Transfer of Learning Through Tools

Hello all! I hope you’re surviving this week, as we just got hit by a passive snow storm (or nor’easter for some of you!) This week at my student teaching placement I have wrapped up our unit on speed with bubblegum and started my innovative unit on astronomy. For anyone that knows me personally, I absolutely LOVE outer space. If I understood physics, I would hands down be an astronaut. But instead, I get to teach about it! We started the unit using view master virtual reality goggles.

As someone who used the old school view masters, this tool is incredible. It creates things that we normally don’t have the opportunity to see as a reality in the classroom. Throughout the day, the excitement was still alive. Using tools like the view master creates a learning environment thats not only fun, but digitally enriched.

Benefits of using tools 

 1. Differentiated instruction: When we teach our students, we are always thinking of new and innovative ways to create differentiating learning for our students. Believe it or not, students can remember what they learned more through tools that will get them an experience rather than memorizing. Learning is not about memorizing, it is about absorbing your new knowledge and applying it to your every day lives.

2. Makes learning fun!: Students often complain that school is boring and that they don’t learn anything. When my students walked through the door and saw the goggles, they were ecstatic. Bringing in tools like the view master goggles and making our classroom into a reality makes learning fun and our students realize that learning does not have to be done through memorizing definitions or equations.

3. Allows students to be a scientist: People have a specific image of a scientist- white lab coats with safety goggles. Although schools might not have lab coats, students who use tools in the classroom can have the opportunity to be a scientist. Tools are almost always used in the scientific field, whether that be in the lab, in the environment or in outer space. Giving our students this opportunity will break down the barrier of what a scientist needs to look like and allow them to see their futures as scientists.

Possible Challenges

Throughout the day, the goggles had to be charged almost the entire day just to make sure the battery would last. In the goggles there was a phone (which showed the images) and the phones would get too hot for anyone to touch them. It’s challenges like these that make teachers and schools hesitant to buy or to use these kind of tools. Another challenge we faced that day were students being distracted at times. Although they were on track most of the time, we had to pause the simulation to get them refocused.

Overall, I believe using tools like the virtual goggles bring fun, creativity and learning together. Students can have the opportunity to do more with their learning through tools rather than memorizing and putting their knowledge to a standardized test.

No, I Will NOT Carry.

No, I will NOT carry a gun.

These past few weeks have been hard for any student, teacher, parent, administrator, or anyone you could think that works for or is in a school. As I sit here, trying my hardest to think about something positive to blog about, my heart has been set on this topic for a few days now. My heart is full of sadness and grief for those who have lost 17 friends, classmates, students and teachers on February 14th, 2018. In case you are not aware of what is going on, this past Valentines Day yet another school shooting has happened, this time at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Here are the details of the shooting. Although there are thousands of articles and videos you can access on the shooting and the stories of the victims, no article could ever express the sadness, the anxiety, and the fear these students, teachers, parents and administrators felt that day. And as a student teacher, I hope to never feel anxiety or fear going to work, but now? Now thats all I think about when I look at my students.

School Shootings: A Student Teachers Perspective

I was only 4 years old when Columbine happened. I have no recollection of it. I was 12 years old when Virginia Tech happened. Still, I did not fully understand what was going on. I was a senior in high school when 26 children and teachers were shot and killed on December 14th, 2012 in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I’ll never forget that day. I remember my social studies teacher turning on the news, making sure we were fully aware of what was going on. Despite how horrifying it was to see what was going on, I now understand why he did it. On February 15th of this year, I took a long, long look at my students. All I could think about was, what if? I pictured where I would put them, hide them. Would it be enough to keep them safe?

As a brand new teacher, literally, only student teaching, I wonder how I would handle a school shooting. Is that something I should be thinking about? No, but now it is one of my top priorities. And as a new teacher, who hasn’t even starting running her own classroom, having thoughts like that terrify me. I haven’t even started my new job without thinking of the worst. When before, all I thought about was how will I show my students love today? Not how will I protect them from a bullet today? It’s the little things that people, who do not teach, don’t think about. Lately, especially on social media, I have had the pleasure of seeing peoples comments, shares and even tweets saying what teachers are capable of and are not capable of. Well today, I’m here to tell you what we, as teachers, do to support our students in a time like this, and what we ARE capable of, and should not be forced upon.

