How to Take KnowAtom Lessons Remote

Child Learning Remotely

As many schools and districts move to remote or hybrid learning this school year, preserving what makes science learning most valuable for students, whether it's in the classroom or remote, is critical.

Learning remotely for students should be no different than when they're learning in the classroom. Students should be creating, evaluating, analyzing, and applying to understand something about the context they're exploring, thinking about, or connecting with. All of the pieces that make remote learning dynamic (students sharing videos, asking questions, writing or recording reflections, live sessions) should focus on students developing an understanding of what others think, what they think, what the evidence shows, and what sort of conclusions we can all come to.

The key to taking KnowAtom lessons remote across Grades K-8 is to follow the unit scope and sequence and break down each segment of a lesson routine into small virtual activities that foster the same deep learning that occurs in the classroom.

The Lesson Routine

There are five basic segments to any given KnowAtom lesson:

1. Nonfiction reading. 2. Socratic dialogue. 3. Students plan. 4. Students carry out investigation, experiment, or engineering. 5. Share conclusions and debrief. And then transition to the next lesson or unit.

So how do we take this lesson routine and re-imagine it for a remote or hybrid learning environment?

We've broken down each lesson segment by grade band and included ways that you may want to approach each lesson segment if you're working in a 100% remote learning environment or a hybrid learning environment (two days remote/three days in class.)

You can also download this chart as a quick reference guide as well.

1. Nonfiction Reading

The purpose of the reading is to introduce students to a real-world context and phenomenon for the lesson. It gives every student a common background and some scientific vocabulary. Questions that emerge from the reading act as a springboard for scientific discourse.

Key Supports

  • Read-Aloud Videos: All of KnowAtom's reading material and trade books are now professionally read aloud with a document camera on video so students can follow along. These videos (along with the reading questions) can be accessed on the KnowAtom Interactive. If a student can't read, that's ok. They can see the pictures and listen to the book. They can watch/listen to the video with a parent or caregiver together or watch it again on their own.
  • Picture-Thinking Reading Strategy: This routine engages students in close observation of the images in the nonfiction reader to describe what they think the text on each page is about before reading the text. It's a powerful tool that engages students in taking a low-stakes, personal risk to infer meaning and then modify their own understanding. Instructions for using the Picture-Thinking Reading Strategy are found on the KnowAtom Interactive under "Supporting Resources."
    *TIP: We suggest spending some initial time at a Zoom meeting to do some guided practice with your class on how to use the Picture Thinking Reading Strategy. Students will be more engaged and enjoy the routine more if modeling or guided practice has occurred.

Strategies for Using these supports

Grades K-8:

  • Use a platform such as Seesaw to share the read-aloud video links and the Picture-Thinking Graphic Organizer with your class. When PDFs are dropped into the Seesaw platform, the document becomes fill-able so students can type their observations directly in the document.
  • Students can complete the Picture-Thinking graphic organizer for a specific section of the reading directly on the platform and then record highlights from their picture-thinking graphic organizer and share those with the teacher by uploading to Seesaw.
  • For Grades K-2, the caregiver will most likely help to document wonders with their child. Documentation can happen by filling out the graphic organizer online, or with a short cell phone video that the caregiver uploads to Seesaw.

As an activity on Seesaw, pull together several diverse ideas from your student's picture thinking graphic organizers that they've shared with you. Bring those together and share them back out to the whole class. Invite students to think about and respond to something someone else shared. Ask a question that can lead to the next part of the lesson: scientific discourse.

2. Socratic Dialogue/Scientific Discourse

Socratic dialogue, also known as scientific discourse, is a forum where students are asking questions or responding to questions from their peers or teacher. The purpose is for students to work with their own ideas and the ideas of others related to the concepts and phenomena they're exploring.

Key Supports

  • Picture-Thinking Graphic Organizer (KnowAtom Interactive)
  • Grade K-2 and Grades 3-8 Scientific Discourse Sentence frames (KnowAtom Interactive)
  • Grades 3-8 Scientific Discourse Preparation (KnowAtom Interactive)
  • SocraCircle for live discussions (KnowAtom's online discourse tool) or Live Zoom meetings

Strategies for Using these supports

Grades K-2:

  • Students can work with a caregiver to document and discuss their wonders.
  • Teachers can take the recorded highlights that students turned in when they used the Picture-Thinking routine and share them with the class.  Assign student wonders, or video recordings, to groups of students to observe. Caregivers can record what their child wondered about or what they think about other student wonders and how they connect to places they've seen or things they've experienced.
  • Teachers coordinate live sessions or show recorded highlights that students shared, with prompts for reflection. Students answer the prompts in writing or with a video and upload it to Seesaw. 

