Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Moon Mat Model: Visualizing the Moon Phases

Models are a vital part of the science learning process.  The NGSS clearly emphasizes how models can improve student learning.  Here is a model to support your students in understanding moon phase patterns!

When teaching about the moon phases and perspective, students use small spheres to model the phases.  It is SO EASY! Have students place the ball on #1 (see free printable below) and view the moon from the perspective of Earth.  Be sure to emphasize that for the model to work they will need to MOVE to put their eyes on Earth looking toward the moon.  My students love an opportunity to use their phone and this proved to be a great opportunity.  I had them place their phone at the Earth location and take a picture of the moon as it moved from item 1-8.  The result?  Digital flashcards!  (The kids easily added text to their photos with the phase names.)

Print one moon mat for each pair of students.  (see below)
Water bottle cap for each pair of students (keeps ball from rolling away)

Moon Sphere Suggestions:
In the picture I colored 1/2 of a ping-pong ball with permanent marker (acrylic paint will probably work better!) and then did a clear coat over the ping pong ball with a clear acrylic sealer.  Full disclosure....This worked for one year but the black started to scratch off.  SO....I found these 1 1/2 inch wood spheres at Michael's Craft Store and I plan to paint them 1/2 white and black.  I'm pretty confident they will work a lot better :) 

Free Printable Mat:

I think it is a good idea to take the time to talk about the model and what it does well and what it is lacking (scale, light source etc.)  When kids understand the benefits and drawbacks of models they can better apply them to their understandings!

Are your kids ready for a challenge?  Instead of giving them directions....Give them photos of the 8 phases and have THEM figure out how to make the model work!  It is amazing what kids can do when we challenge them!

Hope this helps!  Be sure to follow us on Instagram @katesclassroomcafe6 - we have some big announcements and free materials coming soon!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Phenomena Phantoms: How to Keep Unit Phenomena from Disappearing from Daily Lessons

Never again will your students ask why they are completing a certain lesson or when they can do something fun. With a relevant, engaging unit phenomenon students will intrinsically want to know why it is happening and acquire the necessary knowledge to explain it. 

The Basics

Every well-executed Next Generation Science Standard lesson starts with an engaging, foundational unit phenomenon. Anchoring a lesson with a unit phenomenon that can be referred back to time and time again builds student connection to the real world and desire to build knowledge. The purpose of a unit phenomena is to immediately engage students in a topic by providing an interesting, relatable example of an occurrence in the real world. Phenomena can make abstract science concepts, such as genetics or cells, concrete and approachable. 

Photo by timJ on Unsplash

The unit phenomena is the engagement for an entire unit so make it fun! Give students an experience by having them solve a puzzle, take students outside, give them a prop such as a giant toothbrush or a coprolite (fossilized dinosaur poop)! This is the sort of engaging introduction that you want students to talk about at the dinner table. This is what you want to walk into the lunch room and hear them talking to their friends about. You want students to burst into your classroom and ask if they really are doing (insert AWESOME science activity here) today. This should be their unit phenomena. 

Introducing the Phenomena

Introducing a unit phenomena should follow responsive teaching practices. By this, I mean you should base your phenomena on the needs of your students. A well thought out phenomena should be real, relatable, and accessible to your students. Accessibility should be based on socioeconomic status, age, developmental level, and experiences of your students. For example, if you teach in the city you may want to pull in adaptability of birds to city infrastructure or if you teach in a rural area you may want to pull in deer populations that frequent the school fields to begin a unit on ecology and biomes. Phenomena can be as simple as discussing calcium chloride melting ice in the school parking lot as the students disembark the bus on their way in. From this easily overlooked occurrence, you could build on chemical reactions, exothermic reactions, and chemistry in everyday life. 

One of the best ways to engage students with their phenomena is to allow them to experience the phenomena and then create a Driving Question Board. To do this, ask a simple question such as “what can we find out about this?” and provide chart paper (or the brainstorm sheet below) for students to come up with as many questions as they can. Have groups narrow down their questions and pick what they want to have answered by the end of the unit. Give students a voice and have them vote on the top questions for the class. Students will buy into a topic if they create the questions that are driving the lessons. Keep in mind that unit phenomena should begin a unit and be referred back to throughout. They should not replace the engagement portion of learning sequences, they should instead build on the greater knowledge base required of the entire unit. 

This example driving question board shows the top 10 questions that a group of 25 students voted to include on the classroom question board for the topic.  Students worked in small groups to brainstorm questions and then voted on the most scientific questions to include on the class board.

