Notetaking vs notemaking

6681499071_f7ffb7223e_m(1)I really want to stop “giving” notes to students because it doesn’t seem like a good use of class time. They use tablets, so they can find facts easily, but I want students to actually manipulate the content and think about it. But I’m struggling a bit with letting go of the notes. Guidance or thoughts?
—Kelly, Raleigh, North Carolina

From my review of the notetaking literature (a focus of my dissertation), I found two schools of thought. One was note taking as a record of events. This would correspond to the minutes of a meeting or a transcript of a video. With this concept, teachers would give students a copy of important facts as a handout or file (or make the students copy them from the board or screen). Every student would have the same information in a standard style. [I've interviewed students who listed copying notes as their least favorite class activity.]

The other thought is notetaking as a form of information processing (notemaking might be a better term). As students read text, listen to a lecture, participate in a discussion, or watch a video, they connect what they’re seeing or hearing to what they already know, ask questions, reflect on their understanding, and summarize. This could be in a variety of formats depending on the information: Cornell notes, sketches, lists, annotating text, graphic organizers. Much of the literature on science notebooks reflects this concept of note taking.*

Do students know how to make their own notes? As veteran learners, we teachers often take things for granted, but if students are used to having notes given to them, they’ll need guidance. I observed a chemistry teacher who did this effectively. He projected the text on the board (the students had their own copies) as he read the text aloud. He paused and noted key words such as most important, three reasons for…, first. He underlined a few key phrases and annotated the margins with key terms or questions from the paragraph. After a page or two, he encouraged students to try this on their own as he circulated around the room and monitored their efforts. With a notemaking approach, teachers need to accept that students’ notes will not be uniform.

Regardless of the approach you use, the key is what students do with the notes. If they’re stored on a device or online, do they have access to them at home? Can they archive the notes for another year or class? Do students know how to use notes for review? Can they use them during other activities? Younger or less experienced students will need your guidance, modeling, scaffolding, and feedback to learn to use their notes.

Here are some additional suggestions from a recent e-mail list discussion**:

Continue reading …

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A Picture Perfect Approach to Connecting Reading Strategies and Science

PPS authors with science teachersToday’s guest blogger is Kim Stilwell, an education consultant who plans and conducts professional development workshops. Kim, along with her colleague, Chris Gibler, are presenters in the August 6 NSTA Virtual Conference on Connecting Literacy and Science with NGSS and Common Core, where they will share how using Picture Perfect Science resources became part of the foundation to successfully connecting literacy and science in their district. Learn more and register for the Virtual Conference here. For all resources on NGSS, visit the NGSS@NSTA Hub.

Building an elementary program connecting literary and science can be an overwhelming thought. The common core standards address the need for reading complex informational text at an early age. Infusing the language arts block with rich, age-appropriate content knowledge and vocabulary in science is essential. Having students listen to informational read-alouds in the early grades helps lay the necessary foundation for students’ reading and understanding of increasingly complex texts on their own in subsequent grades.

Science Teachers at summer instituteUsing Picture Perfect Science resources became part of the foundation for our teachers to successfully connect literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We’ve found author visits to be a key factor in teacher buy in. Over the past several years, we invited the Picture Perfect Science (PPS) authors Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry to visit and work with our teachers. Starting off with a five-day workshop was a tremendous success in getting our teachers familiar with inquiry, reading strategies, and the BSCS 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) model of instruction. Karen and Emily modeled lessons and went in-depth with our teachers about using the lessons in the K–6 classrooms. You can learn more about the background of PPS by watching authors Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry discuss Picture-Perfect Science Lessons on the NSTA YouTube channel. Continue reading …

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NGSS@NSTA Hub: Your One-Stop Source for Next Generation Science Standards Information


MMYM_30minAs you ramp up your plans for the coming school year, be sure to include time to visit the NGSS@NSTA Hub. Setting aside 30 minutes of professional learning time regularly will help you keep up with the latest news and developments regarding the Next Generation Science Standards. This one-stop source for blog posts, journal articles, web seminars, updated NGSS adoption news, and more is tailored to assist K-12 science teachers across the United States.

NSTA supports the implementation of the NGSS as an effective and research-based way to transform science education, to prepare all students for college and career readiness, and to foster a new generation of evidence-based consumers of science. NSTA is committed to supporting science educators, leaders, and states to help them prepare for NGSS implementation.

Science education aligned to the NGSS standards can bolster important skills learned in other disciplines, including the crucial skills of reading, writing, and argumentation. NSTA is always looking for ways to aggregate vast organizational resources and inform member professional learning.

