December 02, 2013
Gizmos Support Science Understanding in English Language Learners
Science class can be frustrating for English Language Learners (ELL). When teachers build on concepts in the science curriculum, they use complex vocabulary and often rely on students' background knowledge. Providing rich visual support and modeling during instruction has been shown to be a highly effective strategy in supporting students' understanding of science concepts. The use of Gizmos can help students connect concepts and vocabulary to real-world experiences, providing a bridge to learning between languages.
A Texas Science Coordinator agrees. She explains:
"Using Gizmos for ELLs is one of the best way to show a nonlinguistic representation of any science content/topics. Students enjoy the manipulation of variables and have the ability to communicate using pictures to the teachers with the simulations. Students see science content in a vivid and relevant way to help them increase their scientific literacy."
Gizmos' easily customizable lesson materials and vocabulary sheets provide students the opportunity to build on prior knowledge and communicate scientific content using multiple modes of representation (e.g. discussions, pictures, models, writing, graphs).
After attending a recent Initial Training Workshop, this is what one Memphis high school teacher had to say:
"The student body at the school I teach at consists majorly of ESL [English as a Second Language] students, and I definitely believe that Gizmos will assist my ESL students to better understand the concepts taught in science class, in which language can be a barrier for student comprehension."
Explore Gizmos today to see how they can help you transform learning for your ELL students.
November 26, 2013
Teachers are "thrilled to start using Gizmos" in their classes
An elementary teacher at Golden Vally School in Québec recently attended our Initial Gizmos Training. Here's what she had to say,
"The training was well balanced, and gave many opportunities to search through and test out many Gizmos. It was very informative and left no questions unanswered. I am thrilled to start using Gizmos in my classroom."
With Gizmos' flexible professional development and support, you can start integrating Gizmos into your lessons today! Learn more
November 13, 2013
Educator of the Month: Larissa Jackson
Larissa Jackson has been teaching for 17 years. Mrs. Jackson currently teaches Biology at a Title I high school in Shelby County Schools, TN.
Many of Mrs. Jackson's science computer lab sessions involve Gizmos. When she’s not using the computer lab, she has students engage with Gizmos on an interactive whiteboard during whole-class instruction. After her first year of using Gizmos in her lessons, she saw remarkable results. Her Biology students’ proficiency scores more than doubled! She attributes this success to the unique learning design Gizmos provide. Not only are students excited about using Gizmos in her class, they are deeply engaged in the content because of Gizmos. She explains:
“Because my students are such visual and kinesthetic learners, I was able to reinforce my lessons in a way that I hadn't previously. I also like the way Gizmos require students to make predictions and inferences based on evidence. Because of limited time and resources, I couldn't perform all the labs that I wanted students to experience. Gizmos gave students the hands-on and visual experience they needed to really understand the concept — specifically, the genetics lessons.”
Mrs. Jackson thinks the Mouse Genetics Gizmo is fabulous for teaching students about genetics. In the Mouse Genetics Gizmo, students can breed "pure" mice with known genotypes that exhibit specific fur and eye colors, and learn how traits are passed on via dominant and recessive genes. The Gizmo allows students to use Punnett squares to predict and track results of successive trials. Mrs. Jackson often has students work in cooperative groups to complete the Student Exploration sheets. Student Exploration sheets generally include multiple activities, with increasing levels of difficulty. This helps teachers differentiate their instruction more easily, so students of all ability levels can succeed.
Even when Mrs. Jackson engages students with hands-on labs, Gizmos are still part of the lessons — enriching students’ understanding of the concept before and after the lab. Gizmos are a great resource to remediate and reinforce the content and skills required of students. Mrs. Jackson really appreciates the Gizmo Assessment Questions too. They are a quick and easy way to assess students’ understanding of a concept.
Mrs. Jackson is currently enjoying another great year of using Gizmos with her students!
Expert Corner: Lesson Planning for Whole Class Instruction
Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.
