While I enjoyed studying the different biology courses in high school and college, I would never have admitted to anyone that I was good in science. However, when you’re a poor college graduate looking for a paycheck, and they offer you a science teaching position, you take it or starve! Thus, my first few years of teaching were in math and science. The amazing thing is how I learned to teach it effectively through the lens of a kid who struggled–yes, that kid was me!
Do you sometimes feel stuck when teaching science? Can I be of any help? Here are some ideas to keep in mind that may help you teach this amazing subject to the young minds in front of you.
In previous years, your students may have received low grades that caused them to associate science with negativity. Maybe they simply don’t understand the mission of science lessons, or they struggle in other areas of academia, further fueling their notion that they are “bad” in science, too.
On the flip side, your students could be overly confident, thinking that their ideas always come easily. But when these students begin a new experiment that stretches their thinking, they give up immediately. What I have found over a decade of teaching science to elementary students is that attitudes of either extreme can be roadblocks.
When I’m addressing this topic with my students, I have them take the word “good” and “bad” and put it in their throwing hand. You could have them write these words down and crumple up the paper or you can do this metaphorically like me, and on the count of three, we toss these words into the trash! I hit the bottom of the trash bin to make it sound like the words are hitting with a thud.
Let’s get rid of this thinking at the beginning of the year and set a new tone. Being right or wrong is not the objective. Changing your wrong hypothesis to appear smarter at the end of a lab doesn’t help anyone learn anything. Examining your data for relationships and connecting it to that hypothesis to find if it supports it or not, is the mission.
I love using the Flocabulary video “What is Science” to introduce the sciences to my students. Observing something in nature and wanting to know the why and what is where it all starts. Have you ever had a question and wanted to look it up or make up your own solution? That’s at the heart of a scientist. When setting up an interactive science notebook, have your students dedicate a page just for questions for which they’d like to find answers.
After every investigation, give your students time to reflect. What went wrong or worked well in your problem-solving design? How could you make it better the next time? What did you learn along the way? These reflective questions will help them navigate through this process and then it becomes relevant to their lives.
Scientists contribute to society as they share their work. Share biographies about George Washington Carver, Marie Curie or the Wright Brothers, and let students discuss how their work has impacted the technology we use today. Remind them they don’t have to wait until they grow up to share their work or think of amazing ideas to share with the world. Their youth is an asset for inspiration! Making life better for everyone is really why we love our scientists, and this is something we can all do regardless of age.
Every scientist known to man has experienced setbacks. Find a good story to share with your class and reflect upon how a particular scientist turned her mistakes or detours into new ideas. Take Steve Jobs and the history of Apple, for example. This will help your students realize that the scientific process embraces trial and error–there’s no such thing as failure or mistakes. Setbacks are valuable learning opportunities.
That’s why I use Flocabulary. Repetition, relevancy and rigor are all found in this program, and students have told me at the end of the year that even though they struggle in reading or in their mastery of the English language, Flocabulary helped them feel confident when they use the words we’ve studied when using the videos and online assignments. These academic words were stuck in their brains, and they liked it.
Check Out Some Flocabulary Science Units
We, educators, are privileged to teach science! It lends itself to all areas of academia, including social-emotional learning. We get to see inquiry at its finest, problem solving become real, and students feel empowered by what they are doing and learning. Students get to move, they get to connect with real life, and isn’t that what our mission is all about?
Do you teach science? What are your reflections on what has inspired or tanked throughout the years? What advice would you share with a fellow teacher?
Join me and Flocabulary on Tuesday, October 10 at 8pm ET for our #FlocabChat where we’ll exchange ideas and strategies for teaching science!