Adventures in Customizing Textbooks

Our first book has hit the classrooms. This is a huge experiment in using open source text books. LKSD has implemented our first customized Biology Text district wide.  We customized a book using templates and tools made available through and their Flexbook platform.

My interest began as I struggled to use commercial books that were loaded with academic language and lengthy chapters filled with thousands of concepts at once. I was searching for books that would be ESL friendly, but still rich in content and rigorous. The books are arranged in concepts vs chapters which present a more digestible chunk of knowledge at one time. We can also edit the book and use our own analogies and local pictures and terms.  A team of teachers worked on customizing these books over the summer. Books are available in print and digital format.

KYUK recently did a news story about our efforts.


Paper Circuitry Engineering and Design: A Steam Project

I have made the Paper Circuit greeting card assignment an annual tradition in my Physical Science Class. This year we made the cards after learning about simple and parallel circuits in an Electricity Unit. I challenged my students to apply what they learned about electricity by designing greeting card that lights up with a paper circuit. It was a great opportunity for us to use the terms insulator, conductor, parallel circuit,  volts, amps, resistance (ohms) in concept. We also talked about the engineering design process and how this is a different from an inquiry investigation as we are applying what we know to create something.

This lesson is a work in progress. For next year, I plan to add a reflective writing piece that uses the strategies an engineering notebook would. We will also have nanometers next year and then we can analyze the current and resistance of our designs.

A big thanks to the folks at Nexmap And Chibtronics inspiring this projects. It’s one of our favorites.


Working towards better readers and Argument Driven Inquiry

Last year, I stumbled upon the Argument Driven Inquiry process with a little nudge from a great colleague. After struggling with the Learning Cycle Model and Inquiry Science for many years, it was a relief to find a process that gave me more direction and structure to support the development of the inquiry process with my students.

My district hired ADI to provide an introductory training in the ADI process. I feel like I have been given a life preserver at sea. The ADI structure is giving me the framework and the tools I need to develop my craft as an Inquiry Science teacher. I am beginning this journey and will share more as I develop my skills. Its so exciting to see my students start to get it.

What I like about the labs is they start with a short-targeted reading that gives students the background information they need to design an investigation and unravel meaning. The readings are relevant and purposeful. This really helps my students.  The folks at ADI have some great scaffolding materials too.

Here’s  a sample of student writing submitted after our first lab:

Student Group 1:


Some of my students are less verbal, but they are spot on:

Student Group 2


NGSS Exploration and Adventures

Your school might be a lot like mine, if you don’t have a plan to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). BUT, I invite all my fellow science teachers to engage in the journey of learning more about these next generation of science standards. It’s a huge paradigm shift that those of us who have embraced inquiry science will appreciate.

I am in the process of revising my curriculum maps and started my own exploration. Here are some cool resources I found:

Bozeman Science – NGSS – I have been a huge fan of Paul Anderson’s video lessons. He has a remarkable way of explaining science concepts using graphics and everyday examples. I am ever so grateful he has shared these for free. He now has an entire section devoted to NGSS. Check out the NGSS posters and cards. I also like the matrix. Paul has some short videos that do an excellent job of introducing NGSS.  I see he is building inquiry labs and sharing them online too. This is a site to watch.

NGSS Evidence Statements- The Next Generation Science Standards site has a link to “Evidence Statements”. These statements include a framework that outlines the three dimensional components of each standard. But they also include statements that illustrate what it will “look like” for students to demonstrate this standard. These statements  address the cross-cutting nature of the goals and will help me build the content and language objectives.

Argument Driven Inquiry – I bought the Biology lessons last year and I am going to dive into an activity this year. Each lesson includes a lab or data analysis activity that incorporates argumentation and discourse.

Once Upon a Life Science and Earth Science – I have been using the Life Science Book for a few years. I really appreciate the concrete reading strategies and the concept mapping tools. These are terrific models of how to support reading in science.

Let me know if you are using a cool tool to incorporate new strategies for teaching science. I’d love to hear your ideas.


Happy Day!

I got the following email from a student today. Getting a message like this, is the best gift a teacher can receive. It shows my students are connecting what they learn in class. Here’s the note I found in m email:

I saw this in a magazine:


(The part where it mentions chlorophyll)