Nov 30

WA STEM Summit 2016 #waSTEMsummit

Had a great day at the 2016 WA STEM Summit in Redmond, WA, at the Microsoft Conference Center! I put together my Tweets from the day along with a small assortment of the many Tweets that flowed!

We started the day with an amazing breakfast and some great speakers (Tweets from the morning are at the end/bottom of the following Storify. The top Tweets are from the end of the day.) Among the morning speakers was an amazing keynote that got us fired up by Dr. Ainissa Ramirez and a question and answer session by one of our own WA state legislators, Senator Christine Rolfes.

We then had some breakout sessions to choose from. The choices were Computer Science, Career Connected Learning, Early Math, Science & Engineering, STEM Post-Secondary Education & Training, and Women & Girls in STEM. I chose Science & Engineering first then Career Connected Learning after an amazing lunch. I was not disappointed.

Before the second breakout session we were presented with a treat, a chance to hear from our new State Superintendent-Elect Chris Reykdal and the 2017 WA State Teacher of the Year, Camille Jones! It was great! Something our new Superintendent of Public Instruction said stuck with me and I’m hopeful it will start to undo an obsessive compulsion with standardized testing as the main way to assess student growth:

Finally, the day ended with remarks by our Governor, Jay Inslee, and an inspirational talk by former SeaHawk Ricardo Lockette! What a great close to an awesome day! Thank you WA STEM! This was my second year attending and I’m glad the WEA sent me!

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Nov 28

Inquiry Boards Bottle Flipping Lab Write-Up

This post was originally written on the CORELaborate blog here.

Last week my 6th graders used Inquiry Boards to design and conduct experiments flipping water bottles. I took photos of a few of their lab write-ups and graphs to show the great work they did. Using Inquiry Boards makes the lab write-up process much easier for my 6th graders. I’ve been using Inquiry Boards for years now and they do not disappoint. Click on any of the photos to see a full sized version.


Here’s a procedure following the Procedure Inquiry Board layout.


This is the data collected from the experiment detailed above.


Here is one student’s graph of the data shown above.


Here’s another procedure from a similar experiment.


Another example of data and graphing of the bottle flipping data.


Here’s one student’s notes from the Brainstorm and Choosing Variables Inquiry Boards. The student also has her Problem question and Hypothesis here.


This is the rest of the above student’s Hypothesis.


Here’s another student’s notes as the team planned their bottle flipping experiments using the Inquiry Boards.


Here’s the rest of the above write-up including hypothesis and the beginning of the procedure.


Here’s the data table of the above experiment.


Here’s the graph from the above data table.


Here’s another bottle flipping experiment write-up.


Here’s the rest of the above experiment write-up.


Here’s the data table of the above experiment.


Here’s the graph of the above data.

After students graph their data I have them write their conclusions on Google Docs. I send the assignments to students using Google Classroom so that I can use Goobric to read them, score them and give students feedback.

Here’s one conclusion:
We fiipped a water bottle ten times and changed the amount of water in the bottle along the way. My claim is that when a 500ml bottle is filled up half way it will land more times. My evidence is when the bottle was filled with 125ml of water the bottle landed 1, when it was filled with 250ml it landed 3 times, when the bottle with 375ml it landed 0 and the same for 500ml of water. I think this happened because there was enough water to land the water bottle with out it bouncing around the table. My evidence supports my claim because it shows that the water bottle landed more when it was filled half way.

Here’s another conclusion:
We took a 500ml water bottle and filled it 125ml then had Makai and Connor flip it 10 times each. Then they flipped it with 250ml, 375ml, and 500ml. My claim is that both my group and group 1 were right that with little water the bottle will not flip well but with it at the middle it does good and with a lot the bottle does bad. My evidence is that with 125ml we only got 1 time it landed. With 250ml we got 3 lands. With 375ml we were back to 1 land. And with 500ml we got 0 lands. I think this happened because with little water there is not much water for the bottle to land with. But with a lot of water the bottle can not do a complete flip. My evidence supports my claim because it was accurate with the other teams and the other team that had the same experiment got the same information.

Here’s another conclusion:
In class we flipped different sizes of water bottles in class to see which size is best for flipping/showing off your savage skills. My claim is that the 475 mL bottle is the best for flipping. My evidence is out of the ten times Shawna flipped the 475 mL bottle, it landed five times. The other bottles landed between one and four times. I think this happened because  the bottle has a bigger base and the water we put in it added even more volume to the base, making the bottom of the bottle heavier and more likely to land. My evidence is that the 475ml bottle landed upright 50% of the time and it supports my claim because it shows that it landed more then the others did.

