Category Archives: For Science Team Members

Get Started Teaching Science: You, Too, Can Be a Science Teacher!

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Teaching Science … Who, Me?

So, you’re teaching science next week… Moms, teachers: please raise your hand if you were a science major in college.

{Crickets chirping}

Chances are, you raised your hand – and that’s okay. Because most people weren’t. As a result, you know that teaching science is something that you must do this year… But where to begin?

You probably have a teacher’s guide for language arts. On your desk, you have workbooks with tons of math problems and handwriting practice. Maybe you boast ten lifetime memberships to computer game sites. And, of course, your library is filled with just-right books for you children. But the “what” and “how” of teaching science intimidates you.

So, to help you out, I will share ten tips for getting started teaching science ~ ways that anyone can begin. Choose any of these tips, and stick with it for 30 days, and you will be on your way to building a solid science teaching habit in your homeschool or classroom. I promise.

10 Tips for Getting Started Teaching Science

If you are anxious about teaching science, maybe you have one of three main problems:

  1. You have no clear science topic in mind;
  2. Perhaps you have a topic, but don’t have any ideas for presenting it;
  3. Or, you have a topic and some ideas, but wish you had more science knowledge.

So, let’s look more closely at each of these problems, and talk about some tips for solving them.

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You might be worried about finding a topic for your science lessons ~ but you need go no farther than your own yard to find one! {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2016}

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Back to School time is here … are YOU ready?

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Dealing with “Back to School” Jitters

Are you getting ready to go back to school now? You’ve assembled curriculum… Your custodians are buffing school floors and getting classrooms sparkly… Teachers are busy making desk name tags and unpacking supplies. And you can’t go to any Wal-Mart without stumbling over “Back to School” displays in full regalia.

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Your bulletin board is ready… but are YOU?

There is a lot of excitement during Back to School Season. The school supplies (ahhh… those school supplies…), new clothes, new teachers. But, for many of us, going back to school in the fall can also bring a serious case of nerves.

Maybe we don’t like the idea of swapping flip flops for dress shoes. Perhaps it’s the change in routine, from late morning starts to getting up with the birds.  There are many reasons why the start of the school year creates mixed emotions in young and old, alike.

 

Tips for Easing Back to a School Routine

Wherever you teach, there are some things you can do to make the transition easier for everyone:

  1. First, honor those feelings.

Sarah Leitschuh, of Sarah Leitschuh Counseling, PLLC, suggests acknowledging a child’s misgivings about going back to school, even if you don’t share them. Parent’s can involve their children in back to school preparations, such as picking out a new lunchbox. Teachers can send “welcome” postcards late in the summer. In “Children and Stressors: Beginning of the School Year,” Leitschuh gives many tips for helping everyone get off to a good start on their new year.

My friends at Bright Ideas Press  discuss emotions and schooling in “Emotional Homeschoolers: Learning to Handle Emotions.

http://kimbennett.blogspot.com http://simplesciencestrategies.com back to school

When kids go back to school in the fall, they may be leaving behind a lot of play ~ use fun and educational activities to ease them back to school. {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010}

  1. Plan fun activities for the first days and weeks.

Even if you’re working with the adults in the building, remember that their heads might be elsewhere, too.  The may still be thinking of the Cape, or that daycare drop-off. Can we bring a little play in to help us make the switch from vacation to profession?

Donna Morgan recently wrote of a great way to ease groups (both young and old) into working together, by focusing on the simple soap-bubble! In “Bubbles – They Are Not Just for Kids, You Know!“, Morgan shares how she uses soap-bubble blowing as a way to focus on breathing, being present and observing and visualizing ourselves in a positive place.

What a great idea for a first staff meeting!

  1. Prepare for rough spots.

Our best defense is a good offense. Instead of reacting to rough days during back to school week, let’s prepare in advance so we have a strategy.

When we are having a tough day, it’s easy for our kids’ tough days to get under our skin. In “How to Stay Calm in the Moment,” Jessica Cowling shares her insight as a mom on how to observe during times of conflict with a child.

As a classroom teacher, I have used this strategy time and time again. By being able to step out of my feelings and ask myself, “What are the kids trying to tell me? What do they need?” I am able to derail my own emotions and realize, “They’re telling me they need to get up,” or “They’re telling me it’s just too hot to think today.”

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Staying organized is the key to keeping your back to school week running smoothly ~ and keeping your nerves intact. {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011}

  1. Stay organized.

I once worked with a woman who never left work at the end of the day without her desk cleaned and organized. Her inbox was empty. Her pencils were sharpened. Her plants were watered and her goldfish fed. The trash can was emptied and her folder for the next day was placed neatly in the center of her blotter. When she walked out the door, she was peaceful and usually humming to herself.

Here’s a routine to start right on the first day you go back to work: spend the last half-hour of your day planning for tomorrow. Mike Gardner (“The Time Doctor”) discusses this tip that is sure to give anyone (homeschooler, classroom teacher or coach) a bit more peace at the start of each school day.

  1. Take your classroom outdoors.

There really isn’t anything that you have to teach that you can’t teach,

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Just 15 minutes outside is all you need to add fun, interest and important science learning to your back to school days ~ see A Child’s Garden for ideas! {Photo credit (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011}

at least in part, out-of-doors. During Back to School month, planning outdoor breaks is great, but planning part of an real lesson outdoors makes that time do double duty, serving body, mind and spirit of the teacher, as well as the students.

