Blog Posts

Week 11

posted Apr 18, 2017, 5:30 PM by Victoria Schilling

Tonight is the last meeting of the #UConnMTColab 
until we meet again in September

Tonight's work is focusing on cleaning up our units and assessments that we have spent the year creating so that we can share them to the UConn Secondary Science Website for other teachers to access and use! 

Following the time spent working on cleaning up units, each group shared out what they have been working on. This included units, activities, and assessments. 

Unit Sharing!

The first group shared an assessment activity called "QFT" which stands for Question Formulation Technique. For this activity, students are presented with an image, such as an airplane being hit by lightening. They are then asked to brainstorm what comes to their mind when they see the image. 

Some possible questions teachers may ask are...
What do you observe in the video? 
What do you predict happens next? 
What happens to an airplane when it gets struck by lightening? 
How are passengers affected by that happening? 

Planes are actually designed to withstand a lightning strike! 
This group is still working on how to connect this interesting phenomenon to their unit on Forces & Motion. This group shared their static phenomenon previously which was awesome! 

The second group shared their unit which started out as a cell structure and function but aligned more with matter and energy. The phenomenon is rotting food. Students are shown a time-lapse video of fruit and how it changes as it beings rotting and mold is developing. 

Students will use modeling to explain this phenomenon and figure out what is causing the bacteria and mold to grow. Some activities include using microscopes to look at different materials and looking at the cellular structure. 

This group focused on the bacteria and fungi feeding off of the fruit and investigating this phenomenon. The assessment for this unit would have students looking at food in the refrigerator and comparing that to decomposition in nature, such as an apple falling off of a tree. Students will be asked to create a testable question and create a model of what happens to the apple from the time ti falls off to the time that it completely disappears/decomposes. 

Crosscutting concept assessment questions could definitely include cause and effect, systems, and matter & energy.

Make sure to check out the UConn Secondary Science Website to view these great NGSS aligned units from our awesome MT's.

Our third group shared out their plate tectonics unit where students are shown an animation of a subduction zone. The focus is for students to arrive at valid conclusions to explain their observations which require an introduction to what earth's interior looks like. 

The first activity would be a scaled model of earth interior, providing students with a deeper understanding of earth's dimensions. The second activity would have students looking at another animation and graphics that describe images of earth continents and tectonic plates and boundaries. Students are asked to describe the boundaries nad the features that result from the processes that occur in each of these locations. The third activity has students observing earthquake boundary data and observing the differences in earthquake activity depending on location. The fourth activity has students explore other factors that contribute to tectonic plate movement. 

As an assessment, students can design a way to model plate movement using materials such as cardboard. In addition to this, students can explain hotspots and how these come into play during plate tectonics. 

The fifth group shared their genetics unit focused on sickle cell anemia and why it exists if it has such negative effects. Some activities would focus on traits and how you inherit traits from your parents, how genes develop into physical characteristics, and how malaria relates to sickle cell anemia. 

The assessment focused on a unit previously presented- seed to sequoia! This assessment poses a question such as how can an animal and plant survive in a closed container that is closed to the environment and could you test this?

 An assessment question related to CCCs posed the same original question and two other scenarios and asked students to write whether or not those two scenarios would work or not. 

The sixth group to present had a similar genetics unit focused more on evolution but with the same sickle cell & malaria phenomenon. This group focused on investigating malaria and sickle cell anemia and then showing the students an area where both are prevalent and asking students how there are still humans living in these areas. 

The final group to present their unit focused on weather and the wind. Students were asked to model the wind using hands-on activities using an air pressure can crushing experiment and having students model how this happened! 

As a culminating project, students could choose an application (Animoto, adobe voice, tunetastic...) and apply what they learned in the weather unit. 

Thank you for following our journey as our year of 
work comes to a close for the summer! 

Make sure to follow us on twitter: 

Week 10

posted Apr 4, 2017, 4:51 PM by Victoria Schilling

Exciting news!
The #UConnMTColab's STEM Teaching Tool has been published!

The night began with a share out from our fearless leaders who attended #NSTA17 and shared a list of resources from attending the conference in Los Angeles, California. 

Next, the group explored the new book-
Seeing Students Learn Science

-which is organized around these key questions: 

  • What's really different?
  • What does this kind of assessment look like?
  • What can I learn from my students' work?
  • How can I build new kinds of assessments into the flow of my instruction?
  • How can I work with others in my school, district, and state?

Learning as Participation

“…learning is a process of transformation of participation itself…how people develop is a function of their transforming roles and understanding in the activities in which they participate.” (Rogoff, 1994, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(4), p.209.)