Here’s another conclusion:
We tried different ways to flip the water bottle and we recorded our data. Our first try was we tried to flip it high and we landed it 9 of 20 (45%). Then we tried flipping it low and we landed it 11 out of 20 (55%). After that we tried flipping it sideways and landed it 0 times. Our final try was to try and cap it and we landed it 0 times. My claim is flipping high and low is easier than flipping sideways and trying to cap it. My evidence is we could not land a sideways flip or a cap but we landed the high and low about half of the time. I think this happened because You need to be a little more skilled of a bottle flipper to land it sideways or on the cap. My evidence supports my claim because we landed it 0 times when we tried to flip it sideways and 0 when we tried to cap it.

Overall, students wrote much better reasoning sections this time around! I think the change I made to the CER student guide was actually helpful! Whew!

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Nov 28

Diigo Links (weekly)

More fantastic resources! Check them out:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Nov 27

Hindsight is easy, I Need Foresight!

This post was originally published at the CORELaborate Blog here!

a handyman awkward trying to hammer a nailIsn’t it fun to find out your plan didn’t work AFTER students start turning in work? I see my error NOW and I even have an idea for how to fix it but I won’t know how well the fix works until next time students do a similar assignment. Thank goodness more are coming! Still, making a mistake that ends up in confusing students, or steering them in the wrong direction, is disturbing. If I had been working with widgets the failing-trying something new-then seeing if that new fix works iterations would be just fine, but it’s entirely different when you’re working with living, breathing human beings! And if that wasn’t bad enough, I shared the document, with the confusing part, with readers of this blog and readers of my personal blog! I shared my Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) sheet with sentence starters and CER rubric and after using the CER document with sentence starters, I found one of my sentence starters led all my students astray. Yes, ALL of them! I had to send all their first drafts back for editing. Thank goodness I was using Google Classroom so editing was a matter of re-writing just the one section.

Here’s what students did. We were working on Lesson 3 from the STC/MS Energy, Machines, and Motion (EMM) kit on rechargeable batteries.

Student teams got a rechargeable D-cell battery, a charger, wires, a light bulb with a holder, and a small motor.

Teams started by charging their dead batteries (batteries are difficult to drain and it takes weeks!) and charged them for three minutes then connected them to the light bulbs. They timed how long the light bulbs stayed on.

Then teams charged the battery for another three minutes, connected them to the small motor and timed how long the motor stayed on.

We averaged our data and in all three classes the light bulbs stayed on for about 13 minutes and the motor stayed on for about 6 minutes with the same three minute battery charge! One of the reflection questions in the EMM book asked students which needed more energy, the light bulb or the motor. I thought that would make a perfect CER conclusion. So that was the question I asked of students for their CER. I uploaded the CER with Sentence Starters document to Google Classroom to give each student his or her own copy to type on. Here’s what it looked like:

The Claim and Evidence sentence starters worked fine. Most students were able to write accurate claims based on the question asked and they shared their class averages as part of the evidence. Easy and straightforward.

Last year, and the year before for that matter, I dealt with students struggling to write their Reasoning section. Sixth graders can make a claim and share the evidence that supports that claim but they struggle with writing about how their evidence actually supports or proves that their claim is actually correct. I can’t remember why, but last year at some point I used the sentence starter you see above for the Reasoning section: I think this happened because…

I had read somewhere that having students explain the science behind why their claim happened the way it happened could help them write a reasoning. Well, it helped students. They were able to write about the science and why they thought their claim happened the way it happened, but they never actually explained how their data supported or proved their claim was correct. That sentence starter got kids writing but not the direction they need to be going for a CER.

Here is an example of a typical CER using the sentence starters:
We charged a battery for three minutes and then we connected cables to it and a little light bulb the light bulb lit up for 8:41 then we charged it for three minutes again and did the same thing but we hooked it up to a motor and it only kept going for 3:37. My claim is the motor needs more energy. My evidence is the average time for the motor is 5:80 and the average time for the light bulb is 13:85. I think this happened because the motor is moving and the light bulb is sitting still and maybe that buses up the energy really fast.

