Thursday, October 22, 2009

Developing Young Scientists

Each year, our professional development site, Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, conducts a year long pd session in Science, The Academy of Science. We have three Chets' teachers who participate in this learning, and many teachers who support the learning by offering live demonstration lessons that are videoconferenced in to the training.

Second Grade teachers, Ashley Russell and Melissa Ross, invited participants to watch their 5 E model lesson on matter. Melanie Holtsman recorded the video at Chets Creek to make sure it was available on our Setting the Standard Ning for our CCE teachers to view. The lesson was planned using the 5 E model and Day 1 offers the Engage, Explore, and Explain portion. The participants watching virtually applauded the teachers for their lesson, and those watching it on the ning are equally as impressed. When you watch, I'm sure you will agree that these teachers are turing their young students into curious scientists.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Science Demonstration Lessons

Last year, teachers filled out a professional development survey, and we discovered that the professional development sessions they found most helpful were related to differentiated technology. Teachers liked having the option to select their session and meet in small groups. So, we knew we had to continue that practice and find a way to offer more.

It didn't take long for visionary dayle timmons to come up with an idea. She thought we could choose a topic and invite teachers on a voluntary basis to participate in a day of lesson observation and debrief. Principal Susan Phillips agreed to secure substitutes and give it a try.

Per our School Improvement Plan and based on data, science is an area of focus for us this school year. So to begin with the differentiated offering, we found it fitting to focus on the 5 E model, and two of our Science Council members agreed to invite observers into their classrooms. Last Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm, we offered our first session and ten teachers joined us for observation lessons and debriefs.

Rachel Bridges and Heather Correia co-taught a first grade lesson for their colleagues. We observed Day 2 of a 4 day lesson sequence. The four day lesson focus was for students to know that a push or a pull can change the motion of an object and for students to demonstrate using pushes and pulls to change the motion of 4 different objects. In addition, students needed to be able to record the motion of each object in their science journals using the words "push" or "pull."
On Day 2, observation day, Rachel and Heather's colleagues were able to watch the Explore portion of the lesson sequence. Students observed four objects and recorded in their science journal their predictions for how the objects would move. Then, during Work Period, students worked in pairs to explore how their objects moved and record their data in their science journals. To close, students returned to the floor to share their explorations as a whole class. Some students used the words push and pull, as well as fast and slow. Day 3 of the lesson will take the learning into the Explain portion of the 5 E model.
After the lesson, Rachel joined the group in the conference room for a debrief. The group was thoroughly impressed with the classroom learning environment, the young students use of science journals, and the teacher's implementation of the science word wall to aid student learning. They applauded the teachers for introducing journaling and a 5th grade teacher shared her connection with student's journaling in Grade 5. The observers asked questions, shared their ah ha moments, and immediately selected ideas they wanted to implement in their own classroom.

After the group enjoyed lunch together, we headed to Lynn Patterson's Fourth Grade classroom or another lesson. The students were trying to answer the question, How does the movement of the Earth affect the position of the Sun? Observers were able to watch classroom instruction on the first two E's, Engage & Explore. The Engage began with the teacher showing students photographs she had taken of a sunrise and a sunset with captions. They discussed what could be causing a change in the position of the sun and students recorded their hypothesis. Next, they quickly reviewed their materials and a procedure lab sheet before students set off to conduct a lab to explore the guiding question.
Students, in the lab, used models of the Earth and a flashlight to set up the scenario of a sunset and sunrise with the emphasis on the correct tilt and positions of the continents. Students worked in pairs to generate conclusions and record their findings. The lab sheet then provided guiding questions related to geography and required students to study maps in their Social Studies books to answer additional questions. Students gathered for Closing Session afterward and most students concluded that the sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west each day due to the counterclockwise rotation of the Earth on its tilted axis. Students also shared their learning related to the other questions.

After the lesson, the observers debriefed the lesson in the conference room. They all agreed that the students had adequate guidance to get started on the lab, but that the majority of the session required students to be independent learners. The teacher facilitated instruction as she visited pairs around the room, but the students were expected to read and follow the procedures to work their way through the lab. All students were on task and recording their findings. The observers were also impressed with the teacher's purposeful integration of geography, and having the conclusion in cloze form to get the students to think more deeply about their conclusions.

The teachers who participated appreciated the opportunity, raved about their colleagues classrooms, and each had ideas they wanted to implement into their own teaching. As a coach, I took note of those teachers who seemed eager to share and asked for further opportunities, as well as those that remained more timid. I think that one of the most important learning opportunities came when there were ah ha moments from intermediate teachers visiting the primary classroom, and primary teachers in the intermediate classroom were priceless. An element of the day that I hope we continue. I plan on follow up discussion with these teachers individually to find out which new ideas grew for them out of this experience and which ones they've successfully implemented in their own instruction.