As a premium benefit to NSTA members, you can now download five educational videos on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), each one hour in length.

More Time?

NSTA’s Web Seminar Archive has a category devoted to NGSS. Explore past web seminars on NGSS to learn more about the standards and how to implement them in your classroom.


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How Can NSTA Help Me Give Back to My Profession?


When NSTA member Patty McGinnis attended her first NSTA national conference, she was hooked. “I thought, ‘this is the best thing ever!’ and I went again and again,” McGinnis says. “The conferences are energizing because you’re with other people who are passionate about what they do. They’re good teachers, they want to be better, and they want to give back to their profession.”

And that’s exactly what McGinnis wanted to do after the conference—give back to her profession and make a difference in science education. So, she started presenting at the NSTA conferences, writing and reviewing articles for the association’s journals, and volunteering for NSTA committees. Now, she serves on the NSTA Board of Directors as Director of Middle Level Science Teaching.

McGinnis: It’s amazing to have your voice heard. You feel valued. And, when you’re interacting with other really passionate teachers at the national level, you experience this energy that you wouldn’t anywhere else.

A coworker encouraged me to go to my first NSTA conference. After that, I started presenting, mainly at local NSTA conferences, because they were less intimidating. Then, I started presenting at the national level and soon realized there were other opportunities in addition to presenting. Now, I try to let NSTA members who attend conferences know that there are opportunities to serve that will continue to re-energize them beyond that conference.

Serving on an NSTA committee is a great opportunity for teachers to grow into teacher leaders. Your opinion is valued at NSTA. For instance, I served on the Science Scope journal advisory board. On that board, you have the opportunity to set the themes for the journal and to make suggestions for different columns. Ten years ago, I never would have thought I’d be making decisions that could potentially impact teachers across the nation.

As chair of the Committee on Middle Level Science Teaching, for example, I encourage my committee to consider the needs of middle school teachers and figure out ways to help them specifically. We decided that middle school teachers would want conference sessions geared toward just them. So, we held the first ever “Meet Me in the Middle” Day at the national conference in Boston. We had a two-hour networking round-table session that focused on different topics such as assessment and robotics. We also held 14 different half-hour sessions, and then a two-hour share-a-thon with 100 presenters and that was very dynamic. We had about 500 educators attend and we plan to repeat the event at the next conference in Chicago. It am proud that I played a part in creating this event. Being able to provide middle school teachers with something that specifically targets their needs feels very satisfying.

I love volunteering for NSTA and giving back to the profession. But, I didn’t anticipate that I would grow so much and benefit personally from the experience, as well. I can’t describe how much NSTA has impacted my professional life. It has made me into the leader I am today.

(Note from NSTA: Learn more about NSTA’s volunteer opportunities. Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.)

Jennifer Henderson is our guest blogger for this series. Before launching her freelance career as a writer/editor, Jennifer was Managing Editor of The Science Teacher, NSTA’s peer-reviewed journal for high school science teachers.

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Ideas for must-have strategies

I’m mentoring two new science teachers this year, and I want to focus on must-have strategies and effective practices for science. I’m sure they will have their own needs, but, based on your experience, what would be important to include in a plan for them?
—Chris, Baltimore, Maryland

Your new teachers are fortunate to have a mentor in place. Few teacher prep programs and practicums can prepare one for every circumstance, and new teachers are often placed in less-than-ideal situations (floating, working with the most challenging students, or teaching several subjects or subject levels). What is a common event for an experienced teacher who already has a repertoire of strategies is a brand-new challenge for a newbie.

A list of “must-have strategies and effective practices” in science must start with safety, and NSTA has many resources on its safety portal. New teachers should understand that if an activity or demonstration cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all, no matter how interesting or engaging it might be or how mature the students are.

Here are four other must-haves that I learned over more than 25 years of teaching science (in no particular order):

Continue reading …

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Center Your Learning in the NSTA Learning Center


MMYM_45minAre you looking for a professional learning community specifically for K-16 science teachers? The NSTA Learning Center is stocked with resources, customized lesson plans, and community forums, and will change the ways you access and leverage professional learning. Research suggests that professional learning for science educators should be an ongoing, continuous endeavor taking anywhere from 50-80 hours per year. The NSTA Learning Center allows you to control the place, the pace, and the time as you work to transform instruction in your classroom.

Whenever you’ve got 45 minutes, consider choosing one of these six introductory steps to take advantage of what the NSTA Learning Center has to offer.