When tragedy strikes, educators consider their students first and foremost. Teachers want to know, “What do I tell my kids?” and, “How do I help students wrap their heads around such unthinkable violence?”

Before the Parkland shooting, the first time I decided to research on how to talk to my students about mass shootings and gun violence was on October 1st, 2017 when a mass shooting happened in Las Vegas. This time frame was extremely important for me, as I was in my first student teaching placement. I was truly scared to talk to my students about it. What if they don’t respond to anything I say? What if they just blow it off?  Questions like these were running through my mind, and to be honest, they still do. But now.. now I think about what I need to do for my students. One of my go to resources for my blog, Teaching Tolerance, had quite a few articles about teachers experiences and advice who have gone through or know how to support students in a time of need when such violence occurs. It is a hard topic to talk about, especially because it is so realistic. However, we can do more than just talk about it. As a teacher in general, we have many roles besides “being a teacher”. There are some days where I am there to be a support system, to keep them in line, and to make sure they are making the best decisions for their future. And no, it’s not easy. But when such tragedy strikes, these are but a few factors teachers could do in the classroom to help our students. These practices include:

LISTEN: Teachers or staff should facilitate opportunities for students to share their experiences and understanding of what happened, and also express their feelings. Younger children may be encouraged to draw, perhaps with an indirect prompt to avoid introducing unpleasant thoughts that a child may not have.

PROTECT: Adults should work to reestablish students’ feelings of physical and emotional safety. Returning to regular school and classroom routines can contribute to this. School staff can advise students and families to avoid news coverage, violent films and other stimuli that may trigger children.

CONNECT: As needed, teachers and staff can encourage students to reestablish normal social connections, both in and out of school. Self-isolating is one of the common reactions to trauma. If this behavior lasts beyond an expected period, it may suggest the need for intervention.

MODEL: At home and at school, students look for behavioral cues from adults they respect and trust. Adults in the school community should model calm and optimistic behavior. This sets an example and sends the signal that, as anxious or sad as students may feel, it is necessary and possible to carry on.

TEACH: Psychologists, social workers or counselors can present information to students and parents about common reactions to stress, which may include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, as well as temporary difficulties with concentration and memory. These professionals can also reinforce the idea that seeking help is admirable, not something to shy away from.

The Importance of it All

As you may already know, one of the main arguments we are having in this country is whether or not to have teachers carry a gun. I want to make this clear: there is absolutely no way you can make me carry a gun. What teachers need are not GUNS, but more resources. And I’m not just talking about pencils, paper, or textbooks. I’m talking about resources for my students. Resources such as more guidance counselors, options of help for parents and children who are battling with mental health, and assessments that don’t base my students intelligence from a multiple choice exam. It’s not just about the guns. It’s about the students who don’t get the help they need. It’s about the students who turn to the guns and have an easy access to them. So yes, it is about the person firing the gun, but having gun control would prevent anyone from easily buying a gun, more specifically, a semi-automatic rifle. I’d like you to take into consideration of this blog, and hopefully it shows you a different prospective of the gun violence problem we have in this country. How many more children lives need to be lost in order to make a change?


Resources: Practices Teaching Tolerance 


Without The Little Ideas, There Are No Big Ideas

What’s so important about a “big idea” anyways?

What comes to mind when you think of a big idea? Really think about it. Do you think you would be able to come up with a big idea if it weren’t for your background knowledge? The little ideas you have? Or anything that has sparked your interest?


Today I am going to blog about what a big idea means in the classroom, and how educators implement a big idea within the content we are teaching. According to Concept-Based Teaching and Learning, incorporating the big ideas into our teaching influences our students to consider the context in which they will use their understanding and bring the“real world” meaning to content knowledge and skills. An example of a big idea for astronomy, which is the unit I will be focusing on, is the 2017 solar eclipse. However, keep in mind that a big idea does not need to be HUGE. The idea is to make our teaching meaningful in the real world for our students.

