Aiming for Excellence: Content Differentiation in 3rd Grade Science
With Tiffany Maronpot and Christine Royce
EXCELLENCE. IT’S WHAT EDUCATORS STRIVE FOR, PARENTS HOPE FOR AND STUDENTS DESERVE.
WE PUT THIRD GRADE TEACHER TIFFANY MARONPOT TO THE TEST.
A SCIENCE EDUCATION EXPERT OBSERVES ONE LESSON AND GIVES NOTES ON HOW TIFFANY CAN IMPROVE HER SKILLS.
SHE THEN HAS ONE WEEK TO MAKE CHANGES BEFORE THE EXPERT GIVES A FINAL ASSESSMENT.
TIFFANY: I’m very passionate about what I do, so it is really hard at times when people come in and if there’s a whole note book you’re only seeing, ok are these all the things that she thinks that I’m not doing well?
TITLE: CONTENT DIFFERENTIATION IN 3RD GRADE SCIENCE
TIFFANY MARONPOT IS A THIRD GRADE TEACHER IN STROUDSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA.
TUCKED BETWEEN THE POCONO MOUNTAINS ON THE PENNSYLVANIA-NEW JERSEY BORDER, STROUDSBURG IS MID-WAY BETWEEN PHILADELPHIA AND NEW YORK CITY.
TIFFANY: I’ve been teaching 10 years now. And I’ve always taught 3rd grade, love 3rd grade. I love it because it's the year that they feel like they’re all grown up. Because they learn how to write cursive, which they feel very sophisticated and I love that you can still spark their interests and their curiosity but they still call you mom by mistake.
STROUDSBURG INTERMEDIATE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS HOME TO GRADES THREE AND FOUR.
WITH 800 STUDENTS ENROLLED, THE SCHOOL BOASTS A STAFF OF MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE.
JEFF: I’ve worked with Tiffany for the last 6 years. She certainly has a gift for not only probably an innate gift but also a learned gift, I really believe that she takes her profession beyond the classroom.
TIFFANY: There’s just nothing like when a child gets it, or there’s a child who feels they can’t get it, and you can help them gain that confidence and be proud of them self. There’s nothing like that.
LOGAN: I think Ms. Maronpot’s an awesome teacher. That’s the best part about my day I wake up and think, “Thanks, I just want to go to school.”
SARAH: She’s loving she’s caring and she’s beautiful.
TIFFANY: OK, let’s see if you prepped her up, I’m picking a random reporter. Sarah you were using your brain, tell me what did you come up with?
TIFFANY HAS LITTLE PROBLEM KEEPING HER STUDENTS ENGAGED,
TIFFANY: What is the area? Quickly talk with your group.
BUT SHE RECOGNIZES THAT THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
TIFFANY: This is the first year that I’m teaching Water Unit. Because last year we had started it and I was on maternity leave. So it is, it's a lot at night just kind of reading over it, making sure I know what I’m teaching,
TIFFANY’S CLASSROOM IS EQUIPPED WITH THE LATEST INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGY, BUT SHE KNOWS SHE CAN BE USING IT TO GREATER ADVANTAGE.
TIFFANY: Last year I received the Promethean board. And it was actually right before I went out on maternity leave. So I didn’t really have too many opportunities to use it last year.
TWO CHILDREN FROM THE “LIFE SKILLS” SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM JOIN TIFFANY’S CLASS FOR SCIENCE LESSONS; SHE TRIES TO ENSURE ALL HER STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM THE MATERIAL.
TIFFANY: The hard thing I think with the grade level that I have and the different levels I have, it's sometimes hard accommodate and make sense for maybe the students that are you know, significantly lower like the Life Skills kids. Some experiments don’t make sense to them. So it's trying to make it more relative to real life, and why we’re doing it. And just tapping into what they can get from it.
WE CHALLENGE TIFFANY TO AIM FOR EXCELLENCE.
DR. CHRISTINE ROYCE IS A SCIENCE EDUCATION EXPERT. SHE WILL OBSERVE TIFFANY’S SCIENCE LESSON AND OFFER PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE ON HOW TO IMPROVE HER TEACHING METHODS.
CHRISTINE: A teacher who’s doing a good job first of all has done their homework. They have homework, too. They need to look at what kind of strategies and approaches they’re going to use. What works today may not work tomorrow.
TIFFANY: You know, I’m doing it anyway, every night I’m going home and I’m doing it. And this will provide for a great experience with having someone come in that actually understands the field and knows it and can work with me on it.
