Science in the City

Nov 25, 2014

What happened when I was asked "How do you use information about your students?"

I recently was asked "how do you use information about student's families and communities" to inspire them in science.....

At first I thought this was a difficult question because of where I teach (high school in a very urban, free and reduced lunch, high poverty area) I don't always have good success with parent involvement in the more traditional sense.  I can't always get a hold of parents.  I set up a field trip last year and we had parent chaperones lined up.  Unfortunately a couple didn't show up.

I feel like there is a bit of a divide, or a culture shift between my culture and my students' communities.  I live five miles from the school, but it is a very different culture.  It is suburban. I grew up in a middle class suburb.  I have taught in my current district for 10 years, but I still feel like there are barriers or differences that I will probably never be able to cross.

Then, as I thought about this question, I took it a completely different way and realized that I do use information about families and communities.

  • Because my students home lives are often chaotic, and they often don't have school supplies, I make sure that I always have extra paper, pencils etc. available in the classroom.
  • Because my students may not have homework support at home, I always give homework that can be done independently (a menu of choices to practice vocabulary words, for example).  And I don't ever assign homework that is due the next day.  I always give some flexibility.
  • Because my students, in general, have a lot of other responsibilities outside of school, I don't give a lot of homework.
  • Because there are a lot of reasons that school is missed, or homework doesn't get done, I am flexible on accepting late work.
  • Because there is a huge range of abilities, I try to differentiate and provide multiple pathways to success and multiple reading levels.
  • Because they may not have background experiences, I try to start most units with common background experiences and build in some background knowledge and engagement, as well as feeling for success early on.
  • Because the way for them to change their situation is by passing these high stakes exams, earning high school credits, and graduating, I still hold them to a high academic standard. I do not dumb down the content, and I do not excuse them from assignments.
Many of these have become such a part of my practice that I don't even think about them anymore. But my teaching style does reflect where I teach...

How about you?  How does your teaching style reflect the families and communities where you teach?

Nov 22, 2014

Great deal!!

Just a quick update to let you know of a great deal you may want to take advantage of.

CAST  2014 is this week in Dallas, TX. 9 of us science teachers from Teachers Pay Teachers got together and created an awesome bundle of products for the event. Even if you are not at the conference you can take a look at the activities online and purchase. This is a limited run product and 80% off retail value. Enjoy.

This bundled CD includes a great selection of products at a huge discount!

Science Teachers of TPT

Nov 10, 2014

A Teacher's Unique and Unexpected Power

I would like to simply share a brief story that has caused me a lot of reflection lately.  My son is in kindergarten.  In gym class, his gym teacher told him he was a champ, or called him champ recently.  
He has literally talked for weeks about how his gym teacher thinks he's a champ.  He has taken this to mean that he is great at gym, and he thinks he has to work extra hard to not let the gym teacher down, since the gym teacher thinks he's a champ!

As a teacher we often are reminded about the power of our words, and the fact that we are working with impressionable young kids.  I think it is easy to lose track of this fact, in the day to day shuffle.   This has been a big reminder to me of the power of our words.

Remind your students that they are champs!  Don't be afraid to compliment them!  And be thoughtful about what you say, because you don't know the impression it will leave.  
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