Benefits of using real world, big ideas in the classroom could be:

  1. Big ideas creates connections to our students prior experiences and background knowledge.
  2. Big ideas brings relevance to our students learning.
  3. It facilitates deeper thinking and understanding of content knowledge.
  4. Lastly, it acts as a springboard for students to respond to their learning with action of their understanding.
How I will implement my big idea: The 2017 Solar Eclipse 

As a student teacher in an 8th grade science classroom, I have the pleasure of teaching my students about astronomy. The main ideas for astronomy that I will be focusing on will be the phases of the moon, the motion of the sun and the moon, as well as the seasons. With all the these little main ideas, I want the “big idea” to be the 2017 solar eclipse. To me, this is something I could connect my students to the real world, especially how they viewed the solar eclipse in Rochester (making connections to their community!). However, I’m sure some of you are thinking, how does a solar eclipse relate to anything in their everyday lives?

Why I consider the 2017 solar eclipse as my big idea 

Definition of a solar eclipse: occurs when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, blocking the Sun’s light and casting a shadow over a certain area on Earth. This can only occur during a New Moon.

  • A solar eclipse only occurs during a New Moon, which is a moon phase. This moon phase is when the moon is not illuminated, which our students can interpret as the moon not being visible! A big misconception I have found in my classroom is that the moon generates its own light. I can end this misconception when I teach the New Moon phase, in which I will explain how the Sun reflects light onto the moon, making the moon luminous. However, when the moon is in the New Moon phase, the sun is not reflecting any light to it.
  • In addition, the solar eclipse does not occur every month. Why is that? Well, the moon orbits Earth at a tilt. Students can relate this to how the Earth orbits the sun at a tilt, making that connection!
  • If the Moon orbits Earth at a tilt, and they know the Earth orbits the sun at a tilt, this is where the season can come into play. However, I must be careful of the misconception that the moon has seasons. As educators, we know that is absolutely not true, but to an 8th grader, they could think it is possible (and that’s okay!).
What if I cannot think of a big idea for my unit?

As a science educator, I can look at the Next Generation Science Standards to understand what concepts I should meet for my unit. These standards provide you guidance as to what topics to teach in a specific unit, as well as including cross cutting concepts to ensure your students will understand the content. Below is an example of astronomy, in which I will follow for my unit.

These standards help me recognize what practices, core ideas and crosscutting concepts I need to meet in order to make my big idea successful in the classroom. Looking at the state standards can be helpful too, however I like that NGSS includes crosscutting concepts.

As I said in my last blog post, I want my students to be able to relate their science education to their every day lives. Whether that means looking up at the moon and knowing what phase it is in, understanding the phenomena of the solar eclipse, or being able to recognize why Rochesters seasons are different from other parts of the world!

I Swear Learning About the Moon Applies To You!

To my 8th Grade Students, 

I’m sure you’re thinking, what the heck is this student teacher going to teach me for the next 8 weeks? As your student teacher I get the pleasure of teaching you about the Earth and the Moon* and their place in the universe. But how does this relate to you in the slightest bit? As you may already know, we live on the Earth and the moon is that tiny, shiny white blob in the sky that we see at night when the sun sets for the day. Sometime the Moon is big, sometimes the Moon is red, and sometimes we may not see the Moon at all! But why is that important to you?

Believe it on not, the Moon has quite an impact on the Earth. Remember that cool solar eclipse you got to see this summer (2017) in which you had to buy special glasses just to look? Below is a video to show you a visual explanation of how a solar eclipse happens and how the moon plays an important role!

Pretty cool right? I think so. The Moon is a very cool, um, moon (creative name, right?) and just as the Earth rotates around the sun, the moon is rotating around the Earth too. What is cool about the the moon is that it has phases.. and some people, especially during the full moon phase, in which you can see the entire moon, brings out their weird side! Do you ever feel that way when their is a full moon? Maybe make some observations next time a full moon comes around! Now I’m sure you’re wondering.. what else does the Earth have to offer me? It offers you EVERYTHING! For example, what is your favorite season? Summer, Fall? Well guess what, if it wasn’t for the Earth’s tilt axis, we wouldn’t have your favorite season.