TIFFANY: First question I have for today. What have we been working on in science? Refresh your memories. Let me grab a random reporter and see what we came up with – even Steven?
STEVEN: Um, we’ve been working on to see what would evaporate faster?
TIFFANY: Ooh! Specifics! I like it. Yesterday we worked on evaporation. We started taking a look. We set up an experiment. Now let’s talk about how we went through our experiment. We came up, we had our question, we came up with a hypothesis, OK we made our hypothesis, went over our safety rules for yesterday, went through, we put our paper towels in the water, we squeezed out most of the water, we put each cup- each into a cup of its own, and then we put the two cups on the balance. Now our conclusion was to be continued today. OK? So let’s try it out. We’re going to hand out our materials from yesterday, and we are going to see what conclusion we can come to.
CHRISTINE: I think one of the first things I noticed was the fact that she actually had students engaged in and doing science. It’s nice to see that students were actually doing the investigations, thinking about the scientific process of asking questions and developing a hypothesis, and then also thinking about what they have to do in setting up the procedure.
LOGAN: You know guys see? That’s why, cause this evaporated faster so that paper towels like nothing now. And that one’s still wet.
TIFFANY: Now what did you discover and why? What is our conclusion?
STUDENT: Um that all the water stayed in it and here was no sun that hit it.
TIFFANY: Excellent did you hear that, Ave? He discovered that heavier cup was the one that had the lid on it which is what we all discovered. So the water that was in your paper towel, that we left open, changed into an invisible gas. Does anybody know what that’s called? It’s called water something. Anybody ever hear of water vapor? That’s what water vapor is! When that water evaporated into the air, it created something called water vapor. OK? So we did one main key word – evaporate. And both of those words are in the back of your science journal in your little pocket of key words. So right now what I’d like you to do is look in your science journal in the back, pull those little key words out of your pocket, and I’d like you to find the words water vapor and evaporate. See if you have them in the back pocket of your book. On those two words – evaporate and water vapor – I’d like you to put a little check and then put them back inside your folder. Now, this is actually something that we’re going to- really going to look at tomorrow.
TIFFANY: Now, we have two lovely scenes. They’re both glass containers. Look at temperatures, OK? Think about that. Now let’s see what happens. What do you think would evaporate quick- more quickly? Would the cup of water that’s in a sunny, nice day? Or in the desert? Which one would evaporate more quickly? Talk with your group. Which one and why?
TIFFANY: OK. Freeze for a second, let’s watch and see what happens. Where do you think the water would evaporate more quickly? If you think a sunny day, raise your hand. If you think a desert, raise your hand. OK let’s try and see. So we’re going to think it’s over here, OK? Let’s watch what happens and see. OK So it’s day, it’s night, the water’s evaporating. Which one evaporated more quickly? Which one evaporated first? The desert…
CHRISTINE: Overall I think the science lesson went really well. Tiffany’s a really strong teacher and the students have a really good grasp of science content that was presented for the curriculum. I did identify a few areas that I think she can work on to improve her lesson so she can go from being really good to moving it towards the next level.
DR. ROYCE AND TIFFANY SIT DOWN FOR A HARD LOOK AT HER SCIENCE LESSON.
CHRISTINE: Tiffany thank you for letting me come to our classroom I really enjoyed it and I enjoyed seeing what you were doing with your third graders.
TIFFANY: I actually really, really enjoyed having you as well.
CHRISTINE: Many of the kids I talked to could tell me exactly what was happening.
CHRISTINE: Well we, actually…
TIFFANY: That’s great.
CHRISTINE: That was one of the really good things in your lesson - you had the kids doing science. They were having those aha moments. Some other things I noticed when I was in your classroom focused on some things that you could tweak. We all look for new things to improve and new strategies,
TIFFANY: Yes. Absolutely.
CHRISTINE: and that’s part of the professional development process. Coming up with a list of key questions you actually want to ask the night before, to make sure they’re not all recall questions, or simply comprehension questions.
CHRISTINE: But getting into the application questions is one strategy.
TIFFANY: That is an area that I’m always trying to get better and have better questioning.
CHRISTINE: Say I’m not going to have more than 10% of the questions I’m asking today be knowledge or be comprehension.
TIFF: Like how else could I set up my questioning?
CHRISTINE: Say to them, if you thought about evaporation this way. Can you give me an example of?
CHRISTINE: Very often when you’re saying things like can you give an example of? You’re asking them to apply it to a different situation.
TIFFANY: I find myself asking the questions and having them really explain why, But then, when you have…
CHRISTINE: Can you give me an example of?
