Introducing Science Readers, Course 1 Final Project

Students don’t know what they wonder about.  We sometimes convince ourselves that they are just dying for us to turn them loose to pursue their own learning in what they really want to study and for a few students, that is true, but for many students, that type of open-topic learning activity puts them into a panic.  Please, just tell me what you want me to know, some actually beg.

Last year was my first year teaching 5th grade.  The school I moved from, Lincoln School in Kathmandu, had been successfully involved in the Nesa Virtual Science Fair so when I moved to ACST, I asked to participate in that project with our fifth graders.  It was eye-opening to me to realize that my students didn’t know how to go about observing and wondering about things in their natural world.  I tried to immerse them in reading about many science topics through nonfiction reading, but the subjects were too vast and they didn’t have the skills to skim and then zero in on what was important and significant to them.  Even once they chose a workable science question, I still felt that most of them lacked contextual understanding about the science involved in their study and had done almost no research to learn about the scientific body of knowledge on the subject.

My teaching partner and I chose to withdraw from that project this year because we felt we needed to teach our students more science and spend more time leading them through a process of inquiry than the project timeline allowed.

Our students have done a lot of informational reading and writing this year so to begin with, they have much stronger abilities than last year’s students to read with focus and write with organization and persuasion.  We have also intentionally introduced them to multiple fields of study in science and an entire unit on setting up a scientific research model.  They are now ready to review what is current in science publications to try and formulate a question they can study.

Setting up an RSS Reader for Course 1 in CoETaIL has served to quickly broaden my awareness of issues in information technology and social networking so I hope that technology will serve as an effective tool for introducing fifth graders to current ideas and information in science that will hopefully strike a match to their natural curiosities.

Introducing Science Readers  

Subject: Science

Topic: Developing Scientific Questions

Grade: 5

Designer: Julie Bredy

 Stage 1:  Desired results

Standards/Goals:ISTE.NETS.T 1.BEngage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources

Scientific Inquiry 1A

Generate focused questions and informed predictions about the natural world.

Common Core Language Arts Standards


Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.

Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.


Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.


Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Understandings :Students will understand that…  Learning begins with observation and questioning.Information is changing and being updated at a constant rate. Information is shared through digital publications and social networks. Essential Questions:What learning comes and has come from observation?What do I wonder about?How is ongoing scientific learning and thinking communicated with others?
Students will know… Current topics of interest in science. How to access current scientific research information. How to write a reading response.

 How to post to a blog.

 How to use Powerpoint or Prezzi to create a presentation.

 How to save and retrieve electronic documents.


Students will be able to…Read current scientific articles using a digital reader application. Read, note-take, and word-process a reflection of learning about current science articles. Post a reflection about their learning and thinking to a social networking site.

 Access the posts of other students and leave a responding comment,  reflecting their own thinking.

Stage 2:  Assessment/Evidence

Performance Tasks:Students will read 20 articles or blog posts, sourced from a digital reader application as well as print publications.Students will write reflections about their reading, summarizing key content and identifying what they notice and what they wonder.Students will post 3 of their reflections to a blog on the class website

Students will comment on the posting of 1 other student, giving feedback about the completeness of the post and what they notice and wonder.

Students will present their learning from the one reading topic they are most interested in, through a Powerpoint or Prezzi presentation, summarizing key content and sharing what they noticed and what they wonder.

Key Criteria:

  • Maintenance of an electronic Reading Log (Word chart kept in own documents), tracking title of article, source, and date read.
  • Word-processing 5 responses to reading, summarizing main information and stating what the student notices and wonders regarding the article.
  • Posting 3 responses to reading on class website blog.
  • Writing a comment on 2 other students’ responses to reading, commenting on the completeness of the response and stating his own stance on the subject.
  • Presenting new learning from an article, including what I noticed and what I wonder, using Powerpoint or Prezzi.
  • Providing evidence of the ‘Meeting’ expectations on rubric.

Scientific Reader Rubric

  Exceeding Meeting Approaching Needs Improvement
Scientific Reading I produced a log sheet providing evidence of reading more than 20 science articles. I produced a log sheet providing evidence of reading at least 20 science articles. I produced a log sheet providing evidence of reading less than 20 science articles. I didn’t produce a log sheet providing evidence of reading science articles.
Response Writing I word processed more than 5 responses, summarizing the content of the reading and stating my opinion about what I noticed and what I wonder. I word processed at least 5 responses, summarizing the content of the reading and stating my opinion about what I noticed and what I wonder. I word processed less than 5 responses, summarizing the content of the reading and stating my opinion about what I noticed and what I wonder. I didn’t word-process any responses, summarizing the content of the reading and stating my opinion about what I noticed and what I wonder.
Posting on Class Blog I posted more than 3 of my reading responses on the class blog. I posted at least 3 of my reading responses on the class blog. I posted less than 3 of my reading responses on the class blog. I didn’t post any of my responses on the class blog.
Commenting on Classmates’ Responses I commented on more than 2 other student’s posted responses, commenting on the quality of the post and stating my opinion about the topic. I commented on at least 2 other student’s posted responses, commenting on the quality of the post and stating my opinion about the topic. I commented on less than 2 other student’s posted responses, commenting on the quality of the post and stating my opinion about the topic. I didn’t comment on any other student’s posted responses.
Making a Presentation I used Powerpoint or Prezzi to make a well-organized presentation, including a summary of my learning, what I noticed, and what I wonder. I used Powerpoint or Prezzi to make a sensible presentation, including a summary of my learning, what I noticed, and what I wonder. I used Powerpoint or Prezzi to make a presentation and included some information about what I learned, what I noticed, and what I wonder. I didn’t create an electronic presentation about my learning, what I noticed, or what I wonder.
Other Evidence:Contribution to verbal sharing with classmates.


