Science Teacher Describes Success with IQWST

We recently asked Melissa McDonald, a 6th grade science teacher in Baraboo, WI, to tell us about her experience teaching with IQWST in the classroom.

Activate Learning:  In what ways has using IQWST affected your classroom culture? 

Melissa:  IQWST has improved my classroom culture in two ways.  First, it is engaging and challenging to students, which I find had the biggest impact on classroom culture.  Second, it is focused.  The mission is clear to my students and to me.  This sense of purpose allows us to move forward, working together toward a common goal.

AL:  What are some ways that your students are demonstrating success in science as they use IQWST? 

Melissa:  IQWST forces students to be willing to make mistakes and take risks.  I feel this is the basis of good science.  This promotes good ideas, thoughtful questions, and learning for all students.  Also, I have noticed huge changes in my students’ written and verbal communication.

AL:  How have the materials themselves supported you as a science educator?  

Melissa:  It is really nice to have everything where you need it, packed and ready to go.  This puts my focus back where it belongs; on thoughtful, impactful instruction.

AL:  IQWST focuses on reading, writing, and talking science--as students also “do” science.  How do the reading and writing activities support your students as learners?  

Melissa:  Last year my personal goal was to have my students grow in the area of written communications.  By the end of the year, 90% of my students could make an accurate claim based on evidence.  Also, 90% grew significantly in their ability to provide evidence.  I was so impressed by this and so were my administrators.  IQWST does a great job of supporting teachers in improving student writing.  I also saw my students make huge gains in their reading comprehension.

AL:  What particular pedagogical practice or strategy has been particularly useful to you?  

Melissa:  I have really enjoyed teaching my students to build models and use them to explain phenomena.  This practice has deep roots in the field of science and should be something all young scientists learn, but it is hard to teach.  IQWST has helped me become better at teaching this, and my students have grown as a result.

AL:  What differentiates IQWST from other science curricula?  

Melissa:  I have only worked with teacher created (generally my own) curricula for several years.  IQWST is so focused and the mission is clear to students.  They take an active role in developing strong science practices and learning the core ideas.  It really has turned science into a discipline rather than a content or subject in my classroom.  I have yet to experience any other curriculum that does this for me!

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