There are so many little things about the Earth that you may not realize impacts your life. In addition, the Earth can also cause eclipses, just like the moon. Remember when I said sometimes the Moon can be red? That’s all thanks to the Earth getting in front of  the sun! (Remember: we can see the moon because the sun is reflecting off of it throughout the night!). Pretty cool, huh? Throughout our 8 weeks together, we will go into much detail about these facts, and I promise it will be cool and fun to learn about!

My message to you is this: When I start to teach you about astronomy, I will always make it so you can bring your education outside of the classroom. I want you to not only remember what you have learned about the Earth and the Moon, but to be able to apply it to your every day lives. I want science to feel real to you, not something that is left in the 8th grade forever. Because in reality, science is around you all the time! And as your educator, I want you to realize that, and I want you to know that you are a scientist, even when you are not wearing a lab coat. Here’s to an amazing 8 weeks together!

Your Student Teacher, Ms. Line 

To My Fellow Readers and Educators

Being enthusiastic about science and teaching our students about phenomenons are extremely important in our classrooms today, because there is no better way to teach science than to relate it to our students every day lives. Students may be able to explain a phenomena, which in our case could be the solar eclipse of 2017, and teach it in a way that our students will understand it. However, without doing formative assessments like quizzes or tests, how do we really know if they “get it”?

The best way to assess our students understanding of the phenomenon is how our students could use their knowledge of the Earth, the sun and the moon in ways in which they can create a product. This product could be of their choice, whether its a model, a project or even an investigation in which they find out more about this particular phenomenon. Our students could benefit from creating a product because they could apply this product into the real world, and possibly grow with it throughout their school days or even lifetime. It allows creativity as well as their knowledge of science to create something meaningful to them, as well as creating a community of not only learners, but learners willing to share what they have learned and now have a great knowledge of. In addition, it shows our students that their knowledge of the moon, the sun and the Earth is more than observable- they are able to create investigations in which makes you think and shows that you can use the resources around you.

* NGSS MS-ESS1-1 Earth’s Place in the Universe

Making Science Creative: The Struggle in a Classroom

“Creativity in science could be described as the act of putting two and two together to make five.”

– Arthur Koestler

Starting tomorrow (December 11th) I will officially be taking over the classroom for 4 whole weeks! As excited as I am, I am starting to feel nervous, anxious, you name it. As confident as I am, I do feel as if there are still aspects of being a teacher that I need to learn. But in order to learn, I need experience. This week, I am planning a fun week for my students. We are doing a scavenger hunt for polyatomic ions, bingo for naming Type I and Type II compounds as well as starting a polyatomic ions project. Sounds fun, right? Well, I do not think all of this would have been thought of if I did not bring out my creativity. But how creative can we let our students be in a science classroom?

How do we let our students be creative, when teachers are told no?

Throughout my time at Warner, the term Inquiry Based Learning has been mentioned throughout many classes I have taken so far. Inquiry based learning is a term used to describe how teachers make a lesson engaging for students. An example of an inquiry based lesson is having a lesson where students are out of their seats and moving, rather than sitting through a lecture. Although I agree that inquiry based lessons will engage our students, there are times where my colleagues and I are stuck in a hard place.

I bet your thinking “What are you talking about? You’re a science teacher, more specifically, a CHEMISTRY teacher, and you’re telling me you can’t be creative?”- unfortunately, science teachers are stuck in a hard place when it comes to doing labs. I find myself stuck when I think about labs because there are certain things students are not allowed to do, or the school does not have the tool to do it. We are told to tell our students that they can do anything that they put their mind to, but when they want to do a “cool” experiment, it is avoided completely. Now don’t get me wrong, safety is EXTREMELY important. But how are we expected to teach science when we cannot do science?

As a science teacher, I have learned that teachers need to start small in order to grow. This can be the same for creativity in the classroom. Below is a video about being creative in the classroom or any subject.