Hearing Student Thinking

“It is critical to find ways to listen for intelligence in all children. We must presume that competence, talent, and capacity lie beneath disfluency or hesitation, beneath the use of a non-standard home dialect, or beneath a remark that sounds confusing or off the mark.” (Michaels, O’Connor, Hall, & Resnick, 2013, Accountable Talk Sourcebook, p.39.)

Another great resource... talk activities flowchart

After sharing these exciting takeaways from #NSTA17 one of our awesome MTs shared the unit that she has been working on. 

Unit: The Universe and Solar System

The engagement activity for learning about impact craters- meteorites was having students create impact craters through a hands-on lab activity. 

Students were also engaged in other activities incorporating literacy in science learning...

Students were shown this video...
Another great activity was an edible meteorite lab- explaining using models and students learned how to communicate their ideas as a scientist using field notes. 

A lot of awesome activities and ideas from our amazing MT tonight. This unit has a lot of opportunities for success and variety for students to engage with the different ideas and activities- in addition to language modifications! 

The rest of the night was dedicated to working on our unit planning templates!

Another great night at the #UConnMTColab !!


Week 9

posted Mar 21, 2017, 4:24 PM by Victoria Schilling

Week 9 with the #UConnMTColab @NGSSMentorTeach 

The night began with two of our Mentor Teachers sharing out their unit on Electricity. The unit begins with the phenomena of a roll of toilet paper unrolling when placed on a Van de Graaff generator.

Following that activity, the MT's introduced a fun an easy lab activity using plastic bags and different objects that can be found around a room. This first activity, students use long strips of plastic bags and run their hand along it to give the bag a negative charge. Students are then asked what will happen when they put the bag in close proximity of their hand. Next, students do the same thing but are asked what will happen if they move the bag toward an object in the room such as a table. Students typically respond that nothing will happen because the bag is negatively charged and the table is neutral, however, that is not the case! (You'll have to try it yourself to find out!) Next, students are asked if they get together with a partner and put each of their plastic strips in close proximity with each other what will happen? 
This was a very fun and very engaging activity! 

Next, the MT's introduced a fun Phet model where students can observe what is happening when a balloon is rubbed onto different objects. 

Another fun activity was "charging up" a balloon by rubbing it on your shirt and then bringing it into close proximity of a soda can! Try it out and see what happens! 

The last activity that the MT's introduced was called, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Tinsel." Students "charge up" a plastic tube by rubbing it with a cloth material and then using that to fly tinsel around the room! Our group loved these activities and we know that students will too! 

Make sure to follow our journey on Twitter @NGSSMentorTeach #UConnMTColab

The rest of the night was dedicated to unit planning and design work!
Happy Spring Everyone!

Week 8

posted Mar 7, 2017, 5:32 PM by Victoria Schilling

This week began with the UConn MT Colab reviewing the newest practice brief created by Danielle Ross, Todd Campbell, TJ McKenna, Victoria Schilling, Laura Rodriguez & The UConn Mentor Teacher Collaborative. This practice brief was created with the vision to help Junior Preservice Teachers begin to implement task-based instruction in their placements. The UConn MT Colab shared some great feedback and we hope to share this practice brief soon! 

Next on the agenda, two of our Mentor Teachers shared out about the unit that they have been creating. This demo lesson began with a video of a giant sequoia tree. In their unit, this video is acting as their phenomena, showing a giant sequoia tree that grew from a very small seed shown in the video. The title of this unit is, "From Seed to Sequoia." 

Before the lesson began, the MT's who were sharing their unit seemed hesitant and unsure of their unit... however, we were blown away with what they had prepared for the night!! 

Students must reason with science concepts to uncover how such a small seed can grow to be a giant sequoia tree. 

Students are given a "starter kit" in order to begin reasoning with this phenomena. The "starter kit" is a bulleted list of different science concepts such as, "Matter and Energy can not be created or destroyed but can be converted from one form to another." 

Students are then asked to use this starter kit to relate these ideas to the phenomena. For example, students may say that the seed and tree have different mass, where does this additional mass come from if matter can not be created?

Following this introduction to the phenomena, the UConn MT Colab began to create their initial models of this phenomena.

Because students may be hesitant to share out in a large group, these awesome MT's suggested a Round Robin for sharing out initial models. One group member stays with their initial model to explain to their ideas to classmates in small groups as other group members rotate around the room to visit other student models.

Guidelines for post-it note comments are provided in order for students to give constructive feedback to their peers on their initial models. 

Following this activity, MT's reflected on the unit introduction and were all very excited about the different strategies for implementing NGSS units. The group discussed different ideas for students to develop their models such as by creating models on a whiteboard and taking a photo of their model, printing and pasting into an interactive notebook. 