TIFFANY: Give an example of it. That does take it that step further that I haven’t been able to do.
SOT TIFFANY: What happens when water gets really cold?
CHRISTINE: That’s an example where you asked a question, it was very specific question. What happens when water gets really, really cold?
CHRISTINE: And the kid said it turns into ice. Following that up with the question of, well what happens when that water that’s now turned into ice warms up? Gets them thinking about the reverse process. So by asking even questions that you might not yet have covered to try and take those students a little bit further, and just see where they are.
TIFFANY: One of my greatest struggles this year is trying to tap all those different levels. And being that I have the range of you know students from a Life Skills Program up through students that have the gifted you know plans.
CHRISTINE: I think having any time you can let them try and interact and discuss that research shows that the social interaction is how they will learn.
TIFFANY: Exactly, that’s why a big heavily group oriented as far as that goes….
CHRISTINE: So perhaps having key questions at the table that they’re supposed to think about, where different kids could perhaps have different responses based on where they are in the spectrum. And then when you’re going around and having all of them report out, you start from the lower recall cognitive questions, moving up towards the application and analysis.
SOT TIFFANY: So right now what I’d like you to do is look in your science journal in the back, pull those little key words out of your pocket, and I’d like you to find the words water vapor and evaporate. See if you have them in the back pocket of your book
CHRISTINE: And you might ask them to literally say, what I’d like you to try and do is group your scientific lingo or your science vocabulary into three different groups. I’m not going to tell you what those groups are but you need to figure out why you’ve put a group together.
CHRISTINE: Some other ways I might do that is grounding it, have other pictures on the table. There’s several websites that do provide animations that you can actually copy or clip or paste or print something and laminate.
SOT TIFFANY: Now, Christian, what did we say we’re working on? What’s the main thing we’re working on?
CHRISTINE: I would let them try and work through the process in describing that themselves. And by having the small groups either report out, or putting it on the board, will allow them one more step in the ownership associated with that process.
TIFFANY: Yeah I like that idea. I typically, like I’ll have them do it within their group. But I’ve never really had them show it to the class.
CHRISTINE: That kind of brings me to the use of the Promethean board. You’ve got the technology and you’re using it.
TIFFANY: Yeah, trying.
CHRISTINE: But trying to make your lessons bringing in the visual aspect. So finding some interactive games, or activities where you have the kids getting out of their seat and coming up and interacting with the board.
TIFFANY: Yes. That would be wonderful.
CHRISTINE: An example you start it and set up what kind of day it is, what kind of temperature is it? And which do we think will have faster evaporation? Give each group a different set of variables. And then allow them to come up and literally manipulate the different variables on the screen; you can run through four of five set ups very quickly using the interactive board, and then you also have several kids interacting with the board rather than just one.
CHRISTINE: In looking for some activities that dealt with the water cycle and also dealt with the concepts you’re presenting in class, always using interactive games or animations is a good way to involve them. And while you might not have some of these where they’re able to be part of the lesson, where you intersperse them, you might also just set aside a good ten or fifteen minutes to have kids do these either on the computer if that’s possible or as a class. And having kids come up and interact with the board will allow them to actually learn more from the lesson and also be more attentive because they’re hoping you’re going to call on them next to come up and interact.
CHRISTINE: All right, another one we actually have here is this one. So I would, ahead of time, sit down and come up with a series of questions and different set of variables for each table. And then say to them, based on what you know you need to now make a prediction on which set would have faster evaporation. Give each station a different set of variables and then have them come up here and manipulate the variables and check it.
TIFFANY: Yeah. That’s cool.
CHRISTINE: It gets the kids up and interacting with actual board.
TIFFANY: I love that. I’m definitely- that’s, that’s awesome too. All right, super.
CHRISTINE: So there were some of the different ideas for interactive boards, getting kids to come up
TIFFANY: That’s what I was looking for, not only as a means of instruction but as a means of reinforcement and exciting and hands on and you know them really getting to partake in it.
WITH DR. ROYCE’S NOTES, TIFFANY HAS HER WORK CUT OUT FOR HER.
SHE NOW HAS ONE WEEK BETWEEN VISITS TO IMPLEMENT THE NEW STRATEGIES THEY DISCUSSED AND TAKE HER SCIENCE LESSON TO THE NEXT LEVEL.
TIFFANY: Everything that Dr Royce had mentioned are things that I really wanted to try and get better at. It’s great because just as well it’s something that I can use it’s not just like a one-lesson thing.
