Written by Paul Needham, TE Instructional Coach and former elementary Science teacher
Congratulations! You’ve been hired to be a new science teacher and are committed to making a difference in the lives of your future students! First off, you’re very lucky – science is a subject that most students find intrinsically interesting and have lots of questions about. However, many students will come without the prerequisite knowledge to truly understand the content that your class is charged with teaching them. What can you be doing right now in order to set yourself up to fill in the gaps in your students’ knowledge while still leading them to great heights throughout the year?
Take Your Students’ Tests
Many new teachers lose sight of the finish line when they are confronted with are the gaps in their students’ knowledge at the beginning of the year. Taking all the tests that your students will be responsible for taking at the end of units or at the end of the year and keeping those handy will force you to remember the bar to which your students will be ultimately be held. This will also help you when planning daily lesson as many science objectives are taught in consecutive grade levels at varying levels of difficulty. Knowing what rigor looks like at your grade level will allow you to prepare them with any prerequisite knowledge leading your students to future success.
Get a Library Card
Many of the gaps that your students may have are gaps of experience. If your students have never seen snow (or the pot holes that ice can form) it may be difficult for them to understand the incredibly destructive power of frozen water. If your students have never seen the Grand Canyon, it is nearly impossible for words on a power point slide to convey the enormity of it or how erosion slowly created it. Many physics concepts can be observed on a daily basis, and many students have never really noticed them before because no one has ever pointed them out. Think about teaching science content as hanging scarves on a coat rack. Before you can hang anything, you must first build a hook on which to hang it. That hook is prior knowledge or an experience that your students can refer back to as you teach them new things. A great way to build hooks is to surround them with books, show short videos, or display pictures of the new content around the room or on slides. All of these things can be found at the library around the corner from your school along with experts who will be thrilled to be a part of helping your classroom!
Carry a Camera
In the age of cell phones, this should be easy to do. As you learn your content, digesting unit plans you’ve created or been given, and take all tests that your students will be responsible for, your knowledge of your subject will increase exponentially. As this process occurs, you will start to see real-life examples of your content all around you. Pictures of two different birds can be used to teach adaptations if you can see their beaks clearly enough. Snapping a picture of a dirt pile after it rains will give your students context for erosion and deposition. Taking a picture of a carnival ride and projecting it on the board will allow you to demonstrate centripetal force by drawing arrows to show where the riders would go if the ride were to suddenly stop. The more you look, the better you will get at seeing your subject all around you. As you show these pictures to your students they will understand the content better, and their learning will be more lasting.
So look for the nearest library, and don’t forget to have your camera phones ready!
What ideas do you have for preparing to teach science?