From Snorkelers to Scuba Divers in the Elementary Science Classroom: Strategies and Lessons That Move Students Toward Deeper Learning
Publication Year: 2018
Includes an engaging professional development task at the end of each chapter that provides opportunities to engage in reflective practice about the readers' teaching and encourage them to implement ideas presented within each chapter. Classroom vignettes for each component of the instructional framework, depicting how the component was implemented in a current K - 5 classrooms. Each chapter will have stop-n-thinks that ask the reader to pause, take a break from reading, process, and reflect upon the content.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: What Is a Snorkeler, and What Is a Scuba Diver?
- Chapter 2: What Does the Journey From Snorkeling to Scuba Diving Look Like?
- Chapter 3: From Snorkelers to Scuba Divers: Step #1—Acquiring High Quality Information
- Chapter 4: Preparing for the Dive: Building and Activating Background Knowledge
- Chapter 5: From Snorkelers to Scuba Divers: Picking the Diving Environment, Step #2—Evidence-Based Models of Instruction
- Chapter 6: Navigating the Diving Environment: Evidence-Based Strategies
- Chapter 7: From Snorkelers to Scuba Divers: Preparing for the Next Dive, Step #3—Focus on Learning, Not Just Performance
- Chapter 8: The View From the Boat: Supporting the Journey from Snorkeling to Scuba Diving
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To Tessa and Jackson, May you experience an infinite number of ah-ha moments and use the joy in finding out how the universe works to make this world a better place.
To my loving husband Gary, I thank you for your part in my journey. You are the reason I smile every day. Your confidence and belief in me has made all the difference.
Webster’s Dictionary defines science as the knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation. With the words study, experiments, and observation in the definition, surely the science classroom is an engaging place to be.
For the past sixteen years of my professional life, I have had the great fortune to visit more than 20,000 classrooms across North America looking for the answer to a simple question: What engages learners? These visits have provided me with a rich research laboratory as well as a personal learning journey of joy and discovery.
While the question sounds simple, the answer is rather complex because we don’t all share a common definition of engagement. And perhaps a single definition will not suffice. If we recognize that engagement is not a static state of being but a continuum of responses and reactions to the world around us, we can begin to search for an answer to our question. We engage by paying attention, we engage through making sense, and we engage to make meaning. Although these three stages of engagement are different, each of these is necessary to survive and thrive.
We can say that all humans engage first by paying attention to our environment. When we are sitting on a park bench, we take notice of the skateboarder who whizzes past us, but probably return quickly to the novel we are reading. When the classroom door opens and a student returns from the nurse’s office, most of her classmates “see” her return, but continue to work on the task before them. This is because the movement stimulus is not about us—it is around us.
We have all found ourselves in a crowd at a party (or in a loud classroom) surrounded by multiple conversations that become almost overwhelmingly noisy. Yet we are able to use our “selective attention” to focus on the friend in front of us while blocking out all of the other talking in the room. And then it happens. From across the room, we hear someone use our name in their conversation. Immediately, our cognitive brain abandons our friend to seek out the source—is someone talking about me?
And that takes us further into the continuum of engagement. We now want to make sense of the world around us and seek out the voices that spoke of us (or to us). [Page x]If we want to be more engaged in the world, we manipulate our environment and interact with it. We might push through the crowd and look for friends we know. When we find the person who mentioned our name, we are invited to join that conversation (or we invite ourselves). We make meaning by sharing and comparing our experiences and our thoughts with the people who matter to us, to those who can validate us as well as challenge us.
This is how I first met Dr. John Almarode. No, not at a cocktail party, but at an educational conference. I knew of John’s work and reputation, but I had not had the chance to work with him personally. That unfortunate lack of collaboration continued until we were in the final hour of the conference. While the conference planner and host felt certain that our messages were cohesive and complementary, we were actually unaware of the connectivity between our component pieces. I had been asked to present a workshop on cognitive engagement while John was workshopping teacher clarity and intentional lesson sequencing.
