This month’s interview features Christie King, a 6th grade science teacher at Leestown Middle School in Lexington, KY. We asked Christie what changes she has observed in her classroom since she started using IQWST, and here is what she told us.
Activate Learning: In what ways has using IQWST affected your classroom culture?
Christie: IQWST has made hands on learning and labs much more fun and engaging. I am less stressed coming up with labs that I know will meet the standards, and that will engage the kids. It’s helpful knowing that there are critical thinking questions embedded in the curriculum that will encourage the kids to think beyond the immediate questions, and into the future.
Activate Learning: What are some ways that your students are demonstrating success in science as they use IQWST?
Christie: The students’ answers to scientific questions are getting more sophisticated in relation to citing evidence and reasoning through their thought processes. This is a definite improvement from the start of the year where their answers were mostly one word answers and they could not back up any of their claims. I also see a depth of understanding that I did not see before. Students are beginning to apply what they learned in the labs to other situations in scientific discussions.
Activate Learning: How have the materials themselves supported you as a science educator?
Christie: The materials provided for the labs are wonderful at giving the kids hands on experiences. I have also enjoyed the computer model demonstration and lab using NetLogo. By allowing student exploration, we are allowing a deeper understanding of the concepts. There were a few labs (especially the dissection lab and the food lab with the chemical indicators) that I was concerned about and uncomfortable with at first, but the teacher materials and the online support materials provided more than enough information to make these understandable and teachable.
Activate Learning: 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?
Christie: I like the reading activities, they are high interest and students are enjoying the content. I think that adding a reading and writing component to this curriculum was brilliant; it helps foster these skills in a productive manner with content that we are already teaching.
Activate Learning: How did the initial professional development (PD) prepare you to teach IQWST?
Christie: I think the initial staff development did a good job of helping to understand the progression of some of the lessons in these units, and understanding how the driving question board is set up and used. It was also useful to see how to access the teacher resources that are online and see some of the lab setup videos. I liked being able to demonstrate the lesson from the point of view of a teacher and as a student to see the difference in expectations.
Activate Learning: What particular pedagogical practice or strategy has been particularly useful to you? (e.g., reading strategies, the Driving Question Board, assessment strategies, CER framework)
Christie: I particularly like the CER framework as it fits with our student growth goals this year and it gets our students to back up their claims and thought process. Trying to get the students to answer questions with more than just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ has been like pulling teeth, now I have a series of steps that I can ask the students to follow to help them make sure they are answering with a complete thought. There are no more ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. There are claims supported by evidence, with explanations as to their significance or meaning. This also helps support good writing practices and organization in other subject areas.
Activate Learning: What differentiates IQWST from other science curricula?
Christie: It is hands on, comprehensive, and contains a reading and writing component that we can apply well with other strategies we have implemented at our school to help reach our lowest, most struggling students.