We all know that deliberate and careful lesson preparation can separate an okay lesson from one that is vibrant and effective. But teachers don’t have hours to review materials and make decisions about instructional strategies. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day!
To help busy teachers get the most out of their lessons, ExploreLearning Gizmos provide a suite of materials to help streamline the preparation process. To provide an example of how I would plan a lesson, I selected the Gizmo, Measuring Motion, and created a video as I prepared my lessons. In this 10-minute video, you can watch as I “think out loud” during the planning.
My entire preparation took about 20 minutes and I finished with a 3-day series of lessons, combining the Gizmo, textbook exercises, and assessment activities. My thought process is outlined below, but you should watch the video and review the finished whole-class instruction script for more details.
When using whole-class instruction with Gizmos, you want to make sure that you use standard classroom best practices for whole-class instruction. Be sure to “chunk” your material in short segments. This will give your students lots of opportunities to be active participants. They can do so either by volunteering, or by using participation techniques like Think-Pair-Share, QuickWrites, and individual response systems (electronic or whiteboard). Design your questions ahead of time within a whole-class instruction script. You will want to include questions across all six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, scaffolding as you progress through the lesson. Be sure to identify formative instruction strategies that you will use to see how students are doing as they work to master the standard(s).
The important steps to follow as you plan your Gizmo lesson:
1. Identify the standards you are teaching and select an appropriate Gizmo.
2. Preview the Gizmo while referencing the Student Exploration Sheet Answer Key.
3. Decide how you will use the Gizmo to address the standard(s). Does the Gizmo make a good introduction to engage the student and allow them to construct meaning for themselves? Or would you rather use the Gizmo to explain the concept and provide students with practice?
4. Utilize the Student Exploration Sheet, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet to plan the whole-class instruction script. Remember, each of these is easily customizable to meet the individual needs of all your students.
Please share your comments or questions about lesson planning for whole-class instruction.
November 01, 2013
Gizmos Help Close the Achievement Gap
The VISTA professional development model, which includes using Gizmos to support inquiry, was found to have a statistically significant positive impact on the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.
VISTA (Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement) is a statewide partnership among 70+ Virginia school districts, six Virginia universities, and the Virginia Department of Education. Its goal is to help shift K-12 science instruction toward hands-on science, student-centered inquiry, the nature of science, and problem-based learning.
Based on their findings, researchers stated that “It appears that the VISTA treatment has the effect of reducing the gap in 5th grade science SOL test scaled scores between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups.” Further, teachers’ science content knowledge and confidence in teaching science increases by doing hands-on science, inquiry-based teaching, and problem-based learning.
Read more about the research behind Gizmos.
October 31, 2013
Tracey McLaughlin: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Tracey McLaughlin has been teaching for 26 years. She teaches grades 7-11 including Science, English, and Drama. She teaches at St. Michael High School in the Western Quebec School Board. St. Michael’s High School is located in the rural village of Low, Quebec, which has a population of approximately 850 people.
With only 85 students at her school, one of Mrs. McLaughlin’s biggest challenges is keeping students engaged. Because of the rich visual support and hands-on learning Gizmos provide, they have been invaluable in supporting student learning. She was first introduced to Gizmos five years ago. Since then, she has been able to integrate Gizmos in all of her science classes. She really likes to use Gizmos with her interactive whiteboard during whole-class instruction because it improves student understanding. “Students’ grades have improved because they can ‘see’ the concept and better understand the material. I love using Gizmos!”
For example, after using Gizmos, Mrs. McLaughlin’s 7th grade students had a much better understanding of density. She first used the Density Experiment: Slice and Dice Gizmo to create a conceptual understanding. In this experiment, students drop a chunk of material in a beaker of water and observe whether it sinks or floats. They can cut the chunk into smaller pieces of any size, and observe what happens as they are dropped in the beaker. The mass and volume of each chunk can be measured to gain a clear understanding of density and buoyancy.