School administrators and teachers had been assigned working groups that would “rotate” through sessions—half were assigned to start the day with John Antonetti while the other half worked with John Almarode. While we assumed there was some connectivity between our work, we were independent contractors. As our groups flipped, John and I were both surprised (and pleased) as the teachers shared exciting connections and insights between the two presentations.
The final event of the conference was a panel discussion. It was the first time John and I had a chance to work together. As participants asked questions, they would direct their inquiries and comments to one of us or both of us. A few participants struggled to remember which John A. was which, not because our names were similar, but because our research and presentations were forming a meaningful overlap for the teachers.
What struck me during the panel discussion was that while my work focused on the engagement of our students (as a result of teachers’ powerful lesson design), John Almarode’s work focused on the teachers’ actions and intentional practice (to produce student learning and engagement). We were coming at the classroom from different ends but with the same goal in mind: powerful learning!
The conference experience presented me with something I’ve known for a long time, but still get excited to realize again and again: there are many ways to enter the learning process. We can start with strong pedagogy or with a curious learner. Regardless of our entry, we want it all: great teaching and excited learners.
In other words, engagement within the learning process is fluid: It moves back and forth across the continuum, sometimes paying attention, sometimes making sense, recognizing connections and then constructing new meaning. It happens in life and in learning. It happens on the kindergarten carpet. It happened in our closing panel discussion, and it must happen in science education.
[Page xi]In this book, John Almarode and Ann Miller provide a beautiful metaphor for transporting our learners across the sea of engagement in the elementary science classroom. Within the metaphor, the authors synthesize the latest research on best practices in science education into a meaningful flow of teacher–student–task interaction. They give us a step-by-step protocol for moving our learners from surface experiences into “the deep” in order to explore and make sense of the world around them. The SOLO Taxonomy presented becomes a perfect road map (or perhaps a sea lane) for teachers to use as they harness the natural curiosity within our young learners.
In our research on student engagement, we concluded that teachers spend too much time on lesson planning and not enough time designing the cognitive moment. In other words, we spend most of our energy deciding the sequence of the lesson components, gathering the learning materials, making copies of the graphic organizers, and building the presentation slides without clearly determining the cognitive moment we expect our students to have as the critical learning task.
John and Ann ask us to first consider the cognitive processes and tasks that will ensure learning, despite the great range of experiences our students bring with them into the classroom. They then wrap those cognitive tasks into a teaching sequence that keeps the learner moving and articulating connections and responses.
As we are reading about this process of lesson planning, we experience it as a learner through a series of cognitive tasks. Each chapter focuses on a particular component piece of the teaching protocol, allowing us to hone in on the value and research behind that part of the learning.
To help the reader see both parts and whole, John and Ann write and model in the same style they teach: intentionality + clarity + cognitively engaging tasks. Notice how each chapter models and incorporates the efficient, intentional, classroom protocols even if they are not the explicit focus of that chapter. As they introduce each component piece, readers should complete the entry tasks of connection as well as the other cognitive reflections and activities in order to fully experience the lesson methodology. My personal favorites—in the classroom and in this volume—are the Do Now activities at the beginning of each chapter, which trust the learners to make sense in advance of the formalized instruction. They allow us to start at the water’s edge before we snorkel or scuba dive into the big ideas.
Additionally, the real examples and student work samples allow the reader to recognize the authentic voices of children in the science classroom and to see learning though the eyes of the student.
Learning is messy. The authors recognize and celebrate this truth while helping teachers develop efficient and effective sequences to bring about optimal learning in elementary science.
[Page xii]If you are looking for strategies for students in science, this book is for you.
If you are looking for a book study to move the practice of your PLC, this book is for you.
If you are looking to get the most learning for your teaching, this book is for you.
If you love science, and you love learning…It’s time to dive in! Or just wade in for now.