Our MT's shared examples of summary tables that can be used for students to keep track of the different activities and how these activities help to explain the phenomena. 

Although unsure at first, the group was very impressed and engaged throughout this entire activity, leaving everyone excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities of implementing NGSS units! 

After this activity, TJ McKenna and Todd Campbell, briefly shared some tools for assessment to conclude our meeting! 

Check us out on twitter at @NGSSMentorTeach #UConnMTColab

Week 7

posted Feb 8, 2017, 6:36 AM by Victoria Schilling   [ updated Feb 8, 2017, 6:46 AM ]

After a short intermission for winter break, the #UConnMTColab is back in action. Tonight's meeting began with our mentor teachers reasoning with a new phenomenon to get our brains flowing with NGSS energy. 

This phenomenon involved a tube with an X and an O written on the ends. As you push down on either the X or the O, the tube begins to spin and one of the letters appears to disappear. How does this happen? That is what our mentor teachers tried to figure out! Through discussion, reasoning, experimentation, slow motion videos and modeling the #UConnMTColab began to dissect this phenomenon. 

Following this engaging activity, our group had a discussion about some challenges they are facing while implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in their classrooms, followed by a discussion about the many benefits of the NGSS. We are lucky to have a great group of hard working and dedicated teachers who are willing to put in the extra effort in order to change the way that science is taught. 

Our fearless leaders closed the night talking about exciting upcoming research involving our group. 

Make sure to follow us on the twitter! @NGSSMentorTeach #UConnMTColab

Week 6

posted Dec 6, 2016, 4:18 PM by Victoria Schilling

This weeks meeting began with an introduction to Tool 2: Orienting Preservice Teachers to Students' Ideas and Sense Making. This is the second of three tools being developed by Dr. Campbell, TJ McKenna, Victoria Schilling and the UConn Mentor Teacher Collaborative. 

@NGSSMentorTeach #UConnMTColab 

This tool is meant to aid Mentor teachers in helping their Preservice teachers to orienting themselves to student ideas. The UConn Mentoring Teacher Collaborative then gave feedback on the draft of the tool and talked about the benefits of orienting Preservice teachers to student ideas. Often times these Preservice teachers are focused on their teaching strategies rather than student ideas, and the group came to a consensus that this is an important aspect of the Preservice teacher learning process.

Next, TJ McKenna gave the group an overview of the goals for this week, which include an intro to, "Identifying Ideas and Resources / Future Ideas and Resources" as well as, "Eliciting and Activating Students' Ideas About A Puzzling Phenomenon (for the purpose of adapting instruction) in the Unit Planning Template. 

Teachers then worked on their unit planning.

Week 5

posted Nov 18, 2016, 1:25 PM by Victoria Schilling

Week 5 began with a conversation about the next steps in developing STEM teaching tools around issues that are brought about in the UConn Mentoring Teacher Collaborative meetings, that would be beneficial to our own goals and teaching. For example, during our last meeting the group had discussed the issues related to supporting early pre-service teachers, such as helping early pre-service teachers in learning student names. TJ McKenna presented resources from The University of Nebraska, which developed tools to use including different strategies in order to help teachers learn student names. 

Next, Dr. Campbell introduced the idea of creating an additional STEM teaching tool specifically geared toward having early pre-service science teachers focus on developing tasks during their time in the classroom, which may be beneficial for the pre-service teacher, mentor teacher and students as well. 

TJ McKenna introduced an example of a task, a MEGA Plate Experiment in Bacterial Evolution, conducted by Harvard Medical School. TJ then put together a task with multiple questions to ask students related to the phenomena they have witnessed during the MEGA Plate Experiment video. This task would occur in the middle of a larger evolution unit, addressing the phenomena of someone who continues to get sick as time goes on and collecting evidence in order to address this phenomena. The idea would be to help support these early pre-service teachers develop tasks in order to help students move toward a larger objective of the class. Dr. Campbell introduced a book that may be of help in this process, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Task-Based Discussions in Science, which may help the pre-service teacher as a resource to develop these tasks. Next, Victoria Schilling, introduced another resource which could help these early pre-service teachers develop these tasks developed by 

Annie Perkins, presented the idea of having early pre-service teachers focus on getting to know their students as learners first, so that they are aware of who they are asking questions and what questions to ask each student. Another teacher suggested presenting the early pre-service teacher with a list of checkpoints to complete during each observation in order to develop their teaching skills at a pace that fits their placement. 

