A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.


On April 10th, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released as a final draft. Although they are still finishing the links to the CCSS, you can see the 3 dimension frameworks that are in place k-12.

I think it will be good to have these common standards, but now we have too figure out where to begin digging into them! I suppose we start by looking at them . . . So click on the link above to dig in!

Does anyone have suggestions for good professional development or resources to help us get started with this?

Balanced Literacy by Sharon Skidmore & Jill Graber

Balanced Literacy Grade 2 Through Cooperative Learning & Active Engagement by Sharon Skidmore & Jill Graber

Appropriate for grade 2 (Books available for grades K-5)

This 500 page resource is packed with valuable lessons that every second grade teacher uses. Centered around the cooperative learning structures that define Kagan, this book provides lessons, activities, and materials that are based on the components of Balanced Literacy: Comprehension, Word Study, Fluency, and Writing (with Vocabulary sprinkled into the Comprehension and Word Study sections). This easy to navigate resource has a table of contents that is broken down by balanced literacy components and Kagan structures, so the right lesson is always at your fingertips.

~Teacher Stuff blog review by Emily Stout

Personal Connection: I recently took a 4 day  Kagan workshop, and it was incredible! Although I’d heard about Kagan before, and even had a few ‘Kagan Structures’ cards, I’d never been to a workshop where I got to see it all come together. Now I’m hooked!

I was in a place in my teaching where I was doing well with what I knew how to do. I knew I could make improvements (we can ALWAYS get better), but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. This was exactly what I needed to take that next step in my teaching. I’m so grateful to my friend, Gina, who signed me up for the class so she wouldn’t have to go alone. I feel energized and ready to jump back in with my new ideas! (Well . . . I’ll take the summer first, then I’ll be ready to jump back in!)

One of my favorite lessons from this book is teaching students about non-fiction text features using the structure ‘Showdown.’ With students in cooperative learning teams, the group gets a set of team cards that is in a pile face down in the middle of the table. Each student gets a set of individual student cards that they hold in their hands. When the Showdown Captain turns the first card on the pile over, students independently check their hand for the answer that matches the card. When everyone signals that they are ready, the Showdown Captain says, “Showdown!” and everyone puts down their answers at the same time. If everyone was not correct, teammates coach then celebrate.  Here is an example of the ready-made resources for this activity:

If you haven’t taken a Kagan class, I highly recommend it. This book is fantastic, but without an understanding of the training that goes with it, you may not use it to its fullest extent. And if you’re still not convinced . . . they give away GREAT prizes! Every person in my class of 30 got a prize, and a few people got two. That’s my kind of workshop!

Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller

Appropriate for K-3 teachers

An “oldie but goody” (published in 2002), Debbie Miller’s writing style is like turning the pages of your favorite book. Expertly written by a veteran teacher, she helps you visualize the chatter of young students discussing good literature while snuggled on a beanbag in a classroom library. Her beginning chapters lay the foundation for good teaching through explicit instruction and the gradual release of responsibility model. Each subsequent chapter focuses on one of the six comprehension strategies: making connections, visualizing, predicting, determining importance, inferencing, and synthesizing. These chapters include detailed descriptions of anchor lessons in action and end with a suggested book list for each strategy.

Personal connection: Like a well loved teddy bear, my copy of this book shows all the signs of being a favorite on my bookshelf. The worn cover, dog-eared pages, and notes written in the margins show just how many times I’ve reread this book. This is a must-read for every primary teacher. The expertly crafted comprehension lessons have worked for me year after year. It’s fun to hear the smart conversations and amazing thinking that young students can do.

Check out the ‘Perfect Picture Book Lessons’  post to see ways I’ve used Debbie Miller’s lessons in my classroom.

Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work by Debbie Diller

Appropriate for teachers K – 2, possibly 3

In this professional resource, Debbie Diller highlights best practice theories for independent literacy activities and gives ‘how to’ instructions on making your literacy centers or ILAs (Independent Literacy Activities) work. She outlines tips for getting many different centers started with ideas, materials, and instructions on teaching students how to use each center. She has also included ideas on how to keep it running throughout the year. This book is geared toward primary teachers who must lay a lot more ground work to get their students working independently.

My personal connection: Debbie Diller is one of my favorite gurus! When I first came across this book, I thought, “Oh, this is for new teachers or teachers who don’t know how to run a balanced literacy block. It’s not for me.” So although I love Debbie Diller, I left it on the shelf. This year has been full of transitions with the new GLEs (grade level expectations), which outlined new units, and new instructional focuses, which led to new report cards . . . All the ‘new’ things we’ve had to sift through this year made me want to fall back on the old and familiar. I came across this book again and decided that reading it now would be like slipping on my comfortable old slippers. Just what I need to soothe my frazzled mind, I thought. And while the basis for her instructional practices confirmed my educational beliefs and practices soothing my frazzled mind, the ideas for implementing literacy centers was just the spark I needed to infuse my teaching! The “Creation Work Station,” ” Science/Social Studies Work Station,” “Writing Work Station,” and “Classroom Library,” sections in particular gave me great ideas for making improvements to my ILAs.

