Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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The Science of Teaching Science

Workshop 3. Creating a Context for Learning: Observing Phenomena (90 min.)

Workshop 3: Creating a Context for Learning:
Observing Phenomena


The work of these teachers will be featured during Workshop 3:

Name: Christine Collier

Experience: 17 years

Grade & Subjects: Grade 3-4, Interdisciplinary based on science

Demographics: Elementary "school within a school" in an urban setting

Classroom: 24 students in multicultural setting; 3 special education students

Science Teaching: Incorporated into curriculum each day

Curriculum: City-wide guidelines; teacher designed curriculum

Other: Special Education Inclusion Teacher

Name: Robert Tai

Experience: Student teacher

Grade & Subjects: Grade 7, Science

Demographics: Suburban middle school

Classroom: 20 students

Science Teaching: 45 minutes every day

Curriculum: District curriculum

Other: Graduate student working on Master's in Education

Name: Sister Gertrude Hennessey

Experience: 21 years

Grade & Subjects: Grades 1-6, Science

Demographics: Suburban elementary parochial school

Classroom: 24 students

Science Teaching: 45 minutes 5 times per week

Curriculum: Teacher designed, research-based curriculum

Other: Holds a doctorate in science education

Things to ponder before and after Workshop 3:

1. Eliciting what students already know has implications for flexibility in the classroom: Instead of following a fixed lesson plan, a teacher adapts and makes modifications as a lesson progresses. How do you think this would work in your classroom?

2. Teachers who are familiar with common misconceptions about a topic are better equipped to elicit prior knowledge. Why?

3. One approach to summarizing students' alternative theories is:

  • Write the constrasting theories on the board.
  • Have a discussion with the class about what each one means.
  • Ask for a show of hands to determine how many students believe in each theory.
  • Tell students it is OK to change their minds.
  • Repeat this surveying of the class several times during a lesson.
What are the advantages of this approach?


Pretend you are going to teach a lesson to second-graders about cohesion and surface tension in water. You have planned the following experiment. You will give the children an eye dropper, a container of clean water, and a penny. Their job is to count how many drops of water they can put on the head of a penny. They do the experiment three different times and average the results.

Your task is to design a data sheet for these young children to use in recording their data. You may want to try the experiment yourself so you know what the range of values is likely to be. Good luck.



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