I think this video has great ideas for creativity in the classroom, but for science classrooms specifically, we must enforce how important creativity is in not only the classroom but in the nature of science.

How to encourage our students to do science:

  1. Emphasize safety first. We know that they want to do fun things, especially “blow stuff up”, but we cannot have fun when someone gets hurt. Safety is always important.
  2. Do research! See what labs are safe or listen to what your students want to do. If your students are voicing their wants in lab, then take the initiative to research a lab that could be similar. Do not shut them down immediately.
  3. Give your students experiments that they could do at home and talk to their parents. Student autonomy is extremely important, but is not important without creativity.
  4. Show them that you are listening to their wants and needs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your students wanting to do science, especially when they can’t.

Responsive Talk: Ambitious Science Teaching Style

Responsive Talk: How Students Use Science Vocabulary

Hello everyone! This week, the lovely GR!S cohort had an amazing opportunity to talk to a panel of master teachers who teach science in grades 7-12. These master teachers come from all over Rochester (and Buffalo!) and have different experiences to bring to the table. Although the master teachers came to us pre-service teachers, we had the opportunity to teach them about Ambitious Science Teaching.

What Ambitious Science Teaching (AST) is: Ambitious teaching deliberately aims to support students of all backgrounds to deeply understand science ideas, participate in the activities of the discipline, and solve authentic problems.

This is a new style of teaching that is focused specifically for science teachers. AST features 4 core sets of teaching practices to support the goals. To your right you will see the 4 core goals of AST, in which includes intellectual engagement and attention to equity. (Photo:


Within the 4 core sets of teaching practices are 7 strategies, also known as Foothold Practices. These foothold practices include strategies in scaffolding, responsive talk, using back-pocket questions, modeling, language, “gotta have” checklist and utilizing students ideas. Each pre-service teacher got to focus on one strategy, which for me was responsive talk. Responsive talk in a science classroom is the relationship between students and science vocabulary. Responsive talk introduces a new way of approaching scientific conceptions, misconceptions, and vocabulary into one. The takeaway of this strategy is to understand the way your students think and that it is your job to guide them into the vocabulary, rather than handing it to them and expecting them to know what it means.

Responsive Talk: Talk, Task, and Tools

Talk: Formative assessments of students use of language is key to responsive talk. When you assess your students use of language and how they interpret a concept, it gives you an insight on how they think a concept works and their way of understanding. Students often use “science vocab” to cover that they are lost and don’t understand. Because of this, we must make sure that we are asking students questions like “What do you mean when you use of the word friction?” and  “What example can you give me?”. This will give you an idea if they understand the vocabulary, and what you need to do in order to change their misconceptions (if they have any, of course). In addition, students often pick up words and conceptions from each other! So if students are not using vocabulary but have the concept down, that is a great start to lead into the vocabulary piece.

Task: Setting up students with clear directions of what to look for (observations) and guiding questions will help them understand the concepts of vocabulary rather than handing them the words to memorize. It is important that we get our students thinking about the concepts and understanding what is actually happening. You will get the vocabulary, but you will not get anywhere if they do not understand the concepts in the first place.

Tools: It is no surprise that tools benefit our responsive talk in the classroom, and it is true with scientific vocabulary as well. When we give our students tools to utilize and understand our scientific concepts, it will only make things easier for you and the students to learn  the literacy.

Lastly, here are tips to think about when you focus on responsive talk in your science classroom (or any classroom, that is!):

  1. Don’t assume students know what a science word means if they use it. Ask them to describe what they mean when they use that word.
  2. When students use a substitute for a science word, again, ask them to describe what they mean and make sure they know it is okay to use that substitute for the time being.
  3. Shared language between students create a new and useful vocabulary terms that the class as a whole might understand- and that’s okay! If it helps the students understand the concepts, then you’ve done your job right.