All of the teachers provided feedback that having early pre-service teachers focus on developing tasks rather than lessons would be much more manageable because typically, early pre-service teachers are only in the classroom once a week which makes it difficult for the mentoring teacher to plan accordingly. Dr. Campbell then had the idea that maybe there should be a tool introduced before this task based tool, focusing on student ideas, and then tasks may come in naturally after that. 

After this discussion the group continued on their work with their NGSS units plans. 


posted Oct 25, 2016, 5:08 PM by Victoria Schilling

Search the hashtag 
for more updates on our exciting work!

Week 4

posted Oct 25, 2016, 4:04 PM by Victoria Schilling   [ updated Oct 25, 2016, 4:52 PM ]

Week 4 began with an introduction by Dr. Campbell to what our vision is right now for creating teaching tools for mentoring teachers. Currently, a tool has been created by our team for Supporting Preservice Science Teachers, Mentor Teachers, and University Science Educators. For the first 15 minutes of our meeting time, the group spent time reading through the first draft of this tool to provide feedback and comments so that it best fits their needs as mentoring teachers. 

Teachers then began reading through the tool and adding suggestions which would help support and improve this teaching tool. One teacher of the group suggested adding under "Attending to Equity" to add sources such as SIOP as references in order to further support this idea. Annie Perkins, an 8th grade science teacher who is supporting the Mentoring Teacher Collaborative, asked the group about resources attending to pedagogy, which is something that is not included in this draft of the tool. Another teacher of the group followed this question up asking what is the obligation of preservice teachers to the content area. The discussion then moved to a situation of concern where a student teacher may be prepared to teach one subject area of science but placed in a middle school classroom and expected to teach various science concepts in general science and are unprepared in that connect area. In addition to this, there are student teachers who may have a background in biology, but the courses offered at their university did not prepare them to teach biology in a high school setting. 

These are constructive comments and suggestions that mentor teachers must be aware of and able to support preservice teachers in situations such as these. These are great comments which can be included under, "Things to be Considered".  

Another area of concern may be a situation of having a junior intern in the classroom who has not been introduced to NGSS. These preservice teachers have not been taught these concepts so they are completely new to them and they may feel overwhelmed and unprepared in these areas. As mentoring teachers, it is important to understand where preservice teachers are coming from and to be able to provide continuous support to their learning and experiences in the classroom. 

Following this discussion, mentoring teachers broke off into groups and spent 40 minutes working to explain their target phenomenon in their own words in order to use this as a measure to determine whether students are getting close to uncovering the phenomena. 

After this, groups broke off and provided feedback to other groups. 

Week 3 Meeting

posted Oct 14, 2016, 9:08 AM by Victoria Schilling

Week 3 began with a 15 minute discussion on tools that will help mentoring teachers best aid pre-service teachers. Brainstorming began with an overall concern for pre-service teacher who are hesitant to transition from student observer to student teacher, emphasis on teacher. Overall, many of the mentor teachers in the room found it difficult to aid pre-service teachers who lack initiative to find their place in the classroom. Some student teachers are very comfortable in the student role and uncomfortable in the teacher role at first. The group began conversing and brainstorming ways to aid in this process. The overall idea was to provide resources that would help pre-service teachers orient themselves as the teacher and letting them know it is ok for them to ask questions and ask to be involved in the classroom. 

Mentor teachers should allow ways for pre-service teachers to participate safely without interrupting the flow of the classroom. By providing explicit instructions to pre-service teachers as to how to engage in classroom activities such as setting bi-weekly goals to work on during the week will help provide a smooth transition to pre-service teachers who are hesitant to teach. For example, a goal for the first week could be taking attendance and learning student names as well as one thing about them. This will help establish relationships in the beginning of the year which will be helpful once the pre-service teacher takes on the role as teacher. Mentor teachers may also hold discussion about what is required of junior interns, student teachers or master year interns in order to ensure their participation is worthwhile learning. 

One example brought up during this brainstorming discussion was the idea of a "passport" with requirements that must be met such as meeting the principal, which must be stamped off on. This ensure these activities are completed and explicitly outlines what is expected of the pre-service teacher. In addition to this, asking the university for materials and resources that outline specifically what areas must be met to ensure pre-service teachers are meeting the necessary requirements in a timely manor, instead of rushing to meet them at the end of the semester. 

After this helpful discussion, the group began working on strengthening their phenomena and formulating their ideal explanations. For some groups, choosing a phenomena has taken longer than expected, however this is a valuable experience because these teachers are determined to find a strong phenomena to base their lessons upon. Some phenomena that have been brought up are: rainfall at weather fronts, exploring the evolution of the zika virus, the genetics of twins born with drastically different characteristics...etc. 

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