TIFFANY: I’ve been trying to think about what words are really important for the kids to be able to picture on a daily lesson in science one of Dr. Royce’s bits of advice when we met right after the lesson was to use actual photos of real life. And the reasoning behind it – was for it to tap into students that might not be able to read the vocab words or truly understand them.
TIFFANY: Um I really liked Dr. Royce’s advice about reaching all the student’s levels she said, “you know why don’t you think about maybe putting on a piece of paper for the kids to have a little something that they could respond to. So I searched on line for puzzles. And so I modified it to create four different levels of instruction. And as they answer their question they’ll put it in the middle to build on to their puzzle. And then the team that has the puzzle done will get a reward.
TIFFANY: The first level would be like your knowledge, your basic what is, where is, how did something like this happen. And then you have your second level of questioning which is the comprehension. And then your third level is your application so actually applying what you learned and taking it to the next level. And then your fourth level would be your analysis – so looking at the, you know examining it, breaking it down the information into parts and really pulling it apart. Big time.
TIFFANY: The kids pretty much all fall between the first three levels. And the only other thing I did then was I took the first level and I took it down even a little bit more to allow for all the kids to be able to partake in it. Um actually when I was creating them I kind of started mid-road at the second level of questioning, and then though OK how can we raise the level and drop the level a little bit to vary the different levels.
WITH ONE DAY TILL DR. ROYCE’S SECOND OBSERVATION, TIFFANY IMPLEMENTS SOME OF THE NEW TECHNIQUES SHE’S DEVELOPED.
TIFFANY: Originally I was thinking I could use this for my little ones that maybe struggle with reading, and wouldn’t understand what the word is or the definitions. But then when I went through them and I started doing them I was like, ‘Wow, I want to show this to all the kids.’
BRITTANY: Mhm. Yeah.
TIFFANY PRINTS OUT THE VOCABULARY CARDS SHE’S MADE AND WILL TEST THEM OUT IN HER SICENCE LESSON TODAY.
IT’S THE DAY OF TIFFANY’S SECOND OBSERVATION. SHE HAS ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT TO PUT HER BEST FOOT FORWARD.
DR. ROYCE RETURNS TO CHECK IN ON TIFFANY’S PROGRESS AND SEE HOW SHE’S INCORPORATED THE NEW STRATEGIES THEY DISCUSSED INTO HER LESSON.
TIFFANY: OK Boys and girls please put away your books; clear your desks off except for your science journal. Please make sure you have your right journal. OK when we started the evaporation locations what were we doing what were we working on in this experiment? Drew, what did we do for this experiment?
DREW: Um, we wanted to know um what water would evaporate in different locations.
TIFFANY: Excellent that’s what we’re going to do. VIP, Ryan, come on back. I need Jake, Taryn and Logan, come on back first. OK now, what these kiddos that I have up here are going to do, open it up, fill your syringe, OK? And it’s OK if you get a little air in it. Each of you is going to get a cylinder and we are going to fill our cylinders then with it. OK? You want to get every little last bit. Do we understand what we’re doing? So we’re going to take the water out with our syringe, put it in our cylinders.
TIFFANY: Now who things they can tell me how much there is in their cylinder? Caroline, look over here, how much would you say there is? You’re my experts over here the four of you that are looking.
TIFFANY: Twenty-eight. Take a look at that line.
STUDENT: We got thirty-four.
TIFFANY: OK so we are twenty-eight, I agree. So you are letter B, OK fantastic. Please put your syringes down, four funky clovers head back to your seats for a second. I need the lucky leprechauns head back to your seats. OK? All right. You’re going to come up front with me. Go ahead, head up front, just grab my pen. Nope you can leave them right there, four groups come up front.
TIFFANY: All right, who was A? Cool, you’re going to write in your amount right here. Now let’s take a look. Yesterday in the pool – we started all with fifty – yesterday the pool area had forty-three milliliters. Now today it only had twenty-eight. Now, raise your hand if you like doing puzzles. I love puzzles. So what I did was I created a puzzle, a set of puzzles for each group. Each of you are getting a baggie, inside it first it’s going to be like a scavenger hunt, like an egg hunt. You have to find your name on the back of a puzzle piece, what you’re going to do with that puzzle piece then, when it’s your turn, OK, we’ll go in order, we have numbers right? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6? You are going to start with number one. Number one will read the question. And then number one will answer that question. So your goal is to read an answer your question. As Avery goes, she puts her piece down. Somebody else goes, they put their piece down. See how that works?