Relating Music to Science

Hello all! Happy Thanksgiving! This week, I acknowledge all that I am thankful for and the opportunities I have been given this past year. Especially within these past 4 weeks, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with students who are not only bright and intelligent, but have a musical ability that you cannot find at any other school (in my opinion, of course). This week, my students have inspired me to blog about the relationship between music and science and how it is so freakin cool. I got to attend their first school play, Little Shop of Horrors, and will be attending their winter concerts in late December/early January. Not only do I get to watch my students perform and succeed with their skills, it brings me back to the days when I used to play the flute and march with my piccolo in the marching band. Featured below is baby Squid (middle right) performing at her Band Camp demo in 11th(?) grade.

As lame as this is about to sound, being in the marching band/concert band was one of the many amazing memories I had of high school and I do not think I would be the person I am today if I did not play the flute and piccolo. It really does take a certain person to not only play an instrument, but have passion to stick with it through all the practices, demanding schedules and the difficulty of skill! Which is where I begin this blog.

How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain

Above I provided a video by Ted Ed on the recent findings and research of how playing an instrument benefits your brain. The video concluded that playing an instrument is equivalent to an entire full body work out. Crazy right? But it makes sense. See, when you listen to music, it sets off many different areas in your brain (visual cortex, auditory cortex, etc). And when we listen to music, we are interpreting the song, slowly analyzing it without even realizing it. Many people have heard that listening to music can actually improve your health, which is true! Harvard Health has a great article on how music benefits those in pain, undergoing surgeries, etc. Since listening to music has such an impact on our brains, I now want you to think about how much playing an instrument sets off our brains.

It has been found that playing an instrument sets off every area of the brain, just like when you do an entire full body workout. And because of this, those who play a music instrument are known to have strengthen their auditory, visual and motor skills. Now, I want to focus on why playing an instrument strengthens your motor skills and why that distinguishes the difference between listening vs playing an instrument. When you listen to music, you are using your auditory skills and even your visual skills to picture what the song is talking about/how you relate to it. But when you play an instrument, you are reading the music, physically PLAYING the instrument and listening to your instrument to make sure it is in tune, etc. When you are physically playing the instrument, you are usually all of the skills at once to create a beautiful sound. And because of this, your motor skills are enhancing rapidly. But why are your motor skills so important? Well, your motor skills use both sides (hemispheres) of your brain. And because of this, it has been shown that playing a musical instrument increases the activity in the brain’s corpus callosum, which is bridged between both hemispheres! This allows messages and signals between the hemispheres to travel faster, which results in enhancing in problem solving and social skills.

Benefits of Playing an Instrument in the Real World 

Overall, people who play (or have played) an instrument enhance their skills that can be applied to the real world.

An article from Affective Music Teaching discusses other benefits of playing an instrument which include:

  1. Increasing your memory
  2. Enhancing your coordination skills
  3. Improving your reading and comprehension skills
  4. Enhances your respiratory system
  5. Refines your time management skills

For students especially, it has been found in a study back in 2008 that children who had received instrumental music training for three years or more outperformed their control counterparts in areas closely related to music: fine motor skills. In addition, it has also been found that these children have also tested better on vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills. So if you have every wanted to play an instrument, or you have played an instrument before and do not feel like going to gym, pick up that instrument and get going!!


Wait, Ions Actually Affect our Health?

What do you see here? Three women smiling as they are in the ocean, having fun and soaking in all that Vitamin D. Their serotonin levels are high, their enjoying life, without acknowledging the science behind it all. What these women (aka, Squid and her best friends) also don’t realize is that they are surrounded by negative ions that are elevating their serotonin levels. Thats right- you heard me. Negative Ions.

Recap: Ions

Before I brag about how great these negative ions are, I am sure some of you who are reading might not know (or know, just forgot) what ions are.

An ion is when an atom gains or loses an electron(s). An ion that loses an electron, resulting in a positive charge, is a called a cation. And an ion that gains an electron, resulting in a negative charge, is called an anion.

So… You’re Telling Me That Negative Ions are… Good?