Grades 3-8:

  • Grades 3-8 can utilize the same strategies for K-2 in addition to tools like SocraCircle or live discussion via Zoom. You may even decide to do a combination of Zoom and SocraCircle simultaneously. The nice thing about SocraCircle is you can leave the discussion circles open for any amount of time.
  • Students can utilize the Socratic Dialogue Preparation sheet to help organize their thoughts before they engage in a live discussion, with teams in Zoom breakout rooms, and for homework post-discussion or live at the end of the session.

3. Students Plan

Lab planning is a rich environment for developing skills, making thinking visible, and for using thinking moves. Lab planning is a process of methodical thinking where students identify questions and problems and then plan how they're going to try to gather some evidence to understand if what they believe is the solution to a problem or the answer to a question is scientifically valid. Teachers play the role of thought-partner, and formatively assess students during this process.

In a hybrid environment where students will be in class for two or three days in a row, this in-class time is ideal for lab planning and experimentation.

Key Supports

  • Lab materials arranged in the classroom for students to observe (in-class)
  • Photograph of materials, or a materials list, so students can see what they have to work with (remote) OR students have their materials at home

Remote Lab Planning Strategies:

Grades K-2

  • Students use templates in Grades K-2 to facilitate their planning. Planning in these grades could take place with a caregiver, or even an older sibling.
  • If lab planning takes place with another student, remember to create student groups of no more than two, so they can communicate with each other and report back to the teacher to check in for feedback.
  • Caregivers can record a video of their child planning their investigation/experiment as well as responding to prompts posted by the teacher via Seesaw. Student/teams can also respond with their own recording, and then you respond back to those teams to provide feedback.

Grade 3-8

  • The expectations for lab planning in class are the same in remote a setting: everyone is responsible for their own lab plan. Starting in Grade 3, students can plan their experiment/investigation/prototype with a virtual partner to think about the question/problem, look at the materials, and reach a consensus on their plan together.
  • Students can use Google Hangouts to collaborate live or share video recordings via Seesaw.
  • Teachers can structure prompts for checkpoint feedback the same way they would in class. For example, teams can be released to plan their question, research, and hypothesis virtually. Students then submit a video recording where they explain why they chose their hypothesis, how their plan is going to work, and what they think might happen. Students in Grade 3 may not be ready for this developmentally until about October.
  • Teachers use formative assessment techniques to provide feedback and keep the dialogue going. Setting expectations for students about timing for submitting and receiving feedback will be important.
  • Use Zoom breakout rooms with an adult present to provide feedback and support, particularly at the beginning when more support is needed or for struggling students.

In Class Lab Planning Strategy - Socially distanced thought-partners

If you're in a hybrid model (two or three days a week in class), students can plan with a partner in person. Even if it's socially-distanced, students can talk with their partner across the room. They can chat with their partner through any number of platforms (like Seesaw or Hangouts) in the same room. In Seesaw, planning can be parsed out into a series of tasks the way that you would release responsibility in the classroom for a question, research, hypothesis, and ask students to report back.

4. Students Carry Out Investigation, Experiment, or Engineering

The curriculum is designed for collaborative learning in student pairs. However, due to social distancing, having materials for each student avoids students sharing and touching the same materials. See the "Hands-on Materials Recommendations" section below for more strategies for materials.


  • Hybrid In-class: Students can execute the plan they developed with their partner using their own or shared materials in the classroom. They can then share their data and conclusion with their socially-distanced partner. Student partners can alternate who manipulates the materials lesson-by-lesson.
  • Remote: Students with materials at home can carry out their plans with a caregiver. Teachers provide prompts online via Seesaw or Google Classroom to help facilitate caregivers working with their child to experiment and prototype.
    • Allow for some flexibility in the materials students can use. For example, when students are engineering, you may choose to allow students to find 1-2 things out of the recycling bin as part of their materials list.
    • Students can video record their experiment or prototype as they collect data, analyze it, and form a conclusion. Each of those aspects can be a separate video that students/caregivers upload to Seesaw.
    • Teachers can provide prompts via Seesaw to structure student analysis of their results and thinking. For example: "How has your thinking changed?" "What has changed?" "Was it what you expected?" "Why did you expect that to happen?"

5. Conclusions and De-brief

Key Supports

  • Conclusion Sentence Frames (on the KnowAtom Interactive)


  • Students can engage in a Think-Pair-Share with a virtual partner or with a sibling or caregiver at home to discuss their thinking and to share their conclusions. These mini sessions can be recorded by the student or caregivers and uploaded to Seesaw for teachers to review. 
  • Teachers can coordinate collecting and responding to student conclusions while also bringing the group back together in a live or recorded session to highlight what students have shared.
  • In these sessions, teachers focus on highlighting the diversity of ideas and approaches to give students something to think about and prompt them for their reflection. For example: "How has your thinking changed?" "Has anything about your thinking changed through what you've done?" "Is anything that you've seen in one of the highlights caused you to think differently, or raised a new question that you are wondering about?" Students can respond to these types of prompts live, in a video, or in writing.