You’ll want to go deeper in a bit!Colleagues on Call Former Director of K–12 Curriculum Sheridan, AR
Acknowledgments[Page xiii]From John Almarode
The science classroom has always been a special place for me. As a student, I experienced the most ah-ha moments and joy in finding out how the universe works: to think that the easily observed scientific phenomena that is taken for granted on a daily basis is the result of highly complex interactions, principles, theories, and laws. For example, slight movements in the Earth’s crust is responsible for the incredible mountain views all over the world and, at the same time, earthquakes and volcanoes. Or how about the interaction between our sun’s energy, the rotation of the Earth, and our atmosphere that produces weather patterns across the globe. These are just two examples of highly complex scientific phenomena that are ultimately responsible for the daily life we experience. For some of us, this includes mountain hikes along nature trails that open up to breathtaking views of four distinct seasons (summer, spring, winter, and fall). For others, this complexity produces droughts, monsoons, hurricanes, volcanoes, or earthquakes. In any case, the ability of Earth’s inhabitants to respond to whatever environment they find themselves inhabiting relies on an understanding of these phenomena. For example, water storage and purification, drainage systems, hurricane shelters, advanced technology that monitors volcanic activity, and “earthquake proof” housing represent technologies developed by us to respond to the incredibly diverse nature of our planet. How do individuals think up these technologies and then see them put into action? These individuals know, understand, and are able to do science. As the research has suggested for years, these individuals know, understand, and are able to do science because their lives intersected with individuals that were effective at teaching science. This connection was not lost on me. So, I became a science teacher. As I said before, the science classroom has always been a special place for me.
With this in mind, I can state, without any hesitation, that my ah-ha moments, my joy in finding out how the universe works, and my incredible experiences as a teacher would not be possible without several key individuals. The person that inspired me to become a science teacher was my sixth-grade science teacher, Ms. Cross. Her classroom was magic. Each day we were encouraged and supported in getting into the water, snorkeling, and then scuba diving! Yep, she is the [Page xiv]starting point, the epicenter, the ground zero. Ms. Cross is still a strong and positive influence on my life. Oh, and my children call her Grandma Sally. Prior to sixth grade, I had incredible teachers that fostered, nurtured, and sustained my desire to scuba dive in my learning and not settle for snorkeling. From kindergarten on, I had the pleasure of learning from teachers that this very book advocates for in every classroom and school around the globe: Mrs. Howell, Mrs. Kiser, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Stump, Mrs. McCray, Mrs. Grochmal, Ms. Clouse, Mrs. Coleman, and Ms. Clinedinst. For them, I am eternally grateful.
Now to my students! The greatest honor of my professional life is teaching young learners. Period. During my time in the classroom, I enjoyed this honor over and over again. From the young minds participating in STEM activities at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Governor’s School to the future elementary educators that enrolled in my elementary science methods course or my inclusive early childhood science methods course, each individual changed my life. Just by interacting with each of them, I developed a clearer understanding of other people’s perspective. Just by hearing their voices in the classroom, I developed a clearer view of the experiences that shaped their learning journey. This, in the end, is to what I would contribute any and all of my success. And to my former students, if you read this, I hope you know that my life is better just because I spent part of it with you.
The contents of this book are not just an academic exercise. I have two young children at home. Tessa and Jackson, who you will meet in this book, are my greatest accomplishments. With that being said, the desire for an enriching and engaging learning environment is personal. Tessa is in kindergarten. I hope, with all my heart, that she will experience learning that will compel her to be a lifelong scuba diver. Jackson, 2 years later, will enter kindergarten. My hope is the same for him. I want to return to the opening paragraph of this acknowledgement. You see, a majority of the world experiences the negative items associated with the complexity of our scientific world. Water scarcity, poverty, and life in risk regions of the globe are more common than any of us want to admit. However, the only way to make the world a better place is to know, understand, and be able to do something with the knowledge of how the world works. The young minds that fill our classrooms today will be the adult minds that, at first, snorkel and then scuba dive into learning and develop the technologies that not only change lives but save lives. Our commitment should be to providing enriched and engaging learning environments that make this happen. I want that for Tessa and Jackson. So, Tessa and Jackson, thanks for putting a personal face on why I do what I do!