Yes! Negative ions are great for you, despite the fact that the name ‘negative ion’ does not match the adjective. But believe it or not, negative ions are beneficial for your health. Negative ions are typically found in nature, specifically in the woods and places with moving water. Like I stated above, negative ions help elevate your serotonin levels; for those of you who don’t know what serotonin is, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences your well-being and happiness. In addition to serotonin levels, negative ions help boost mental health and help those who are suffering from depression or anxiety. During stressful times, being in the outdoors is a great way boost your energy because you are surrounded by negative ions. These ions have also been found to keep blood pressure balanced especially during stressful times. If you would like to know more about negative ions, Organic Soul has a great article about the benefits of these amazing ions. However, I am sure you are wondering… what about the positive ions?

Positive Ions are NOT the Same as Negative Ions

When we think about seasonal depression and pollution, one thing they have in common is their levels of positive ions. Positive ions are typically found indoors, unlike negative ions which are found outdoors. In the long winter months, positive ions are more likely to add up because we keep our windows closed (for the most part) not letting in any of the fresh air. Positive ions are also found in fluorescent light bulbs, plastics, metals and electronics. One of the biggest sources of positive ions is air pollution. Although it is outdoors, the pollution creates an unbalanced level of positive ions which results in health issues. Some of these health issues include fatigue, headaches, allergies, infections and depression.  It has also been found that positive ions could stem from weather conditions such as cold fronts and low pressure system.

Finding a Balance

Finding a balance in the long winter months is extremely important for our health. Although the winter usually means cool temperatures, it could help to take a walk or a run every once in awhile to breathe in all those beautiful negative ions. Other ideas to keep your ions balanced is to take a break from your cell phone or computers which will decrease your levels of positive ions. It has also been found that showering could help elevate negative ions (because it is a moving body of water!).

I hope you all were as amazed as I was about these ions. For those of you in a chemistry classroom, I think this would be a great way to relate ions to the real world- especially since most of us didn’t know about them until now!

Photo credit:

Using Models Within Science Classrooms

This past Sunday, the GR!S cohort took a trip to the STANYS 2017 Conference in the heart of Rochester. STANYS (Science Teachers Association of New York State) is the oldest and most professional organization of science educators. Every year STANYS holds a 4 day conference, Friday-Monday, where teachers from all over the country come to attend workshops, sessions, exhibitions and more. Fortunately, I was able to attend to 3 sessions that I thought would not only be interesting, but would give me great ideas for my future classroom and lesson plans.

Out of all the sessions I attended, my absolutely favorite was Developing and Using Models within the Science and Engineering Practices. This session incorporated the use of models within K-12 science instruction, so it was opened to all grade level teachers. The session started off by talking about a phenomena of 2017 that sparked the interest of many children (and adults!): the solar eclipse. The presenter explained that when you start off your lessons with a phenomena that connects to a model, you will instantly have students interested and engaged. Many people interpret what a model is differently, and that’s okay! Because there are all different types of models students can work with.

NGSS Definition of a Model: A practice of both science and engineering is to use and construct models as helpful tools for representing ideas and explanations. These tools include diagrams, drawings, physical replicas, mathematics representations, analogies, and computer simulations. Modeling tools are used to develop questions, predictions and explanation; analyze and identify flaws in systems; and communicate ideas. Models are used to build and revise scientific explanations and proposed engineered systems. Measurements and observations are used to revise models and designs.

What Does it Mean to Make a Model? 

Making a model includes helpful tools for representing ideas and explanations. In other words, students use models to represent or show what they have just learned or what they understand about the topic they are discussing. Sometimes words are not enough for students to express their understandings, which is why modeling is an effective tool in the classroom.

Modeling is not: a diorama or jello mold of a cell, a final picture or product, something that has only one right answer or limited to one representation.

Modeling is: used to explain a phenomena, a process- it’s dynamic, a representation of how we think something works or a way to “encourage students to actively process concepts, to unpack and reveal their thinking, and to consider how the available evidence fits or not with their ideas.”

Things that Can be Helpful in a Model

  1. Pictures/Labels: A good start to begin your model!
  2. Arrows: Help show movement or the flow of what they are learning about.
  3. The zoom in bubble: In other words, showing a zoom of a specific area or concept. This allows you to see parts more closely while seeing the whole picture.
  4. Sequence of events/time: allows you to show change
  5. Define vocabulary: Adding literacy into your models is extremely important, because they are working on their literacy and scientific understandings. This helps students connect vocabulary to a visual and make it more scientific.

