5 tips for teaching Science in any classroom

June 24, 2021Chanel Johnson

Teaching science virtually or in hybrid classrooms can be tricky. The demand for quality science instruction is  still expected no matter what setting you’re teaching in. Like many districts, we spent part of our school year in virtual or hybrid settings. This meant teachers couldn’t do the traditional labs and investigations they usually did in the classroom face to face. Many of the resources were not “virtual learning proof”! This problem allowed me to share my three passions in place at once: science education, science pedagogy, and the use of Nearpod. Using Nearpod for science instruction created opportunities for students to actively engage like scientists. I am going to share practical tips you can use while planning your science lessons using Nearpod. The 5E instructional model is one of the most effective ways to deliver instruction. The 5E model guides students through engaging, exploring, explaining, elaborating, and evaluating on new concepts.

Start by engaging students with your science topic

In this phase, students are focusing on a Phenomenon, a problem, or an event. When searching for phenomena, I like to use resources such as The Wonder of Science, NGSS Phenomena, and Georgia Science Teachers Association. more importantly, the phenomena can be right under your nose in your classroom and your community. 

How can we use Nearpod to introduce an anchoring phenomenon? 

  • Use the video feature to upload a video, allowing students to watch the video. Add an Open-ended question at a specific point of a video to elicit student thinking. 
  • Use the Nearpod 3D feature allow students to manipulate both an animal and plant cell. Elicit student thinking by asking students to generate questions or make observations on what they see. 
  • Use the VR Field trip, take students to different biomes around the world. 

How can I use Nearpod to elicit student thinking?

Introducing students to the Phenomenon is excellent,  but we have to make sure we foster opportunities for  students to ask questions, share observations, express their understanding of an idea.  Collaborate Board, Open-ended questions, or Draw-it activities are great Nearpod features to use. These features will also help you gauge current student understandings and misconceptions.

Move into exploring with your science lesson

In this phase, students are exploring ideas. Students can explore ideas through designing their own investigations, constructing models. 

  • A great feature Nearpod has is “PhET Simulation,” online math and science simulations.  Allow students to explore the simulation by giving them a simple challenge. Here is an example below
  • Using Circuit Construction: Ask students what materials do we need to make the light bulb light?” 
  • Let the students explore the features and figure out the challenge.  Allow students to take a screenshot of their results to use for a later part of the 5E model.

Next help students explain what they learned

Explain can be broken into two parts: student explanation and a time for teachers to provide resources.

  • Explain Part 1
    • Let’s refer back to the PhET simulation example from the explore stage. Students can use Draw-it to upload their model and provide an explanation.  If you are using a live session,  the share feature allows all students to see other student models anonymously. Can you imagine the potential discourse from this? Asking questions such as do you agree or disagree, why?  This feature also promotes opportunities for students to explain their thinking.  I made myself as a student and added an incorrect model just to promote opportunities for error analysis.
    • Flipgrid students can use this feature to explain their thinking, share their screen and add different stickers and images. 
  • Explain Part 2: Teachers, this is the part where you are providing resources and explaining ideas. Nearpod features that can support the explain phase are:
    • Flocabulary is a great way to provide information using upbeat songs to connect the experience to the science content. 
    • The slide deck you already have doesn’t have to go to waste. You can upload them to the slide feature.
    • Web content can take students directly to the source of information.

Students can now apply what they learned by elaborating

During this phase, students can extend their thinking and apply skills. 

  • Students can use PhET Simulation to go beyond existing ideas. I like using the Circuit Simulation because you can do so much with that simulation. Ask students what happens when you add more light bulbs to the simple circuit. From there, they can design a solution to keep all the lights from dimming.  
  • Another challenge you can suggest for students is to design a circuit where one light bulb stays on while the other stays off. This can introduce the idea of different types of circuits such as  parallel circuits.
  • Other ways to use Nearpod for the Elaboration Stage is through the use of Open-ended questions and Draw-it.

Finally, let’s evaluate

Evaluation can be broken into two parts.

  1. How can teachers use Nearpod to access student learning?
  2. How can students use Nearpod to access their learning? 

Many of the activities in Nearpod lend themselves to assessing student learning. While this is the final phase, I do believe 5E isn’t always linear. We should take multiple opportunities to evaluate student learning. Nearpod has so many differentiated options that you can use throughout science instruction.  

  • Quiz, adding the traditional multiple-choice, which includes the self-grading feature. 
  • Open-Ended Questions take the multiple-choice to the next level. Students can explain their choices. 
  • Draw-it: Students can construct models or annotate over an uploaded image
  • Flipgrid can be used to answer a question or explain the phenomenon you started within the Engage phase. 

If you are applying the phenomena storyline method, remember to tie the phenomena back into instruction. 

Our goal as educators is for students to take ownership of their learning. For them to do that, we have to involve them. How can students use Nearpod to access their knowledge?

  • Poll feature, get a pulse check on how students feel about the content
  • Allow them time to practice using memory test and matching pairs
  • Friendly competition with Time to Climb
  • FlipGrid, students can evaluate their learning and their peers’ learning. 

Nearpod has presented many ways we can still provide quality science instruction for our students through the 5E model.  We can engage with anchoring phenomena through the use of video and reflecting questions to elicit student thinking. Students can still engage in our Science and Engineering Practices through Nearpod, which we briefly touched on throughout the different stages of 5E. We can go deeper with each of the 5E stages and our Science and Engineering Practices, but for now, I  hope the  ideas presented to you will get you motivated to use Nearpod as an intricate resource for instructional planning  in your next science class. Let’s Continue Activating Student Learning!

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