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Notes from the Field

Notes from the Field

After attending the VISTA Elementary Science Institutes, the teachers below were profiled in individual blogs over the past months. Each also shared some very specific advice about classroom implementation.

Question map/journal

Kim Luckett of Belle Heth Elementary in Radford learned to use her classroom journals to focus the question map.

“It took me forever to get [the question map] organized,” she says. “I need to narrow the questions down more. I had them all come up with questions and then we shared them, but we had like 10 of the same question and everyone wanted to share ALL their questions.”

To streamline that process, Luckett plans to limit duplicate questions and have the students include the questions in their student journals. “We review their notes all the time,” she says. “So I can ask, did we answer the question?”

Luckett also uses the journals as reference points for the students by distributing diagrams and graphics and other materials for them to paste in. She has everyone number the pages so they can go back and review together.

Discourse

Stephanie Boyd of Martinsville Public Schools shares how she makes discourse work in a setting that’s not ideal.

“My classroom is not conducive to the discourse part of VISTA,” says Boyd. “It’s an old, small science lab, and sometimes there are kids are sitting on the floor or on tables because they don’t have room to do what they’re doing.

“So instead of having everyone sit in a circle, I broke them into four groups, which is how the tables are arranged. At first I had to sit with each group, but after the kids learned the norms, I didn’t have to be so involved.

“They needed to learn the vocabulary and learn how to talk to each other. Not let one person do all the talking. They’re better at it now, so I can stand in the middle of the four tables and just rotate. Most of the time, I try not to jump in. There’s often a kid who has a better question than I would have.”

Integration

Science is a great way to roll up a lot of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) objectives, according to Jayne Reck, a resource teacher at Porter Traditional School in Prince William County. Reck teaches science across grades and focuses on reinforcing curriculum standards.

“I look at the objectives in [each grade] and hit all their units,” says Reck. “Social studies, language arts, reading, writing, history – they all fit in beautifully.”

Math is particularly easy to integrate because science involves a lot of data use, according to Reck. “You don’t have to stop and do a math lesson,” she says. From learning or reinforcing vocabulary to collecting data to using the data to make a graph, integrating math concepts in a science project is relatively easy, she says.

“Science is often about collecting data,” she says. “They write down constants and make a graph with their data. We review graphing: what’s the x axis and what goes on the y axis.

“It’s math, but using it in science helps them make a connection that helps them in the long run,” says Reck.

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Do you have tips to share? Let us know!


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