When you put all 5 of these helpful tips into a model, you are guaranteed to have a successful model that you and the students can be able to understand and explain. But how do teachers play a role during modeling?

Teachers often initiate instruction for students on what a model can be or include. In my classroom specifically, we include specific vocabulary words we want our students to use, so they understand the words and how they work in their model. When observing students making their models, teachers are asking neutral questions and provide time for students to discuss their models, whether with other students or the teacher. What teachers should not do is put their own “correct” model up for students to see. This will create a sense of uncertainty in students models, because their model might not match the “correct” model visually. In addition, teachers need to provide additional time for students to revisit and revise their models as their learning changes. This is extremely important because they can reflect back to their first model and realize all the information they have learned and understand.

In Conclusion: Why Modeling?

Modeling is an effective tool to pre-assess a students background knowledge and develop driving questions for unit. Models make thinking and learning visible, and creates a community for students to share what they know (or don’t know!). Modeling relates learning to real life phenomena, it does not just define a concept. In addition, this is a differentiated way of learning and allows students to create, evaluate, revise or make suggestions for improvements or change.

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Cultural Responsive Teaching In Our Classrooms

“In other words, if children look to role models based on people with whom they identify, then the stereotype of the White male scientist does not serve as a role model for most students.” (Settlage, Southerland, 2012)

Let’s Talk About Incorporating our Learners Identities into our Classrooms 

This week, I have officially started my student teaching placement at the School of the Arts, located in the city of Rochester, NY. The School of the Arts (SOTA) is a very diverse place of talented students who “major” in the arts. Each student has their own identity, which includes their major, their passions or the color of their skin. I think this school in particular sets a great example for other schools about identity because that is what their education is based off of. Yes, they have the required classes for the students to complete the regents diploma, but they have other diplomas that they complete based on their major as well.

I often think about how lucky these learners are for going to a school that encourages them to express themselves, express their identities. But what about those who don’t have that encouragement? Why do they get a certain label when they are not offered to tools and encouragement to pursue a better education? Often, students of low-income families, specifically those of color are the students that are looked down upon, especially when they express their identity or their culture. Below is a Ted Talk about how “vulnerable” students are viewed and the challenges they are facing because of their identity.

After I watched this video, I pondered for some time about how these labels could be changed, and our students can feel that their identity is welcomed in a classroom. To create an environment that allows students to feel safe to express themselves, express their culture, their identity, overall themselves!, it is important that we teach in a way that is culturally appropriate. Creating an cultural responsive classroom environment is crucial for our students to feel safe to share their identities. Not sure what cultural responsive classroom (teaching) is? Here are some tips to help you envision what exactly cultural responsive teaching is:

Looks Like: Inquiry driven, collaborative, discursive, active, total participation, eye contact

Sounds Like: Enthusiasm, deep and authentic, multiple perspectives, questions, positive

Feels Like: Growth, accepting, cognitive engagement, rewarding, reflecting, safe

These are some examples of what we could see, feel and hear in a classroom that incorporates cultural responsive teaching. Overall, these examples are viewed as positive, motivating and beneficial for every member of the classroom. There are more benefits than not to having a cultural responsive classroom environment, some of these benefits include:

  1. Making a connection with your students which can result in motivation
  2. Creating meaningful connections between the students and the content
  3. Students feel comfortable and safe to share their thoughts/feelings/struggles
  4. Students learn life lessons that they will carry with them throughout their lives
  5. As an educator, you are prepared to talk about conflicts that may come up in your classroom/between students

Having these benefits in a classroom can create a safe and open learning environment, and have a positive influence on all the students, including the educator. Below are some resources you could look at to understand other ways cultural responsive teaching is used in a classroom, or a teaching environment overall.

Resources: Teaching Tolerance, Foster Cultural Awareness, Identity-Safe Classroom

Citation(s):  Settlage, J., Southerland, S., 2012. Teaching Science to Every Child. Routledge, New York, NY. 1-29.