“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Making Science and Tech Accessible for ALL Students!

What do you do when your students have trouble reading and understanding the content for science and technology?

Let's Read! from Grade 2 MOVEMENT 

I have been using Hands-On, Minds-On Science and Technology centres in my classroom for several years now. Each year I have a different group of students who have different needs. When I first started using the centres, my students were mostly gifted and had no issue with reading the materials and responding independently.
Another year, I had a group of high readers and they too were able to complete the activities with a high level of success with very little intervention. Then came my class two years ago. I noticed quite quickly that my students did not have a lot of "prior knowledge" of the subjects we were learning about, and they struggled with the science and technology vocabulary and content. I did not want these things to hold them back, but I also did not want to stop using centres, I know how much the students love them.  

One of the first things I did was start to pre-teach vocabulary that would be encountered during the unit. I created word wall cards for the essential vocabulary/terminology that would be covered as we went through the centres. At first I printed them and posted them and hoped that the students would use them. This didn't really happen, so I started to share the word walls by projecting them and having my students copy down the information into a notebook. I found this VERY time consuming for some students, and it was very frustrating for me to see how long it took to actually cover all the vocabulary.  I realized that I didn't want to just print the cards and give them to my students. I wanted to discuss the vocabulary before we dove into the centres, but I also wanted students to take some responsibility for attending to the words I was presenting. Based on this idea, I created fill-in-the-blanks versions of the word walls for each topic I was teaching. Now at the beginning of a new topic, I project the vocabulary and definitions using my interactive whiteboard and have the students fill in the missing parts on their own personal word wall copies. I also post the word wall cards, and this way anyone who needs to go back and make adjustments can do so later. This has allowed everyone in the class, including those with IEPS and those who are English Language Learners to be successful and have a portable reference of terms at their disposal!


Another schema building approach I have started using is to make the Let's Read! centre a shared reading lesson.  To activate their prior knowledge, I have students complete the "pre-assessment of learning" page in their student booklet prior to the reading lesson.  We then predict what the different pages in the Let's Read! centre might be about. I show them the titles and have them jot down a prediction on a sticky note. We then read the passages together and revisit our predictions.  At the same time, I project the Let's Read! recording page and model to students how to record their point form notes about what they have learned from the text. I use my highlighter tool to emphasize key information and then demonstrate how to summarize and record what has been read. Students follow along and copy into their notes at the same time.

Let's Read! passage from Grade 5 Conservation of Energy Centres

I also have students in my classroom who utilize technology to assist them with reading and writing. I find that uploading the Let's Read! passages, and the recording pages to be very helpful to those who need this access to allow them to experience greater success. I also upload the instruction cards to Google Classroom for all students to access using Read and Write for Google Chrome. This is very helpful for my ELL students, but is a good way to differentiate for all students who might need assistance with reading the content.

Uploading the Centre Instruction cards to Google Classroom via Google Drive allows students to access Google Read and Write for Chrome. This program will read aloud the instructions and allow students to review key words and terms.

At this point we are almost always ready to get started, but I always take time to review each centre with my students and to go over my expectations for each activity. I project the cards one at a time and show the students the materials for that centre. I allow them to ask questions and clarify what they need to do. 

Procedures to Teach and LOTS of other great ideas for getting started with Hands-On, Minds-on Science and Technology Centres can be found in the FREE guide LAUNCHING HANDS-ON, MINDS-ON CENTRES.

One last thing I have created to assist with differentiation are EDITABLE recording pages for the centres. They are available in both half sheet and full page sizes.  This allows teachers to modify the expectations for recording, and also allow them to upload the recording pages for use with assistive technology.  You can download these pages FREE from my TpT store by clicking on the image below.

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