Stage 3:  Learning Plan

Learning Plan (Activities and Resources):

1.  Teacher will vet web feeds appropriate for fifth grade and ranging through many areas of scientific study.  Multiple feeds can be found at Smithsonian, National Geographic, Time for Kids, and other sites.

2.  Teacher will create a public tab in NetVibes, adding the feed for the sites, then linking it to the class website.

3.  Teacher will engage students’ thinking regarding the role of observation in scientific discovery through the presentation of a Prezi, making connections to the shared prior-learning of the class.

4.  Students will read at least 20 science articles through the Netvibes reader, Foss reader, National Geographic Explorer, or Weekly Reader.

5.  Students will keep a Reading Log of their article reading on a Word document table kept in their documents.  Log will include title of article, source, and date read.

6.  Students will word-process 5 responses to reading, summarizing the content and then stating what they notice and what they wonder.

7.  Students will post 3 responses to reading on the class website blog.

8.  Students will create a Powerpoint or Prezzi presentation, including a summary of the content of 1 article and reflections of what the student noticed and what she wondered.

9.  Students will read the posts of other students and make 1 comment, giving feedback on the completeness of the reflection and stating what the student noticed and what she wonders.

Following this exploration of topics, students will have an opportunity to indicate three topics they are most interested in from the presentations.  This will be the basis of formation of science teams and their first task will be to formulate a research question and hypothesis.

Using some existing technology tools (i.e. the blog feature on our class website and presentation applications), we can maximize the sharing of our learning and thinking, modeling for students who aren’t certain how to think in this way and sparking areas of common interest.  Introducing the RSS Reader underscores the message that scientific knowledge is ever changing and growing, opening the door for students to add to the body of thinking, observation, and experimentation.




























Flip, Only As Needed

Khan Academy was probably the first notion many of us were exposed to around the concept of students doing more of their content learning away from school, or at least more independently.  After seeing his videos for the first time, my colleagues and I started buzzing about how we could change our instructional models.  I have pulled up Khan lessons and other online tutorials many times in my fifth grade classroom and have drilled with my students, “What can you do when you are at home and realize that you don’t understand?” and they recite back the resources that are available to them.  I’ve shown my parents these links on our class website, too, but very few kids ever go there.  Why?  It simply comes down to ownership of understanding.  Most of my students, despite me vigorously trying to push them out of the learning nest, still believe that the onus for their understanding lies with me.  If they are working on their math homework and realize they don’t understand the concept or procedure, they will most often do one of two things:

1.  Try to get their parents to show them some way to get the homework finished.

2.  Say, oh well, come back to school the next day and try to push the work back to me, thereby passing the problem back to me.

I talk metacognition with them constantly.  I tell them how to observe their understanding, how to notice when they’ve stopped understanding, and what to do about it, but it requires more effort for them that way and it takes more time.  Many students long for me to be a teacher who just tells them what they need to know, gives them reams of fill-in-the blank papers, and lets them hand in the paper for me to mark, at which point it’s out of their control. I know we educators talk like kids would hate a class like that, but I have found that many students are very comfortable with that set up and some of them never get over their disappointment that I always say, keep your work, you are going to explain your thinking to other students, and then we are going to go over it together so you can add notes about what more you learn.  That is so unsatisfying to many students, but that right there is a flip.  Just pushing the ownership of student work back to students is a beginning.  Further, asking them to analyze what they need to know and how they can learn it requires many students to make a powerful shift in their thinking.

I believe meaningful flipped learning must connect students to learning they want to do, anyway.  Shelley Wright wrote The Flip:  Why I Love It- How I Use It  which struck me as balanced.  She advocates looking for learning opportunities to build up where you can set students loose to build on their own levels of thinking.

Following are some increments of flipping that I think can lead students toward a greater level of understanding and then hopefully on to higher levels of thinking, too.

1.  Create curiosity

Students don’t always know what they are interested in learning or pursuing.  Setting them up with a NetReader feeding dozens of current articles and blogs on topics can spark an interest in something they weren’t previously even thinking about.  Simply responding to the foundational questions What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  Sets them up for deeper or continued learning.

2. Build ties to background knowledge

Independent reading and research can help students relate new learning to what they already understand and analyzing where it fits in their schema.

3.  Synthesize an inquiry learning activity

We hope that students understand, at least, the basic learning goal of inquiry-based instruction and that most will make higher-level connections as well.  They may need to do extra reading, thinking, and reflecting, however, to gain those deeper insights, which they can continue to pursue on their own.

4.  Differentiate learning

As with point #3, some students will need to do extra reading and thinking to understand the basic concepts of an inquiry-based activity, while others will be ready to explore the big ideas or pursue tangential learning.

5.  Use of technology and practice of social networking

This isn’t just nice to know.  Our students must continually push their skills at using current technology to research, capture, and communicate their learning, and then share it with others.  Social networking is not just a shout out about what we have produced at the end, but it is integral to the acquisition of the learning.

Andrew Miller supports cautious methodological shifting toward a flipped classroom.  Taking a lot of teacher time to create vodcasts for students to watch at home doesn’t seem like a great trade off in time vs. benefit.  Not all students will have consistent access to the technology they need at home and it has been often said that they are still just watching a lecture, which doesn’t seem like a brilliant learning engagement.    Also, there is great value in the shared learning of knowledge in a class, so we don’t want to eliminate that rich communal exploration of information either.

I completely believe the power of flipped classroom thinking lies in the gradual building of the message to students that they are really their most important teacher and then consistently engaging them with tools they can use to teach themselves for the rest of their lives.  I know it’s true because I’ve taught myself everything I know.