And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my wife, Dani. I am still married after another book project. Her support is amazing. Your unyielding support in each and every endeavor does not go unnoticed. I am grateful you are my wife, and I am even more grateful that we are partners in life. Thank you.From Ann M. Miller
[Page xv]Most people can easily and quickly identify a life-changing science teacher. My life-changing experiences started many years ago in the finished basement of a ranch home in Smithtown, New York. My science teacher was my dad. Antone Mileska was an electrical engineer by trade, but to me he was a wealth of knowledge who always had the answers to my questions. He knew how to spark my curiosity and stimulate my thinking just enough to trigger a world of exploration. Thanks, Dad, for the strong foundation and wonderful memories. I am eternally grateful.
Today, as I enter our elementary classrooms, I observe teachers eager to stimulate student thinking and tap into their sense of inquisitiveness. A teacher’s level of enthusiasm can have a significant impact on both teaching and learning. Did you know that enthusiasm is contagious? It definitely is for me. My love, inspiration, and motivation to learn and grow in the area of science comes from the classrooms I walk into every day. I truly love working and collaborating with these creative and dedicated teachers. For that reason, I want to thank those teachers who have given me the opportunity to grow and learn with them.
Embracing challenges and hard work is not always easy. There are people in our lives that make it look so easy. John Almarode is one of those people. I want to thank him for his continuous encouragement and confidence in me. He truly is an inspiration. I am so glad he reached out and gave me this opportunity. Too many of us fail to see the greatness within ourselves. John, thank you for sharing your innovative thinking while becoming a valuable friend. You gave me the chance to discover my own potential.
To my family who has always inspired me to be me, I say thank you. Thank you for constantly being by my side; your support, prayers, and love will never be forgotten. I only wish I could give back as much as you have given.Publisher’s Acknowledgments
Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following contributor:Associate Professor Martinson Center for Mathematics and Science at Regent University Virginia Beach, VA [Page xvi]
About the Authors
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.—Francis Bacon
Tessa is an inquisitive, extraordinary five-year-old who wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up. Seriously. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, this quizzical young girl responds without hesitation, “I want to be a marine biologist because I love dolphins.” Regular trips to the library result in the checking out of several books about dolphins or whales, many of which are then kept in her room well past their return date. Her curiosity is not limited to dolphins or even aquatic ecosystems and the living and nonliving members of those ecosystems. Her incredible curiosity about everything is palpable.
Tessa asks questions at an incredible rate of speed, rapidly firing inquiries about, say, spiders, bugs, numbers, letters, clouds, or music at anyone within earshot of her. Just recently, she raced outside in the rain to take a long look at an earthworm [Page 2]using its muscles and setae, or tiny bristles, to inch across the driveway. Why this? Why that? How does this work? Yes, at times this can be taxing on the patience of adult bystanders especially if they have other objectives in mind, such as Tessa brushing her teeth, getting dressed for preschool, checking out at the grocery store, or getting ready for bed at night. This is beside the point. The point here is that Tessa’s questions reflect higher-order thinking and her desire for understanding. Her questions are not her quest to accumulate countless facts about the world that she can then regurgitate on command. She is trying to make meaning from her experiences and develop conceptual understanding.
Tessa is not unlike most five-year-olds with their unbridled curiosity about the world around them. Many of you reading this can think of a specific young learner, whether in your personal life or professional life, that resembles Tessa. Tessa is scuba diving. Thus, you will also note that when there are significant gaps in background knowledge of these young learners, that is, they don’t have the prior knowledge to ask why or how, they do ask, what is that? Young learners, like Tessa, know when they need to snorkel. Tessa, and young learners easily and naturally transition back and forth from higher-order questions to questions designed to fill in background knowledge. After all, this is how we learn: moving from snorkeling to scuba diving! Yet, research on today’s classrooms paints a picture that is in contradiction to how we learn, and it will have an influence on young learners as they enter the kindergarten classroom. To illustrate this point, take a few moments and select what you believe to be the best answer to the following question:
If you selected choice a, you are correct. Young learners perceive, quite quickly, that teachers are looking for the right answers (Medina, 2014a). Thus, curiosity [Page 3]as an innate feature of the brain, at least in classroom learning, is extinguished. Researchers have noticed this pattern in classrooms for years. Yair (2000) found that teachers talk between 70 percent to 80 percent of class time, eliminating the opportunity for student questions. As far back as the late 1970s, researchers noticed that specific patterns in teacher-talk lead to low-cognitive learning outcomes (i.e., simply recalling facts). Teachers initiate questions that elicit a student to simply recall facts 60 percent of time, and the teacher evaluates the correctness of the response (Brualdi, 1998; Meehan, 1979). This leads to less time for student-student dialogue and student-teacher discussions (Alexander, 2017; Duschl & Osborne, 2002; Mercer & Littleton, 2007; Newton, Driver, & Osborne, 1999). Again, most of the talking in classrooms is teacher-directed and focused on factual knowledge, giving students 1 second or less to think and respond (Cazden, 2001).