  1. Activate your account and personalize your profile.

All NSTA members already have a Learning Center account. To activate your account for the first time, use your last name and your NSTA Member Number. Once you’re logged in, make sure to upload a profile picture, school/work affiliation, your geographic location, and any professional social media channels like Twitter or Facebook. Updating your profile makes you more visible to more than 150,000 community members.

  1. Search for resources.

The Learning Center offers a robust search engine that can bring you peer-reviewed resources and new online learning opportunities. Even the most basic search can bring you results not only from the NSTA vaults, but also from other users’ collections. Once you’ve selected a resource, simply “Add to Library” and it’s yours to use and share. Although the NSTA Learning Center is an open resource to anyone, NSTA Members get an extra 20% discount on fee-based resources in the Learning Center.

  1. Get recognized through Activities Badges.

Earn badges as recognition for your efforts as you aggregate, review, and share your personal and NSTA e-PD resources. You also earn badges for making posts in the community forums, for diagnosing your needs in science content, and by attending web seminars, and successfully completing SciPacks.

  1. Create an e-PD portfolio.

Have you ever struggled to submit a professional development plan? Let NSTA help you with accountability by creating a personalized professional development portfolio online. The My Professional Development Plan and Portfolio Tool helps educators define goals, track successes, and write a report with specific content knowledge goals.

  1. Join a community forum.

Despite the nagging stigma of online chat rooms, the modern world connects online. The Learning Center was developed as a way to connect with like-minded colleagues at various levels of experience. Join a community forum to learn and to share. You can always ask questions from online advisors, but you might be the one person with the answer for someone else.

  1. Develop your library—and share it with others.

Your good ideas have probably already outgrown the folder on your desktop or even worse, the physical drawer in your classroom or office. By sharing a virtual library and cultivating collections of resources, you not only organize your digital shelf —you allow others to use what you’ve learned. Educators can benefit from your curated content, and you’ll make a greater impact than just filing that away as a resource for a rainy day.

Next time you need help with a lesson plan, developing assessments, or collecting resources, you have more than just Google as a tool. The NSTA Learning Center will help you focus on your grade level, your topics, and your interests while helping you connect with fellow educators around the world.

More Time?

We know our members are leaders in their schools, districts, and communities. As you explore the rich collection of resources available in the NSTA Learning Center, advance your leadership role by sharing resources with your colleagues. As more science teachers join the NSTA Learning Center community, the richer it becomes. When someone receives resources from you, whether they are an NSTA member or not, all they have to do is create a free account to access the materials.

Laura Berry of Cogberry Creative is our guest blogger for this series. Laura is a communications professional for the education community.

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Making connections

One of the perks of being an NSTA member is having access to all of the journals online. Regardless of the grade level you teach, the journals have ideas that can be used, adapted, or extended for different levels of student interest and experience.

In the July K-12 journals, the overarching theme seems to be “connections.” The articles have ideas for helping students make connections between the current topic or skill they’re learning with others. The articles also show connections with the NGSS.

Science & Children: Informal Education

Connecting students with the community. Most communities have people, places, or programs that can help students extend what they learn in the classroom or explore new topics. These articles help you make the most of these connections. Here are some SciLinks that are connected to the content topics in the articles:

Science Scope: Astronomy

Connecting the Earth with its place in the universe. Captialize on the popularity of the television program Cosmos with these articles and classroom ideas. (And I have to wonder why middle school is often the last chance in K-12 for students to study astronomy.) Here are some SciLinks that are connected to the content topics in the articles:

The Science Teacher – Math-Science Connections

Connecting science and mathematics. The articles in this issue of The Science Teacher provide useful ideas about including mathematics in your science teaching. Here are some SciLinks that are connected to the content topics in the articles:


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Breaking Down Walls at the 2014 National Congress on Science Education

Congress AttendeesIf you were with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in Washington, D.C. last week, you would have been part of the most exciting and productive Congress of the year! In Georgetown, about 145 representatives of chapters, state organizations, affiliates and NSTA governance met to spend “quality time” breaking down walls at the National Congress on Science Education (NCSE). What walls? Those that might exist among educators, those that define where and when we teach science, the ones that create barriers to a literate citizenry, and especially those mental barriers that might keep us from imagining great accomplishments in the near future.

Capitol OutingIn every hall, over endless great snack breaks, on the streets and in the parks the group smashed preconceptions. State to state sharing ruled! How do you create a new style of conference? How can social media support membership retention? What are the legal and ethical guidelines for association management? NCSE had sessions for every need. There were also updates on NSTA’s Strategic Planning process and building program, as well as updates on the state of publishing and STEM in the “age of NGSS.”

