple steps to every lesson that we do together as a class. We always start with nonfiction reading. Then we move into a Socratic dialogue where the students discuss their thoughts and get ready for what they will be planning next. The goal of a great classroom discussion is to create a bridge between what the students have read and the lab they will soon be preparing for. They are better prepared when we get to the cooperative learning groups' hands-on science investigation because of this step-by-step process.
The most important part of a good Socratic discussion is that the teacher is not the only one asking the questions. The students ask each other questions. They challenge each other to defend their thinking, and in the process, learn to use evidence to support their arguments. It's important to remember that cooperative learning doesn't happen overnight. When I started teaching with KnowAtom, my students were really excited about what they read. When it came time for the formal discussion, I assumed they would be very eager to discuss the information. I was wrong – we just sat there. The students either looked at me with panic or looked at their lab books. I was the only one asking questions. So, I had to go back and think about, how am I going to help my students feel prepared and comfortable to discuss these lessons?
Developing cooperative learning routines
The first thing we do together is develop routines. First, students gather the resources they need. Next, we review pre-lesson questions to get the students thinking about what they are going to read about. For the reading portion, we develop different cooperative learning strategies, including reading individually, as a class, or with a partner. We also use read-aloud videos and reading strategies to help all students access the nonfiction text. Finally, we use picture thinking graphic organizers to help students focus on the pictures from the text.
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
One of the most important things we can teach our students, no matter what grade level or topic you teach, is how to ask good questions. When I think about this important topic, I can't help but consider how my teaching style has changed over the past 20 years. Today, when I think about how to support student centered learning in my classroom, I want to make sure that I am modeling good questions. That's because modeling is an important way to teach students how to ask good questions themselves. I am going to share with you what a good question looks like and how to teach your students ways to identify and use them effectively.
A student-centered classroom starts with the teacher. We've learned that we can improve student engagement and achieve better outcomes by giving up some of the control we have as teachers. Students who are given an active role in the classroom have more opportunities to think critically about the concepts and how they relate to the world around them. Rather than asking students to read and memorize, we need to be asking them to collaborate with their peers, discover new ideas, and make strong connections. With student centered learning, giving students a voice in the classroom helps improve student engagement, but students need to develop the skills to take the lead. Learning how to ask authentic questions of their peers, their teachers, and their sources – is a great way to start.
Student centered instruction and asking good questions
Good questions are good questions regardless of who you're interacting with or what subject you're teaching. If you're not a KnowAtom teacher, if you're a teacher who teaches another subject, a parent, or a principal, all of these things will apply to your students as well! Let's look first at where we can expect students to ask good questions when implementing a student-centered approach during a lesson.
KnowAtom's science curriculum starts off with a nonfiction reading component every time. That's where a lot of the questioning will happen in a student centered teaching model. From there, we move on to Socratic dialogue, where students discuss the questions, wonders, or connections they made from the reading. Questioning plays a big part in this section of the lesson and if we can improve our students' questioning skills, we can improve our classroom dialogue.
Students then move into planning, and we ask them to think like scientists or engineers. That entails a lot of questions about what's going to happen in the hands-on investigation portion of the unit. Then, the students carry out their investigation, experiment, or engineering activity. Lots and lots of questions are happening as part of this section as well. Finally, students share their conclusions in a debrief. One of the things that I enjoy most with student centered learning is listening to students question each other about their data and their outcomes.
The purpose of questioning in student centered learning
What's the purpose of questions? The main purpose of encouraging students to ask good questions is to engage them in taking a position on a concept or big idea from the reading. When you think about it, that's a really risky proposition. Perhaps that's why when I first started teaching, I asked questions like "What is a hurricane?" rather than "How are hurricanes related to the water cycle?"
What is CER? CER stands for Claim, Evidence, Reasoning. It is essentially a framework that educators use to teach the scientific method. Simplified, it looks like:
Claim (answer to a question) + Evidence (student’s data) + Reasoning (scientific principle or rule)
When we ask students to support scientific claims using CER and we model thinking moves in the process, we help spark their own curiosity about the world around them. When teachers introduce KnowAtom’s hands-on engineering labs and science experiments, they are bringing real world phenomena into the classroom. And when students make a scientific claim and back it up, they are taking charge of their own learning process.
Learning about thinking moves was one of the most transformative steps in my 20-year teaching career. One of my favorite quotes is from an American writer, Elbert Hubbard, who said, “The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.” Thinking moves provide a structured approach to better understanding how we think. For teachers, it’s also a well-tested strategy to help propel students towards learning connected to their own natural curiosity and cognitive abilities. When students take the reins in the classroom, studies overwhelmingly show that engagement levels rise, and learning outcomes do too.
Thinking Moves in the Classroom, CER, and NGSS
Whether you are an educator, parent, guardian, or principal – you can learn from teachers who incorporate thinking moves into their classrooms. Thinking moves help students develop a much deeper level of understanding of the topic at hand. Here’s a list of thinking moves developed by the authors of Making Things Visible (2011):
1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
2. Building explanations and interpretations
3. Reasoning with evidence
4. Making connections
5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
7. Wondering and asking questions
8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things
You’ve probably already noticed how well these go along with next generation science skills (NGSS). For those teaching science and engineering practices in the classroom – here’s how thinking moves align directly with STEM:
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
Did you know that the Next Generation Science Standards have applications in art?
While including the arts with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) may seem counterintuitive, the fact is that at their core, STEM and art have higher order thinking in common. STEAM learning is about creativity – discovery and invention – as well as analysis, communication, and critical thinking, all of which are essential to the creation and appreciation of art.Continue reading
Understanding STEAM and the connection between art and science, technology, engineering and math is important, because the connection comes about through the exact skills that we've been talking about. Science, technology, engineering and math is problem solving and answering questions. Math is just a tool for communication. The engineering and the science, what we're talking about is the problem solving skills. We're talking about higher order skills—creating, evaluating, analyzing.Continue reading
Nationally recognized education journalist Jennifer Berkshire discusses big questions that will continue to shape the future of K-12 with KnowAtom CEO Francis Vigeant.
"We're seeing the whole conversation around testing start to shift. The conversation around the relationship between charter and district schools is going to, if not shift, get sort of more concrete and out in the open. I think that as we have this sort of bigger debate about the future, about what kind of jobs people are going to have, it's going to be impossible to talk about schools without having a more vigorous argument about what schools are supposed to be doing." -Berkshire
In this transcript of their conversation, Jennifer and Francis discuss these Five Debates:
- What is school for?
- Should school be about adults pulling or kids pushing?
- What should the relationship between charter schools and traditional school districts be?
- How should we measure school quality?
- What is the relationship between schools and neighborhoods?
"When we codify, we run the risk of losing innovation. That's why you see so many technical companies now hiring artists, because the opportunity to include problem solvers that potentially think differently. Innovation and creativity go hand in hand. There's no question about it. As members of society, we have a responsibility to leave the next generation better off than we found it, and I think we run the risk of losing that capacity by homogenizing and standardizing." -Dr. Stephen Immerman
KnowAtom CEO Francis Vigeant discusses the connection of art to science, technology, engineering and math in K-12 classrooms with special guest Dr. Stephen Immerman, president of Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts.
In this transcript of their conversation, you'll read about:
• Beyond aesthetics: What is art?
• Why STEM educators are welcoming art and calling it "STEAM"
• How art education can leverage science and engineering practices
• Where you can get involved in the national movement from STEM to STEAM