Sunday, May 19, 2013

We (K-4 teachers) are sooooo important!!!!

Hello, friends!!!  I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday afternoon.   As some of you know, I went to a 3-day science workshop this last week.  I loved it!!  It was a great break from the classroom (at this point in the year, we all need that!) and it was a great learning experience.  The instructor was fabulous.  She was hilarious and obviously very passionate about her job!  She is the kind of teacher you hope you are in your own classroom. 

The name of this conference was "K-4 Physics".  Now, that title isn't very......well, it's not good.  It's a boring title and it completely undermines the power of the workshop.  However, my principal sent out an e-mail asking who would like to go and there isn't a teacher in the world who is gonna say no to a 3-day paid vacation workshop with a 9:00 start and an hour and a half for lunch!  Can I get an amen?!?!?!

I digress........back to my point.  The training was fabulous!!  We (60 K-4th grade teachers) sat together and vertically aligned our TEKS (in Texas, those are our standards......we haven't adopted Common Core).  It was incredibly eye-opening.  We got to see how the curriculum builds and how the verbs in our standards changed, and what that meant exactly.  For example: in kinder (in regards to force/motion/energy) the expectation is that students will use their 5 senses and explore different forms of energy, such as light, heat and sound.  Then, in 1st grade, following that same TEK about force/motion/energy, students are expected to identify and discuss how these forms of energy (light, heat and sound) are important to every day life.  In 2nd grade, students are expected to investigate the effects of increasing or decreasing amounts of light, heat and sound energy.  Third grade is then expected to take that information and build upon it.  In 3rd grade, we expand by exploring mechanical energy and we introduce "thermal energy" into their vocabulary to replace "heat energy".   Finally, in 4th grade, the students are expected to differentiate among forms of energy, including mechanical, sound, electrical, light and thermal.  We add electrical energy in 4th grade. 

We then looked at 5th grade and 8th grade released STAAR (our state mandated test) questions and saw how important our jobs are.  Everything they are asking on those tests is directly tied to what we teach in the younger grades.  We are so often overlooked.  Yes, we get the pressure for math and reading.  And those are important skills and I'm not downplaying that, but we are JUST as important in the science arena as well.  It is critical that we put an emphasis on science. 

In science, we build our students' critical thinking skills.  We use problem solving and team work and we get to have fun doing it!!  There isn't another subject that lends itself so naturally to curiosity, higher-level thinking, and real-world importance.  Science is the real world!!! 
One of the great things about this training was that they integrated math and ELA all throughout the science curriculum.  Math tends to lend itself to science anyway, so the ELA part was the biggest concern for most of my peers.  The instructor showed us ways to assess, using ELA objectives or TEKS, and it worked beautifully.  I can't remember what grade it was for, but for one experiment, we read a book called "Letters to my Energy Superheros" and in the book, the characters wrote letters to their heros (ex: Dear Sound Energy Superman, etc.) and in the assessment for that lesson, they had to write a letter to their favorite energy superhero and explain why they were thankful for their particular kind of energy and how they use it every day.  Perfect way to go cross-curricular! 

At this training, we started with a 4th grade lesson.  They wanted us to begin with the end in mind.  The next 2 days, we all did a kinder, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade lesson, building up to the 4th grade TEK (standard).  All of the lessons followed the 5E format.  I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with that, so I'll do a quick run-down.
 Engage- the hook
Explore- let the kids explore (without much teacher explanation)
Explain- here is where we teach
Elaborate- expand on the explore and explain
Evaluate- did they get it?
Using these 5 E's, we went through every grade level and got to really see the knowledge and skills that our students should be coming to us with and what they should leave us with.  It also helped me to understand how to not step on the toes of the grade after me.  Just because it's exciting, doesn't mean that I have the right to jump ahead and teach 4th grade!  I've got enough to do with my 3rd grade curriculum, I don't need to jump ahead (as much as we want to sometimes).
I hope I haven't completely bored you to death.  This conference was amazing and I wished there was a conference like this for every subject!  I wish we had the time, as a collaborative team, to sit down and dissect our curriculum and really get to know what our students are coming to us with and what they need to know to get to the next level.  I wish we all had the opportunity to vertically align and see where our kiddos are the big picture.   
That's all for now!!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend :)
Keep livin' the dream,


  1. Wow! Such a great post! Thank you for sharing! It is sad how we sometimes push science off when we are getting ready for the math and reading assessments. We do have to start making science just as much a priority! And who doesn't love science?!

    Thanks for this great reminder and for all of your ideas!

    Koonce’s Korner

    1. Thanks, Kelly!! You are always so sweet :)