Then students extended their knowledge with the Density Gizmo. This Gizmo allows students to measure the mass and volume of a variety of objects, and then place them into a beaker of liquid to see if they float or sink. Students learn to predict whether objects will float or sink in water based on their mass and volume. They can even compare how objects float or sink in a variety of liquids, including gasoline, oil, seawater, and corn syrup.
Thank you for your dedication Mrs. McLaughlin!
October 30, 2013
Celebrate Fall with New Lesson MaterialsElapsed Time Gizmo, along with its newly updated Lesson Materials, to give students an application of “borrowing” when subtracting, in a real context. (Perhaps you and your students want to calculate elapsed times after a class apple-bobbing contest?)
If Geometry is more your speed, try the Chords and Arcs Gizmo. The updated materials guide students as they explore how a central angle in a circle is related to the arc and its intercepts (and if the visual reminds you a bit of a piece of pumpkin pie, well, so be it). Students can also explore the relationship between chords and their distance from the circle's center.
Wishing you all a happy and safe fall season!
October 29, 2013
Gizmos bridge the gap between science and technology
“In the 21st century, technology is becoming more of a priority in the lives of our youth. Gizmos are a great tool to implement technology with our students. Gizmos have impacted the success of my students by allowing them to see the concepts come together in a visual manner. After the students are able to ‘see’ the concepts, it makes answering the higher-order questions on the Exploration Guide easier to do. I love the design of the Exploration Guide. It chunks and scaffolds the information for the students, making it easier for all levels of students to enjoy and comprehend scientific concepts. Gizmos are allowing teachers to bridge the gap between technology and science for our students!
--High School Science Department Chair, Miami-Dade Public Schools, Florida
October 24, 2013
“Gizmos are great for science…”
“Gizmos are great for science because they provide models for student use that could never be simulated in the classroom science lab.”
-- High School Science Teacher, Mobile County School District, Alabama
October 21, 2013
Expert Corner: Changes to Roller Coaster Physics
Kurt Rosenkrantz is a science curriculum writer and Gizmo designer for ExploreLearning. Kurt holds a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Cincinnati, and a bachelor's degree in Earth Science from Harvard. He taught high school and middle school science for eight years before joining ExploreLearning in 2005.
A while ago, a teacher named Joshua Buchman suggested a way to improve our popular Roller Coaster Physics Gizmo. In the Gizmo, a toy car rolls down a track, over several hills, and into an egg. The egg will either crack or not.In the original Gizmo, the egg would crack if the momentum of the car was over a certain threshold value. Mr. Buchman pointed out that it was more likely that the kinetic energy of the car, rather than its momentum, would be the critical factor. He argued that the car would need to travel a certain distance into the egg, overcoming the resisting force of the eggshell, for the egg to crack. In other words, the car would have to do a certain amount of work to crack the egg, and the work it could do depended on its kinetic energy.
This argument made sense to us, but we wanted to check that it was true in practice before changing the Gizmo, which was designed with the help of real-world experiments that took place in the EL offices a decade ago. To investigate, I bought toy cars, a track, and several dozen eggs. I set up the track at a steep angle and went to work.
Right away I realized that I needed to establish a consistent definition of “egg breaking.” It turns out that a very tiny impact can cause a small fracture in the egg, and that the fracture grows bigger and bigger as the force of the impact increases. Eventually I decided that the most consistent criteria I could use was “eggshell breaks completely into two halves.” So, any fracture that did not go all the way around the egg was considered a negative result.
After several very messy sets of experiments using cars of different masses, I plugged the data into a spreadsheet. Sure enough, the minimum kinetic energy required to break the egg was much more consistent than the minimum momentum required to break the egg. With experimental results supporting the scientific argument, we decided to make the change. In the updated Gizmo, the car now needs to have a minimum kinetic energy of 0.25 J to break the egg. We have adjusted all of our lesson materials and assessment questions to reflect this new result.
We hope you enjoy the new-and-improved Roller Coaster Physics Gizmo, and thanks again to Mr. Buchman for bringing this to our attention!