She also reminded me of some important lessons that I sometimes gloss over:

Less is more— don’t put out too much stuff or put too many things in the ILA at once. The kids won’t know what to do with it, they’ll lose interest, or they won’t use the ILA correctly.

Link their independent work to your teaching: Although I do this, I realized as I read this book that I don’t always capitalize on this the way that I should to get the most bang for my buck. Making direct and explicit connections from our mini lesson to what the students will do at their ILAs is the smarter (not harder) way to make that teaching moment more powerful. For example, we are studying the structures and patterns in fairy tales. Using a fairy tale text map, my class and I looked for the common themes that make up fairy tales in order to understand them better. (See the “Fairy Tales & Fables Unit” post.) To solidify that learning, during ILAs, the students read fairy tales, filled out their own fairy tale text map, wrote their own fairy tales using the same fairy tale text map, listened to fairy tales at the listening center, created stick puppets to retell a fairy tale, and read a fairy tale play with a buddy at the buddy reading center. By connecting the students’ independent work so explicitly to the mini lesson I just taught, it solidified their learning.

I tend to get lazy with my ILAs when things get stressful, and I feel like there’s just no time (sound familiar?). When I let things drift, I just let students ‘read something’ at the library center, or ‘write something’ at the writing center. But the changes I made at the students’ ILAs for this unit were very low maintenance for me. I simply adjusted my expectations, and it made that center novel for the students, and packed a powerful learning punch!

So while reading this book did feel as good as slipping on my comfortable old slippers, the effect it had on my teaching was more invigorating than soothing.

Check out the following posts to see how I implemented some of Debbie Diller’s ideas into my classroom:

Don’t forget to share your ideas with me too! Just post a comment.

Guided Writing: Practical lessons, Powerful Results by Lori D. Oczkus

Appropriate for teachers grade 1 – 5

This book is a quick read that doesn’t need to be read cover to cover. It is full of innovative lessons that will turn your everyday writing lessons up a notch. Oczkus takes traditional, everyday writing lessons and adds a twist that helps students produce better writing. Some of my favorite lessons include: Noisy Poems, Weekend Webs, Patterned Writing, and Guided Report Writing. The lessons in this book include graphic organizers, examples of the lesson ‘in action,’ and they are easily implemented. This is the perfect resource to spice up your writing block!

Personal Connection: Writing has been my professional goal for years. I’ve taken a lot of classes and read a lot of professional literature on writing from experts such as Fountas & Pinnell, Lucy Caulkins, Katie Wood Ray, and Reggie Routeman (who are referenced in Oczkus’ book too). By following their lead, I feel pretty comfortable with how I run writer’s workshop in my classroom. Do my students have a separate writing block everyday? Check. Do my students know to finish a story and start a new one? Check. Are they given opportunities for collaborating with a friend when necessary? Check. Do they have writing journals? Check. Do they have opportunities to self select what they write? Check. Are they also given mini lessons on writing different genres? Check. Do they know how to edit, revise, and publish a story? Check. Do they have access to the ‘tools’ they need as writers (quick words, dictionaries, thesaurus, pens, markers, etc.)? Check. Do they have books to “publish” their best work? Check. Do we have author celebrations when they publish their work? Check. The problem I always run into is, “Now what?” My students have good writing stamina, good story ideas, enthusiasm for writing, but there’s still something missing. Their writing is usually good, but it isn’t GREAT. There’s definitely room for improvement. Just like reading, our little writers have to develop a self-extending system. They have to think of an idea, write that idea down, remember how to spell the words they want to write, use correct punctuation, all while keeping in mind that their story must follow a logical sequence with interesting details, etc. That’s a lot to ask of a 7 year old. But we do. The middle of second grade is when we really expect things to come together, to see students use all those strategies flexibly to create a good story. But what do we do if students have all the right pieces but it doesn’t come together? What about the students who have a self extending system but need to practice doing it better? Sometimes I feel like a mechanic with all the parts but no manual on how to put the engine together, let alone how to make sure the car runs. Most of the time I can start the engine, but I’m still not sure how to tune the torque and horsepower.

This book really helped me fine tune the pieces I already had in place. It doesn’t spend a lot of time on theory, but instead focuses on practice. If you already run a writer’s workshop in your classroom and want to fine tune your students’ engines, this is the book for you! It helped me add premium fuel to my writing lessons.