There appears to be no place in the classroom for the questions that reflect higher-ordering thinking and desire for understanding posed by Tessa and other like-minded five-year-olds. Scuba diving is prohibited.
Tessa, and the summary of research on questions and talking in the classroom, highlight just one specific example and situation that is addressed in this book. Each of the following chapters strives to answer one essential question: How do we foster and nurture student interest and engagement in the K–5 science classroom that promotes higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding? The answering of this question is not without challenges. The age of accountability in education is here, not likely to go away, and will likely gain in strength. Classroom teachers, instructional leaders, and administrators are ever mindful of test scores, other accountability measures, and teacher evaluation systems. Are higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding in science possible in today’s high-stakes testing environment? This book emphatically argues that yes, this is a possible outcome.
With high-stakes testing and accountability in mind, this book will (1) present an instructional framework that promotes higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding in the K–5 science classroom that aligns with national- and state-level standards; (2) build an understanding of what science teaching and learning must look like to engage students behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively in K–5 science; and (3) encourage you to weigh and consider, as so eloquently stated by Francis Bacon at the beginning of this introduction, your instructional decisions. As part of the bigger picture, the contents of this book will help support schools, classrooms, and teachers as we respond to the recent attention on American students’ performance in science relative to the rest of the world and the many initiatives to improve the performance of U.S. students in the learning of science.
[Page 4]Thus, the learning intention of these subsequent chapters is as follows:
To understand how to foster and nurture learner interest and engagement in K–5 science that results in higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding.
This fostering and nurturing must start early. Capturing and maintaining student interest in science leads to more successful learning outcomes for students and greater likelihood of persistence in their science learning. Research has looked at experiences reported by current scientists and graduate students in science disciplines (Maltese & Tai, 2010). Over 65% of the participants indicated that their interests in science began before their middle school years (Maltese & Tai, 2010). Furthermore, this early interest was attributed to quality experiences while in elementary school (Maltese & Tai, 2010). The consistent message in the research on interest and persistence in science learning is that early, quality experiences in science lead to earlier interest and the more likely that the student will persist in the learning of science.
Thus, the instructional framework presented in this book emphasizes the need to foster and nurture student interest in science during the early years of schooling. Within the research, this spark of interest through events similar to an earthworm [Page 5]inching across the driveway is referred to as diversive curiosity and often wears off as soon as something new comes along (Leslie, 2014). Thus, diversive curiosity alone will not achieve the levels of engagement and persistence necessary for higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding in the K–5 science classroom.
However, it is a starting point. The instructional framework presented in this book will provide evidence-based practices that promote persistence in science learning or what is referred to as epistemic curiosity. Epistemic curiosity, or the deepening of a simple seeking of newness or novelty, is a student-directed attempt to build understanding through sustained cognitive effort (Leslie, 2014). This, in turn, leads to higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement, and the greatest impact on student learning in science.What to Expect
In the coming pages, not only will this book present an instructional framework, build an understanding of high engagement in K–5 science learning, and encourage you to weigh and consider your instructional decisions, each chapter will model the concepts presented in each chapter. The following in-text features are designed to reinforce each idea and promote the transfer of the information from this book to the classroom:
- The metaphor of snorkelers and scuba divers is the foundation for each chapter, idea, and strategy. This metaphor allows us to link abstract ideas to concrete objects or experiences. This, of course, is how we learn and is required of any future scuba diver.
- Learning Intention and Success Criteria are presented at the start of each chapter. The learning intention is a clear statement about what you should learn as a result of reading the chapter. The success criteria specify what evidence will show whether or not you have met the learning intention.