Robert E. Yager Award PresentationThis year was the first Congress at which the Robert E. Yager awards were presented. Five outstanding teachers gave short presentations on their educational philosophies, highlighting both creativity and diversity in STEM education. They were supported so that they could mingle with other attendees and contribute to the rich mix of ideas that would come out of the meetings. Continue reading …

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Science of Golf: course set up

I have a love-hate relationship with golf. Growing up on a midwestern farm, “green” was spring and summer. Today, “green” has very different meanings. Do I want to land my approach shot onto a perfect one? Sure I do (not that it happens all that often). But I think twice when I play on one of Florida’s winter courses (no afternoon downpours) or on a desert course any time (by definition, less than 10 inches of rainfall per year). I see fresh water as the sought-after commodity of the future.

One of the things about the USGA that I’m most enamored with is their commitment to environmental stewardship because slightly more than half of the world’s golf courses are in the United States. While Science of Golf: Course Setup focuses on the tee-to-green setup of Pinehurst No. 2 so that both the men and the women could play the U.S. Open there, the backstory was “what is the course going to look like” to both the player and the viewer AND what is its impact on the environment. Course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw paid attention to all that when they returned Pinehurst No. 2 to Donald Ross’s original design. That backstory sparked the NSTA-developed lesson plan, which addresses just one aspect of the USGA’s Do’s and Don’ts of Affordable Golf.

The 20 videos in the Science of Golf series, developed by the partnership of NBC Learn, USGA, and Chevron, are available cost-free on The lesson plan linked below each of the videos provides an editable document, so you can make them your own to fit your ever-changing class list at the beginning of the year. Please leave comments below each posting about how well the information worked in your classrooms. And if you had to make significant changes to a lesson, we’d love to see what you did differently, as well as why you made the changes. Leave a comment, and we’ll get in touch with you with submission information.

SOG: Course Setup discusses how Pinehurst No. 2 will be set up “firm and fast” to make it a complete examination of both men and women golfers’ abilities.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 4–12
SOG: Course Setup describes how students might design a solution to a problem about how golf courses are set up. It also provides ideas for STEM exploration plus strategies to support students in their own quest for answers.

Image of Native grasses surround the 18th fairway at Pinehrst No. 2. courtesy of ncsuweb.

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What Resources Does the National Science Teachers Association Offer Around Elementary Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?

NGSS@NSTA graphicThe National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) offers a growing collection of resources around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). While many of our products and services to date more generically target the whole K–12 spectrum, we do have resources designed specifically for elementary school educators.

NSTA’s upcoming full-day virtual conference (August 6 from 10 am to 6 pm EDT) on literacy and NGSSConnecting Literacy and Science With NGSS and Common Core—will be particularly helpful to elementary teachers, who may be under the greatest stress to incorporate both the Common Core and NGSS in their classrooms, and includes an elementary-focused breakout session.

This fall, NSTA will continue the NGSS web seminar series with sessions dedicated to the new standards by grade level. The first, on September 17, will discuss kindergarten standards. Succeeding web seminars will tackle 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. Additional details will soon be available on our website.

Science for the Next Generation book coverIn addition, NSTA Press has produced a number of books on the NGSS. The most elementary-specific of the collection is Science for the Next Generation: Preparing for the New Standards. Other key resources are Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS: A Professional Development Facilitator’s Guide, Translating the NGSS for Classroom Instruction, The NSTA Reader’s Guide to the Next Generation Science Standards, and The NSTA Reader’s Guide to A Framework for K–12 Science Education.

The NSTA Learning Center, which offers just-in-time, just-for-me professional learning models, also includes materials that support the NGSS. These can be by grade band and include e-chapters, e-articles, archived NGSS web seminars, and more. Plus, NLC-moderated community forums include both elementary science and Next Generation Science Standards, as well as STEM, general science and teaching, and more.

Finally, the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy is a unique learning experience designed for elementary teachers in grades 3–5 that focuses heavily on the NGSS scientific and engineering practices. The Academy helps teachers improve student learning experiences by enhancing grade appropriate mathematics and science content knowledge; demonstrating the interrelationships between scientific inquiry and mathematical problem solving; using the math tools to build understanding and connections to science concepts; and modeling “best practices” in teaching and learning. Registration is now open for the 2015 Academy.

A comprehensive list of NSTA resources on the Next Generation Science Standards—which include videos from our National Conference in Boston, a full archive of our NGSS web seminars, books, journal articles, handouts, and more—is most easily accessed via the NGSS@NSTA Hub.

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