Children’s and Picture Books for Teaching Science Concepts

I just stumbled upon this little gem that I wanted to share.  This is a comprehensive list of children’s texts and picture books that cover science standards K-6.  It is endorsed by NSTA (National Science Teachers Association).  In my newsletter when I refer to the Science lessons and experiments I have as resources, two of the books I pull from are Picture Perfect Science Lessons and More Picture Perfect Science Lessons, also created by NSTA around the 5E model of inquiry.  In each lesson it gives book suggestions, but this list includes many more.   As you prepare to spend budget money, it may be worth while to get some of these books in your classroom to have more nonfiction and resources to help you in teaching science content.  The hyperlink to the PDF is below.  Enjoy!

 

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‘Tis the Season…To Test, Test, Test–A Form of Child Abuse in Education

Another big conversation that has come about in our grade level meetings is the stress and demands of testing that we all begin to feel this time of year.  Of course, this becomes a national conversation as well, with all teachers feeling this way.  I came across two important articles that I felt compelled to share that really put all this testing madness in perspective.

I know it is important.  I lived the stress and madness for eight years as well.  But I also know that these are kids–little kids–who are so much more than a test score, than this one test score that will not matter one iota in terms of their successes and failures in life.  This was a hard realization for me to come to, but an important truth that helped me find the perspective in all of these that I so desperately needed.  Never on a job application have I been required to list out my elementary, or even middle or high school, test scores.  As a teacher, I had to come to the hard realization that the scores mattered more to me than them simply because of the pressure the educational system puts on its teachers.

I would prep for months in terms of content and themes to make it “fun” (like 9 1/2 hours of testing could ever be fun).  Then when the time came, I stressed all day long as to what answers they were writing and wondering if they were remembering it all (of course they weren’t, I knew.  There is no possible way to remember all K-5 Science content in a 3 1/2 hour test).  Meanwhile, they completed the test, ran out the doors at 4:00, and enjoyed an evening of play in the Spring, not thinking about the test for one more second after they left school, or maybe even after they turned it in.  Soon the testing window would close and school let out for the summer.  I waited anxiously to see what the results would be.  Did they? No.  They went off to enjoy their summers, just as children should, knowing they were going on to the next grade level regardless of their score.  Soon, fall would arrive with those children long gone and new little faces taking their places.  Our scores would be revealed and no matter what was on the report the conversation was always the same–we did well, but we could have done more, we could have been better.  It was never enough.  And thus the cycle of stress began again, but now it was forced up0n a group of students I’d never had until this year and it was all based off a group of students I’d never teach again.  There was simply no breaking the cycle and I, myself, had to take a step back and put it all in perspective for my own sanity and for the sake of being the teacher I knew I wanted to be, but often felt I couldn’t be.

I encourage you to read these articles and hope they help you find some perspective as well.  Both allude to the testing we do as a form of child abuse, and in all honestly, I can’t say I disagree.  I have highlighted my favorite quotes from both beneath each link.

Parent/teacher/administration perspective of testing: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2014/01/the-defiant-parents-testings-discontents.html?mobify=0

“Teachers and kids would spend limited time preparing for the tests.  They would become accustomed to sitting quietly and working alone—a practice quite distinct from the collaboration that is typically encouraged in the school’s classrooms, where learners of differing abilities and strengths work side by side. Come the test days, kids and teachers would get through them, and then, once the tests were over, they would get on with the real work of education.”

Teacher perspective of testing: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/my-report-on-state-of-union.html?m=1

“This. This is what is also glaringly missing from our nation’s discussions about education: citizenship. Indeed, this is the reason our founders placed such a high value on education, not because they wanted to train their 5-year-olds for “tomorrow’s workforce,” but because we need educated citizens to participate in the hard work of self-government. This most important lesson will never be learned from testing, standardization, and fear.”

Blog Post: “Beyond Knowing Facts”

I know this has been a huge conversation in our latest rounds of grade level meetings.  Over and over again I hear, “Students just don’t know their facts.”  Here is the link to a blog posting that addresses this issue as it exists for all teachers.

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/02/how-do-we-create-rich-learning-opportunities-for-all-students/

To give you a little overview, the article opens with this important quote:

“As educators across the country continue to examine the best ways of teaching and learning, a new lexicon is beginning to emerge that describes one particular approach —deeper learning. The phrase implies a rich learning experience for students that allows them to really dig into a subject and understand it in a way that requires more than just memorizing facts.”

So, what does this look like?  How do I get my students there when I feel like there is never enough time?  What defines deeper learning?

Deeper learning has been identified as having six competencies: mastering content, critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets.  Developing an academic mindset is critical in two ways–one, it must be a growth mindset and it must be a positive one.  Students cannot think they are in a static place they can never get out of, thus surrendering to the notion “I just don’t know my facts” or “I’m just not good at math.”  Once they enter into this place, it’s hard to move them forward.  We need to ensure students instead are thinking through the lens of “I just don’t know my facts yet” or “I’m not great at this concept in Math, but I’m trying and know I can get better.”

The article suggests the following to help students develop this:

To develop a positive academic mindset, these are four key beliefs students must hold:

  • I can change my intelligence and abilities through effort
  • I can succeed
  • I belong in this learning community
  • This work has value and purpose for me

The final bullet is critical.  For the  students that do not know their facts, continuing to try to memorize something from flash cards (which hasn’t worked so far) has no value or purpose for them, because they know they’ve already tried it and failed.  This will then permeate a fixed mindset for these kids.  They will continue to think this is the only way to learn them and since they can’t do it, they just aren’t good at math or are incapable of learning their facts.  That is simply not true and we, as teachers, cannot allow that mindset in our classrooms.

I know I’ve offered several suggestions in approaching this work in a new way.  Some have received it well and some have not.  That is just fine.  However, I would encourage you to think about the six competencies for deeper learning and develop a way to help students learn this content in a way that matters to them and will foster the retention we so desperately want them to have, which will only occur through deeper learning.

If you do not follow this blog, I would encourage you to do so!  Very powerful in challenging and posing new thinking in education in ways that can be applied to our teaching.