Formative assessments: NWEA or Map Science Assessments are a great way to monitor student progress through formative assessments because students can engage with these assessments on computers remotely. Using these assessments and then watching them over the year is going to show you where your student's knowledge-set is building and where it's not yet developed. Blank concept maps are also a great formative assessment tool at this point as well.

Technology Considerations

Several platforms are structured well for remote learning with KnowAtom, particularly Seesaw, which is free. Google Hangouts or Zoom works well for live sharing.

The idea that school is going to happen with 100% live video is a thing of the past.

Teachers should instead think about the school day as a back-and-forth exchange of information that's asynchronous; students are going to be sending you video, you're going to send them a video. There might be some live time that you schedule, but don't overwhelm students and parents with the need to have a dedicated device and connectivity at home because it's not always a reality. Sometimes the internet goes down; computers have trouble, and software updates happen.

Hands-on Materials Recommendations

There are several recommendations on how to structure hands-on materials for remote/hybrid learning this year.

1. Every student has their own materials (best approach). It's strongly recommended that every student has their own materials for safety reasons. Normally, KnowAtom's hands-on materials are structured for students to work in pairs. For every student to have their own materials, schools and districts can purchase an additional set of consumable materials for each class. Schools/districts may consider using the budget they would have spent on Units 7-9 to buy additional materials for at least Units 1-3 this year.

    • Hybrid classroom: Teachers structure hands-on experimentation and investigations during the time in class. Students engage in socially distant planning together but manipulate their own materials to carry out their team's plans.
    • Remote classroom: Students engage in planning their investigations and experiments with a partner virtually, using their own materials at home (with adult supervision) to carry out their plans. Students share a video of their investigation and results virtually with their partner.

2. Students work in pairs, sharing one set of hands-on materials (normal class pairing).

    • Hybrid classroom: Student pairs engage in socially distant planning in the classroom and take turns carrying out their plans with the materials from lesson to lesson with their partner.
    • Remote classroom: Students pairs virtually plan their investigation/experiment. One student from the pair uses the materials at home to carry out the plan and sends a video to their partner showing the investigation/experiment in action (with adult supervision) and results.

3. Schools/districts that use KnowAtom materials with larger group sizes (3-4 students per group) should, at a minimum, purchase additional student readers so every student has their own copy. These locations should also consider purchasing an extra set of consumable materials for each class so students can at least work in pairs. This could be accomplished by using the budget that would have been spent on Units 7-9 to purchase additional materials for at least Units 1-3.

    • Hybrid classroom: Student groups engage in socially distant planning and rotate manipulating the materials from lesson to lesson with different team members.
    • Remote classroom: Students function in groups to virtually plan their investigation/experiment. One student from the group uses the materials at home to carry out the plan and sends a video to their partners, showing the investigation/experiment in action (with adult supervision) and data.

Making the hands-on materials a part of the hybrid/remote learning experience is going to drive student engagement: showing up, performing the expectations, completing the tasks, and being immersed in the context. It's something students can value as their own and engage in with a caregiver or sibling when appropriate. It's also a reason to report in to live sessions.

Tips for sending materials home: If a student is engaging with the materials at home, teachers can take the materials for each student and put them in a closable plastic bag. For safety reasons, remember to provide copies of MSDS sheets for caregivers and label materials such as powders, liquids, and tablet-type items, as well as anything that is hot/cold/sharp or poses a choking hazard.

Tools: Most of the tools that are involved in KnowAtom kits are common household items. So you may find that you don't need many tools or you have extras from years prior. If you do need additional sets of digital scales, for example, KnowAtom can arrange these for you, but we need to know as soon as possible.

Closing Tips:

  • Make sure you have enough tools and materials to involve students hands-on, so no student is left behind or left out.
  • Whether you're 100% remote or hybrid (2-3 days in school per week), develop a standard structure (prompts, templates, etc.) that you can use to segment the lesson routine for remote learning. Invest your time here, because this is a structure that is going to create clarity, purpose, and an opportunity and a role for all the stakeholders (parents, teachers, and students) to be on the same page and collaborate. Seesaw is a fantastic tool for this.

If your school or district has not yet finalized science materials or would like to discuss the logistics, please contact Kimberly Gavrilles today.

For more information on supports, tools, and strategies you can use now, check out our free professional development series on remote learning.

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