Here is a brainstorm page that can be used with small groups. Each student creates a sticky note with their own questions. Then they come together an share their ideas using this brainstorm sheet. Click here to print this and use it in your classroom.

Daily Connections to Phenomena

One of the easiest ways to connect lessons to the unit phenomena is by posting the questions generated by the Driving Question Board. These questions serve as a daily visual reminder to students of what it is that they want to know. By seeing their own thoughts and inquiries posted, they will see the value in generating those questions. 

One way to link the unit phenomena to daily lessons is by asking warm up questions or exit tickets which allude toward the unit phenomena. Students remember the beginning and ending of a lesson more than the middle, so these questions will strengthen the connection of a daily lesson to the greater context of the phenomena in the world. 

Different from warm ups and exit tickets, summary tables are also a useful tool to link learning sequences within a unit back to a unit phenomena. A summary table has a column where students record the activity they just completed and a column for the connection back to the unit phenomenon. Never again will students ask you why they are doing a specific activity! 

(Sample class summary table for 6th grade science lessons surrounding the topic of temperature changes in dissolving.)

Wrapping up the Unit

The best way to end a unit is a real world scenario that links back to the unit phenomena. For example, in the chemistry unit that started with calcium chloride melting ice on the sidewalk outside of the school might end with students designing a cold pack for a nurse as an example of an endothermic reaction. Alternatively, students could complete a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning about the topic. Students will use what they have learned during the unit to be successful on the unit assessment. 

Ask students for feedback about the unit phenomena for planning for the following school year. Ask if they can think of a phenomena for a unit that may be a better example than the one that was provided. This increases student agency and understanding that their opinions matter. You may even end up with a better phenomena for the following school year which will keep units fresh and responsive to student cares and world events. A unit phenomena is only as good as the students believe it is- change it if it is not engaging students or if students find it unrelatable. 

Resources for Phenomena

This first resource is a series of images and gifs for quick visuals for students: https://www.ngssphenomena.com/. This second resource lists phenomena by performance expectation: https://thewonderofscience.com/phenomenal. This third resource has detailed explanations of phenomena with disciplinary core ideas as well: https://sites.google.com/site/sciencephenomena/. While these are helpful, some of the best, most relevant phenomena will come from your experiences and the experiences of your students. Other great places to look may also include the news, social media, and by asking others about their experiences with your unit topic.

Article By Chelsea Roy 
7th Grade Science Teacher and NGSS Expert

Sunday, January 5, 2020

This year is yours.  What will you do with it?  I'm determined to be more organized!  So join me by grabbing this free printable to help keep your desktop clean.

Print a paper copy for your desk OR use the png file version for your computer desktop!

I'm so excited for 2020 and the changes I will be making with my blog.  Stay tuned for exciting updates coming soon.  Hint- name change is in the works!

Happy New Year!

Friday, July 26, 2019

NGSS Doodle Note Glossary for Middle School

Doodle and Define Notes were created to supplement your existing NGSS lessons and activities. REAL learning happens when students pose questions, plan investigations, develop models, gather and make sense of information, analyze and interpret!  BUT... Let’s be REAL folks.  Using class time to engage students in 3-dimensional learning leaves little time for reinforcement, remediation and extra practice.   So much learning happens when students wrestle through science problems, but what happens when a child is absent or just really struggling to keep pace?

 Enter DOODLE NOTES! This set of doodle notes reviews (not teaches) ESSENTIAL vocabulary for each of the middle school Next Generation Science Standards.   They are designed to reinforce the science students are doing during class while providing memory triggers using visuals and examples. 

Each doodle page includes the related standard at the top.  This means that the vocab on the page SUPPORTS the standard, but it is not intended to teach the standard.  If you are like me, I sometimes spend more time exploring one topic than another.  Providing doodle notes as a supporting visual tool gives students much-needed reinforcement, since we may have only done one experiment or model to address the concept during class!

What are teachers saying about doodle and define notes?

I have been using these with my sixth and seventh graders and they love this version of notes. There's just the right balance of information provided and things for them to do on their own. I can't wait for the life science notes to use with my eighth graders! Thanks for all the hard work! - Jodie

These will be a great addition to my curriculum. Love giving my more artistic kiddos something they can enjoy. I think vocab work that allows all students to be creative is much more meaningful. Really appreciate that they are grouped by NGSS! -Deanna

This was an awesome way to change-up how we did notes! - Emily

Which ones do you need for YOUR class? This clickable chart can help you find the doodle sets that best match your curriculum!

