I am so lucky to teach at a school that provides a full hour of science instruction for our students every day, but I know that in many self contained classrooms science takes a back seat to math and reading. I think this is incredibly unfortunate because science is a part of literally EVERYTHING we do!
Here are some simple strategies to improve your science teaching skills this year.
#1 – Get your kids EXCITED about science!
This is the easiest step you can take because…guess what? Students LOVE science. Most will tell you it is their favorite subject. Use that love and get your students excited to be in class. Provide engaging activities and labs that spark their interest from day one, and your job will be so much easier!
#2 – Make sure you students understand how important science is.
You can relate science to literally anything, anywhere, anytime. Help them understand that science is all around them, and a part of everything they do. Provide activities that incorporate science concepts into everyday tasks and you will start to change the way they see the world!
#3 – Let your students make mistakes.
Let your students make mistakes, and watch how much they learn from them. Scientists fail all of the time. It usually takes many trials to perfect a process or invention. I always start the year out emphasizing this point to my students, because when students aren’t afraid to make mistakes, they will be more likely to take chances and be creative in their scientific inquiries. I want my students to feel comfortable failing, because (in science especially) they learn more from the process than the outcome.
#4 – Provide more opportunities for hands on learning.
You are teaching a subject that should be the most engaging and interactive class your students take IF you provide the opportunities. Don’t be afraid to get out the lab materials and get messy. Take them outside. Go off the lesson plan if a teachable moment presents itself. If you aren’t sure how to do a particular experiment, look it up! Practice before you teach it. I (still) spend many hours researching and watching labs so I feel confident doing them with my students.
#5 – Choose your resources wisely.
Know your state standards back and forth. Cut out any material that does not DIRECTLY relate to the content you should be teaching. I know it’s fun to add in things that you find interesting, but you need to make sure the students are proficient in what they are expected to learn first and foremost. I can’t tell you how many times I see a lesson and think, “Wow, the kids would love that..but how does this relate to our standards?”. If the answer is that it doesn’t, move along and find another great resource that does.
#6 – Differentiate.
Make sure you are considering your student’s individual needs every time you plan a lesson. This doesn’t mean having 5 different worksheets or activities for every learning level, but it DOES mean you should think about how to provide support and scaffolding for the resources you are using. It’s OK to have different expectations for different students, but don’t let your high and low students fall by the wayside by creating lessons that only engage the middle.
#7 – Teach the appropriate amount of material for a given concept.
My first year teaching, I got bogged down in 6th grade physical science because I LOVE chemistry. I wanted to teach my students all about chemical reactions and balancing chemical equations…but that is information they did not need and it put us severely behind schedule. Stick to your standards. It will benefit you and your class. Focus on grade appropriate key topics and try not to deviate too much. Curriculum standards are in place for a reason.
#8 – Make your class challenging.
Find the balance between teaching the appropriate material and making your class challenging and engaging for learners. The best way for students to become successful is to push themselves out of their comfort zone. This is were your best learning takes place. Don’t let your students cruise on auto-pilot. If everyone is “getting it” every time, you probably aren’t doing it right. Science is all about investigations, and if students don’t have any questions, there is nothing to investigate.
#9 – Be prepared.
Bring your A-game everyday! Science can be an intimidating subject, even for adults. Make sure you feel comfortable teaching it. You may need to go back and brush up on some concepts, and that’s ok! Look for videos that show demonstrations if you are struggling with lab day. Practice if you need to. Feeling prepared will give you the confidence you need to be successful.
#10 – Make sure you are providing enough variety.
Again, science should be engaging. It is too easy to just give your students a textbook and worksheets, but there is so much more than that. ISN’s, foldables, projects, technology, science art, and science writing prompts are just a few ways to add variety to your curriculum. I have found that keeping a “menu” of go to activities works best. You can still have routine AND provide a variety of activities.
Find more advice for new science teachers here!
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