Organizing a science curriculum around core concepts that are revisited in increasingly complex ways over months and years is a central theme in this book. Even without control over the K-8 curriculum, teachers can work with existing curriculum materials and embrace the principles of learning progressions and core ideas. A teacher may choose to begin with a familiar science unit to clarify the central scientific ideas it frames. Teachers will need to use their judgment and available resources to determine what level of understanding is appropriate to target at a given grade. With central ideas and goals in hand, teachers can use textbooks and other support materials to build investigations over several weeks and to identify how the strands of proficiency can be harnessed and particular skills taught within that unit. Again, there are examples of how effective science teachers have done this in this volume, and we hope that teachers will find ways to build on these examples.
Examining and listening closely to students’ ideas are crucial components to science teaching. Even novice teachers can begin immediately to find ways to elicit student thinking and connect it with the science curriculum. Throughout this book there are examples of the types of problems and prompts that expert teachers use to get students to express their thinking in writing and diagrams or through spoken language. Teachers may begin to make progress on this by reviewing those examples, creating analogous questions and prompts for the topics they are teaching, and trying these with their students.
In classrooms in which students practice science, teachers and students strive to have ideas flow freely, support students’ “first draft thinking,” and encourage critical analysis of their classmates’ ideas. As this book has indicated, creating such classrooms takes tremendous effort and requires that students and teachers alike build and agree to norms for participation. The examples of Ms. Carter and Ms. Wright in Chapter 5 may be particularly illustrative as they depict how teachers can encourage and monitor productive and safe exchange among students.
For some teachers, the prospect of students critiquing one another’s ideas may be daunting, and they may wish to start out by creating small periods of time for these discussions. Alternatively, teachers may wish to hold off on extensive spoken exchanges among students until they understand how to establish and monitor norms for participation. They may ask students to write down their thinking about a topic and list students’ ideas in a public space for them to consider. This will allow students to see the diversity of ideas they have about scientific concepts and may form the basis for asking clarifying questions and generating explanations that capture a broad range of observations. Short of helping students generate competing