In my post, “Welcome to “A Child’s Garden,” I share links to many ways you can use just 15 minutes of your day to refresh your teaching, through nature studies, experiments and guided expeditions.

Free Stuff to help you start the year!

Teachers love a little help, especially at the start of the school year. One thing I’ve found helpful in my classrooms is the use of notebooking pages to help jumpstart students’ writing. Why not try them, risk-free, with a free membership promotion? I’ve been a lifetime member of the Notebooking Treasury at NotebookingPages.com since 2010 – try the free membership and I guarantee you will become a member, too!

Notebooking Pages Free Membership

What do you do to ease students (and staff!) back to school in the fall?

Leave a comment below ~ we love to hear from you and share our ideas! If you found this article helpful, and would like to see more, subscribe to this website using the subscription gadget in the sidebar. Happy Back to School!

 

 

 

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Kindergarten Literacy and Science

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The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. ~ Albert Einstein

Kindergarten Literacy and the Common Core State Standards

There is a storm brewing in early childhood education land.

Recently, two educators began a discussion over the Common Core State Standards, and whether or not kindergartners should be required to read by the end of the year. The conversation is creating a greater discussion about what kindergarten literacy really is. The post below shares both sides of the issue.

Peter Greene vs Robert Pondiscio: Should Kindergartners Be Required to Read?

I wanted to LIKE this post a million times.

First, I want to clarify that I am NOT an opponent, in general, of the Common Core State Standards. I do, however, have some reservations about basing so much of what we do, as parents, educators and schools, on this one set of standards. I think we are at risk of losing the parts of kindergarten that help ensure that our kids become great readers later on in school.

 

What Should All Kindergartners Know, Understand and Do?

Most early learning standards include multiple domains as part of a child’s “curriculum framework,” including social skills, motor play, creative arts, and other areas as part of teaching the whole child. Math, reading, science and writing are included as the parts of the cognitive domain. Early learning standards typically follow a developmental range from approximately age 2 to age 6, which would include most kindergartners and even some first graders.

The Common Core State Standards, which have become the only standards most American public schools even discuss, focus only on language arts and mathematics. With such a pressure for students to do well on the high-stakes tests in the elementary grades, our early grades have become hyper-focused on guided reading, reading skills, reading assessments, and reading support groups. Mathematics might be in there, but we are often hard-pressed to find science and social studies. Creativity, motor play and other areas are relegated to “Fun Friday,” recess, or other teachers, in the form of “specials.” They now assume a “nice-to-have” status that is easy to cut out, when test scores reveal reading problems in higher grades. Science, nature study and outdoor exploration find no place in most kindergarten curriculum.

We really don’t children who can read and write. We want children who are readers, who are writers, who are literate in all senses of the word. We want them to be able to speak about many topics, to ask questions and figure out how to answer them, and who are lifelong learners. When we define kindergarten literacy narrowly as reading and writing, we have ignored the foundations of oral language, experiential learning and inquiry that create scholars.

 

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Rich learning experiences create opportunities for writing. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

What is Kindergarten “Literacy?” How Should It Be Taught?

A report in the Washington Post outlines some interesting findings about the “new” kindergarten:

  • Many children are developmentally unready to read in kindergarten;
  • No research shows long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten;
  • Play-based kindergartens show more long-term effects on learning than ones with a more academic focus;
  • Children learn from hands-on, playful experiences with materials, the natural world, and caring adults;
  • Active learning, conversation, and play give preschoolers the skills needed to be great readers in elementary school;
  • Teachers in successful, play-based kindergartens weave literacy and language into real-life experiences.
http://simplesciencestrategies.com kindergarten literacy

Kindergarten literacy includes a variety of receptive and expressive language opportunities. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

 

It is sad to me to see kindergartens barren, no easels, no dramatic play. Construction centers and sensory tables disappeared long ago from most classrooms. Blocks and puppets have been replaced with skill worksheets and letter cards, and nature walks have moved aside to make room for “intervention” groups. We wonder why 2nd graders can’t follow a set of directions or solve math problems with counters, or why 3rd graders don’t know how to use a measuring cup or eyedropper in science class. All that “play” isn’t really play, is it?

When we give kids interesting things to do, they want to read about them, and write about them.

Two of my four children had very late birthdays, and were also readers before entering kindergarten. At home, they spent hours a day, exploring the outdoors and catching things in jars. They started school at age 4, and were four for a long while.

Could you pick them out in the class? Absolutely. Both by their rolling around on the floor and acting “immature” (read, like a preschooler), AND by their ability to read. They couldn’t sit still for longer than five minutes in class, but they knew the names of all the birds at the bird feeder, every insect in the garden, and the difference between a frog and a toad. Today, they would likely be considered not ready, age-wise, and their science knowledge would be  a footnote on the report card.

http://simplesciencestrategies.com kindergarten literacy

Conversation about real-life experiences creates a strong language base, essential for success in elementary literacy. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

What are Your Thoughts on Kindergarten Literacy?

What are your thoughts on literacy in preschool and kindergarten? How do you feel the Common Core State Standards should be implemented in the early childhood years? Do you successfully weave science and the CCSS together in your kindergarten class? Leave a comment below.

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