- Do-Nows are strategically placed throughout each chapter to break up the information into chunks. Each Do-Now provides opportunities for you to review, revise, and process information. This, of course, is how we learn and is a necessary part of the learning journey from snorkeling to scuba diving.
- Here’s How activities are located throughout the text. The Here’s How activities provide suggested steps for implementing the ideas and strategies in this book. Keep in mind that each classroom context is unique. Here’s How activities may need some modifying to work in your specific setting.
- Closure is important. Exit activities will close out every chapter. Each exit activity is designed to consolidate information from the chapter into big ideas and take-aways. This, of course, is how we learn and will significantly contribute to learners’ successful movement from snorkeling to scuba diving.
[Page 6]The in-text features of the book reinforce each idea and the transfer of the ideas by “practicing what we preach.” Although the metaphor, learning intention and success criteria, Do-Nows, Here’s How, and exit activities are targeted to you as the learner, each of these features can be modified and used in your K–5 science classroom.
This brings up the final and most important feature of the book: strategies. Each chapter is full of strategies that highlight how to support learners as they move from snorkeler to scuba diver. These strategies are evidence-based practices that can be applied to your classroom as is or be tweaked to better fit your specific classroom context. Furthermore, many of the strategies apply across several ideas. We have worked hard to provide a range of strategies across all levels and science topics in found in a K–5 school.From Snorkeling to Scuba Diving
In the following chapters, we present the instructional framework that promotes higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding in the K–5 science classroom that aligns with national- and state-level standards. In other words, this framework fosters and nurtures young learners’ learning journey from snorkeling to scuba diving in science. This framework is built from the latest research on how students learn and incorporates examples and strategies that support this journey. Chapter 1 unpacks the snorkeling and scuba diving metaphor. What is a snorkeler? What is a scuba diver? The next chapter explores how learning progresses through surface-level, deep-level, and then deep conceptual understanding. This is the learning progression for our young learners as they snorkel and scuba dive.
Chapters 3 and 4 present the first component of the instructional framework: Young learners must acquire high quality information. Emphasizing a standards-based approach, readers will experience the process of identifying the priority standards in elementary science and how to unpack those standards, readying them for instruction. Using the model developed by Larry Ainsworth (2003, 2010), the chapter will model the process using the Next Generation Science Standards. A particular area of focus for this chapter is that standards tell us what to teach, not how. In order to effectively guide students from snorkelers to scuba divers, teachers must know exactly what to teach so that the how and the what are perfectly aligned. This requires teachers to build and activate background knowledge.
Chapters 5 and 6 explore the second component of the instructional framework: the use of evidence-based strategies for teaching and learning K–5 science. Once you have determined clearly what you and the students are aiming for (i.e., Chapters 3 and 4) you must identify the most appropriate and effective model of instruction and evidence-based strategies. These two chapters will present, discuss, and model various models of instruction by focusing on how the what from [Page 7]previous chapters guides and informs the instructional decision, the how. Examples of each of the models discussed will be presented through vignettes, highlighting the alignment between the learning intentions, success criteria, and the model of instruction.
Chapter 7 adds the final component of the framework: providing opportunities for young learners to apply their learning to different contexts. What has been suggested in the research on higher-order thinking and transfer is that these are teachable traits or skills. That is, teachers can and do create educational environments that promote higher-order thinking and deep conceptual understanding in the K–5 science classroom. This chapter presents this research in a teacher-friendly way, encouraging readers to apply the findings directly to their classrooms. As in the previous chapter, a significant component of this chapter includes an explicit connection between evidence-based practices and the unpacked standards, learning intentions, and success criteria from the previous chapters. The difference is that this particular chapter explores the process of teaching up with the goal of enhancing the creativity and problem-solving skills of students.
Finally, Chapter 8 pulls it all together by helping you develop an action plan for implementing the ideas from the book. How do you, as a professional, support your own snorkeling to scuba diving journey? So, let’s get started. Grab your mask, snorkel, and scuba gear.10.4135/9781506353685.n4
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