 Click Here
Note: In addition to bundle discounts, school district license pricing is available upon request.  Please contact Kate at scienceclassroomcafe@gmail.com 

Want to try a sample?  The NGSS Doodle and Define notes contain over 150 standards-based doodle pages.  Here are TWO free sample pages.  Click the link to print them to use with your class.

Keep Calm and Doodle On!


Monday, February 25, 2019

MSLS2 Doodle and Define Updates!

The NGSS Doodle and Define set now has over 100 pages of visual vocabulary to help support your three-dimensional teaching.

Doodle and Define for standard MSLS2

Over 100 doodle and define pages!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I'm NOT going paperless. Here's Why...

I should start by saying that I consider myself a somewhat tech-savvy teacher.  I embrace new technology and I am often the first in my building to experiment with the latest digital learning tool.  However, last school year I noticed that digital technology seemed to be taking over my classroom.  I started to reflect on my digital teaching practices more closely and I’ve decided that I will not be going completely paperless in my classroom.  Here’s why…

Information Processing

The pencil to paper connection is vital in the note-taking process.  When note-taking in my classroom, I want to encourage students to be processing information not just receiving information. Swiping an iPad or pecking away on Chrome book just isn’t the same as processing and organizing information on paper. Take this study where participants took notes using laptops and others used pen and paper.   Students who used digital notes did not perform as well on conceptual questions compared to those using pen and paper.

Meet in the Middle Tip… Structure lessons so that students can take notes on paper- including doodle notes and other visual note-taking techniques.  Allow students some class time to take photos of the key ideas in their notes using their phones at the end of the lesson to share on a digital classroom platform (such as Schoology). 

Screen Time

Kids (and adults) are glued to screens more than ever before.  Pediatricians have recommendations for limiting screen time for young children, but there aren’t any hard and fast rules for teens and young adults.  Ask any parent if they think their child needs more screen time and you can guess what they will say!  This article points out the health consequences of looking at screens for hours each day.

I recently offered my classes a choice between a digital project and a paper poster-style project.  I was shocked when nearly all of my students chose the later.  What was their reason? “We use computers in every class almost every day.   It’s more fun to work on paper since we don’t get to do that in other classes.”  This led me to my plan book where I started calculating how much time kids were plugged in during my class.  Let’s just say it was eye opening!  Now, I shoot for around 30% or less of screen time during class each week.

Meet in the Middle Tips… Swap screens for sketches.  Try incorporating more opportunities for students to create their own visuals to support their understanding.  Try having kids find images online that support their own notes and pictures.  For example, have students search for a 3 x 5 diagram that shows the topic being learning such as layers of the atmosphere or the process of photosynthesis.  Set criteria and a time limit for searching. Then have students use the images to improve their paper notes.  
-       Trace or copy the diagram to improve memory.
-       Print the image and then annotate around the diagram with labels and connections to the lesson.

Effective vs. Easy

Not all use of classroom technology is effective; some of it is just easier.  In our everyday lives we often use tech to streamline our work and improve productivity, but if you look closely at how devices are used in the classroom- you might be surprised to find out that often times more technology does not equate to more learning.  An friend of mine once said, “Just because kids are quiet and behaving, doesn’t mean they are learning.”  This is solid advice for new teachers who might see digital learning as an easy way to manage behavior.

Meet in the Middle Tip… Try being more critical of your tech use and willing to unplug or revise when a digital approach doesn’t significantly improve instruction.  Refining your use of devices in planning will allow you to best balance student exposure to both tactile and digital versions of your subject content.  The SAMR model created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura is a helpful tool for evaluating your digital teaching resources.   Great teachers are self-critical, always looking to refine and improve their practice.  This article gives 8 examples of transforming lessons through the SAMR model.

    Digital Disconnect

A vast majority of secondary students communicate digitally with their peers.  This article gives some shocking stats about social media use and makes some interesting points about the impact of social media on social skills. Students need time to develop appropriate face-to-face social skills. The classroom is an ideal place to model respectful interpersonal skills and if we fill our periods with digital learning, we are taking away from valuable time needed for face-to-face discourse practice.

Meet in the Middle Tip… Collaborative use of technology allows students to work in teams for digital learning activities.   We need to be careful not to isolate students with devices, but instead use instructional technology to bring students together.  Sharing devices and having students collaborate in person during a digital project can provide the best of both worlds.  Consider the importance of verbal communication skills during a job interview or while problem solving on the job.  Teaching our students how to articulate their ideas clearly (in person) will certainly serve them well in the real world! 