TIFFANY: Now, before that I have a little quiz for you. You have three parts to your quiz - Mike, hands on your desk buddy. There is a nice day verse a rainy day, a nice day verse a desert, and a rainy day verse a desert. Your goal is going to be to determine which of the two when they are going against each other, which of the two will win. Who will evaporate more quickly? Put your names on them and with your group fill this out. As you work on your puzzle pieces, I am going to have you come up and try and see who will evaporate more quickly. Do that first, go.
AARON: Nice days have like nice bright sun.
LOGAN: Yeah, but rainy days have wind.
STUDENT 1: Nice day.
AARON: Yeah but wind just blows the water out it doesn’t evaporate.
LOGAN: Yeah, it dries it but plus, after it dries it then more rain comes down. It dries it, yeah nice day.
TIFFANY: It may be rainy day, think about the swimming pool area. OK, you never know! OK leave them on top of your desk, find your puzzle piece and start doing your questions. OK who has, who’s number two? OK Ritika what does your question say, listen to her question.
RITIKA: How would you describe evaporation happening?
TIFFANY: How does it happen?
RITIKA: It dries?
TIFFANY: OK why? Where does the water go?
RITIKA: Into the air.
TIFFANY: Into the air, interesting.
TIFFANY: OK come on up group, Lucky Leprechauns, come on up. What does the second one say Logan?
LOGAN: Nice day verse desert.
TIFFANY: Nice day verse desert; so nice day, change this one to desert. Excellent, now which one do we think will evaporate more quickly? Which one you think? Uh Aaron?
TIFFANY: Desert, so let’s try it. Drag this over here. Good lets see what happens OK. Did we get our puzzles together? Fantastic. Get our puzzles? Awesome.
CHRISTIAN: Oh desert won!
TIFFANY: Go ahead you do your second part. Make sure you’re looking through your vocabulary cards. Who found another one? Ooh show your group. How is that water vapor? What is that?
JAKE: A boiling pot of water.
TIFFANY: So you mean you see water vapor when your parents cook pasta? How cool is that?
TIFFANY: So now think about this. We’re going to continue to use these little cards. The other two groups will get to come up tomorrow when we check our evaporation locations again. Please put all your cards in your little baggie. All your puzzle pieces should be put away.
CHRISTINE: Well having sat and watched your lesson today, it's obvious that you had tied in some of the things that we had talked about previously. Specifically, using vocabulary terms. And using the vocabulary sorting cards as part of one of your station activities did allow the students to actually go through and think about what they know about the different terms and how they would group them.
CHRISTINE: I think one of the areas to still consider, as you’re moving through, is using the terms in all of your questionings. You did a really good job trying to use the terms when you were having the kids make predictions and draw conclusions. Instead of saying what did you do today? Or what did you do? Who can tell me what the procedure is?
CHRISTINE: I also think you did a really good job about trying to involve the Promethean board and having kids do interactive things. Rather than simply you interacting with the board with student answers, you had the students up, you had them interacting with it. That seemed to get the kids really excited about science.
CHRISTINE: The other aspect I thought that was really well done is you did have higher order questions for the different levels in class. The puzzle pieces where obviously hand selected who got what question and the students were able to think about things at a little bit different level. Depending on where their level was. And at the same rate allow for some peer teaching by saying that question out loud and also hearing what they other student’s answers were.
TIFFANY: Everybody it seemed like which I was really happy with, was fully engaged with the other people that were discussing. They weren’t thinking oh this is an easier question or oh this is a harder question, that’s why I didn’t get it. And that was my ultimate goal.
CHRITINE: Going forward, I’d probably say continue to work on asking questions at those levels. Continue to incorporate the terminology associated with science wherever possible. So they can actually start to think about those terms as well. I’d also say find some more interactive animations for the board. You’ll find that the kids really start to get into it, as you noticed today. They were involved, they were active, they were asking questions. And they were thinking about it, not just playing a game online.
TIFFANY: You know what else I saw? I saw confidence in the kids. And that is huge because the kids that feel, oh, I’m not going to know how to answer that question or that question’s too hard. It’s really one of the first times that every student in here was talking at their appropriate level.
CHRISTINE: Well again it's been great being in your classroom. And as you continue to move forward I hope you consider these things and get the kids interested and active in science.
TIFFANY: Thank you.
TIFFANY: No matter how long you’ve been teaching, no matter how good you think you are, you can always better yourself. And I think it's just so important to be okay with that. And know that, that doesn’t mean that you’re not great at what you do.