Looking Forward...

As I approach a new school year I plan to continue being the same tech-savvy teacher I’ve always been, but to also approach digital learning with a more critical eye.  It is vital that the instructional tasks I use to teach students about science are not only engaging, but also effective in developing both digital and tactile problem solving skills.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

Sunday, May 6, 2018

5 Ways to Teach Doodle Note Skills

I’m going to start with a classroom fail, which is the main inspiration for this post. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a visual note-taker.  When my 11th grade ELA teacher required an outline for a paper, I created a storyboard instead.  I doodled my way through undergraduate and graduate school and it definitely served me well.  So when I started teaching middle school science, I assumed my 6th graders would surely take to doodle notes quickly.  I mean, it seems SO much easier than more traditional note-taking formats right? Not...so...fast.  I'll never forget that biotic and abiotic factor lesson plan where it was clear that not a single student had visual notes that even remotely matched the learning goal! (Thank goodness that was not my walk-in observation day!)  Long story short...I learned by experience that (most) kids need a lot of scaffolding to become quality doodle note-takers.  

Here are 5 Strategies to Build Doodle Notes Skills in your class:

Guess my Doodle Game
Students pick a word from the current unit you are studying.  Using a post-it or small piece of scrap paper, they draw a picture that does NOT have any words. (I set a timer for 2 minutes.) Next, students circulate and share their doodles with the goal of having other students accurately guess their doodle word! For each correct guess, they put a tally on their post-it.  (I set a timer for 3 minutes for this because I usually use it to review before starting a lesson OR as an exit strategy at the end of a lesson.)

When kids get back to their seats I say "stand if at least 1 student guessed the vocab word that matched your doodle." 2? 3?  I keep going until only few kids remain standing.  As a class we give these "Doodle Champions" a round of applause!

Doodle Icons
Show students some well-known icons. For example, power button, volume, shopping cart and ask them what they mean. You can also have kids brainstorm icons they know from games and other electronic activities. After establishing the value of even simple drawings to activate memory, allow time for students to doodle small icon icons next to the words on their existing vocabulary list.  (I give the vocabulary words and definitions at the start of the unit for students to reference throughout.)  

Doodle Breaks
I’ve talked about these before, but they are worth mentioning again. Doodle breaks provide a brain break and an opportunity to connect with content. I find these are best for my most reluctant doodlers because whiteboard drawings are temporary and kids like that it easy to erase errors.  They can be used on the spot during any lesson to add doodle note practice to any topic.  Simply prompt students to stop what they are doing and using a whiteboard doodle a picture that represents the key concept or learning goal for the day.  These draws are also a valuable form of formative assessment and often help me pace my lesson based on student understanding.

DIY Doodle
I tried this recently and the response from my students was really awesome. Pick an image that relates to the main ideas of your lesson.  For example, atomic structure.  Instead of providing a picture or having all kids copy the same one from the board, charge students with the challenge of selecting a quality diagram to draw and label in their notes.   I like to have science magazines, a variety of books and a few pre-selected internet links ready to help kids stay focused.  This strategy puts students in the driver seat during note-taking which has proven benefits for understanding and retention of knowledge. After using this method with my class, almost every student had an atom diagram that was far better than notes students took during previous years when I had them copy my picture or label a pre-printed version.  What a great reminder of the power of student ownership in the learning process!

Learning from "what not to do" seems to work well with upper grade students.  Create some examples on the board of some different quality doodles.  I also save some photos of student doodles (names removed) from year to year for students to look at.   I try to regularly stress with my students the value of “academic doodles” vs “distractive doodles” so when I do this mini-lesson, my students have long been hearing about quality doodles.  I suggest having your students look at a few doodle samples (good, bad, average) and then share their ideas to create a class list of what makes a quality “academic doodle.”   I'm frequently surprised by what criteria kids come up with! (Here are some responses)
  • Simple
  • Clear and easy to study from
  • Neat but doesn’t have to be perfect
  • Labels are helpful
  • Use pencil lightly then darken and embellish as you go
  • Relates to the topic or brings attention to important details
  • Helps you study or recall the information 

There are many strategies to use to improve visual literacy and visual note-taking in our classrooms.  These strategies along with pre-organized doodle notes help provide foundational skills that serve to ready students for independent doodle-note taking! 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


This policy is valid from 10 October 2013
This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact scienceclassroomcafe@gmail.com.
This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements. The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

To get your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org