In the above CER conclusion, the student starts off wonderfully. When he gets to the reasoning he did just what the Reasoning section asked him to do and he used the sentence starter perfectly. It just wasn’t a Reasoning! Every single student was led astray that way. I loved their explanations of why the motor needed more energy so I kept that. I just added the following:

I’m hoping adding the above to the Reasoning section and adding another sentence starter will help students think about how their data actually does support their claim! So after sending back their first drafts with instructions to add how their data supported their claim, sometimes more than once, I got CER conclusions more like this one:
We charged a D-cell battery for three minutes and then saw how long it would power a lightbulb. Then we did the same thing but with a motor instead of a lightbulb. My claim is that the motor took more energy than the lightbulb. My evidence is that the motor lasted for 6.00 minutes, and the lightbulb lasted for 12.86 minutes. I think this happened because the energy just had to pass though the lightbulb, and for the motor the energy had to make the motor turn really fast. I think that the motor took more energy because the lightblub and the motor had the same amount of energy, but the motor used it up faster. This caused it to run out of energy at just 6.00 minutes while the lightbulb lasted more than twice that.

We’ll see if the new and improved CER Document with Sentence Starters (click to get the document, it’s updated) will actually get better reasoning sections! And here’s a copy of the CER document without sentence starters.

Here’s an energy hungry motor in action!

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Nov 23

Diigo Links (weekly)

More great links to amazing resources!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Nov 22

Bottle Flipping Lab

This post was originally published on the CORELaborate WA blog here.

NGSS says start with a phenomenon to hook kids, get them interested and get them thinking and asking questions. After having to ask kids every day to stop flipping their bottles in class so we wouldn’t have to hear that obnoxious bottle falling sound, I started one class by showing the following video:

The question is, will the bottle land upright? In all three of my 6th grade classes the results were mixed, almost half thought it would land and half thought that it wouldn’t. After a bit of discussion I showed them the full video:

So I then asked what can they do to make it easier to land the bottle upright more often?

I showed students how to use Inquiry Boards to choose what to investigate and to design their labs.

Inquiry Boards by Alfonso Gonzalez on Scribd

Using the first inquiry board, Brainstorm, students came up with ideas such as filling the water bottle with different amounts of water, trying different bottles – such as different sized bottoms, different sized bottle caps, different volumes – and different flipping techniques – such as flipping from different heights, landing on different surfaces, and using different wrist flicking techniques.

Teams chose which variables they were going to investigate then they wrote their problem questions and hypotheses. Then they wrote the procedures they would follow to conduct their experiments. I always let them write the procedure first, so they have a plan, and adjust it later. I read all procedures and if they make sense I approve them to get their materials and collect data. Here’s what it looked like:

The pictures are showing up sideways when I preview this blog. If you click on each image it should open the photo on a new page oriented correctly. I don’t know why this happens, it drives me nuts.

This was a nice shot of a team planning their experiment using the Inquiry Boards.


Here’s one team with all the different water bottle types they were going to try out.


Here’s a student recording his results two ways!


Here are two teams getting ready to flip bottles.

I’ll get some sample lab write-ups to share with their data and conclusions. Having multiple teams flipping bottles was loud and hectic but was all good in the name of SCIENCE! 🙂

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Nov 21

NGSS & The Scientific Method

This post was originally published on the CORELaborate WA blog here.

Is the Scientific Method dead? Does the NGSS have guidelines for students as experimental designers? Before NGSS, WA State’s revised 2009 Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALR) number 2 was the Inquiry standard for questioning and investigating. That provide a framework for how Science teachers were to support students in the doing of Science. Experimenting, especially designing their own experimental questions and labs, is a tool for figuring things out and learning how things work in Science. Kids can do labs by following a procedure but having kids actually design their own lab is the next level up from that. The more kids get to design their own labs, the better.

With NGSS and more emphasis on Engineering (stEm), Science teachers more and more are being called upon to have our students solve problems by doing something, trying different solutions and tweaking until the solution works. Look up Genius Hour and Makerspace and you’ll see it’s everywhere with tons of resources and ideas. The designer mindset, the tinkering mindset, is being emphasized. I see the importance. Not all Science follows a Scientific Method. So even before NGSS I have been reading that we have been too dependent on the Scientific Method. Instead of teaching the Scientific Method as ONE of many ways Science is done, teachers have focused too heavily on just that one way of doing Science experiments. Here’s a typical flow of the Scientific Method:

One resource I’ve used to have students design their own experiments using the scientific method is called Inquiry Boards (see below). Inquiry Boards helped my students completely understand how to choose a manipulated variable, a responding variable and to figure out what variables to control. It has been an amazing resource. Here’s what they look like:

Inquiry Boards by Alfonso Gonzalez on Scribd

The way the Inquiry Boards work can start with a question so that students can begin brainstorming as many variables as they can – the Brainstorm inquiry board. Those variables that students can change go under Manipulated Variables. Variables that can be measured or observed go under Responding Variables. I usually do this as a whole class activity so that students can generate a good list of variables and so that they all know what variables are possible.

Moving to the next board, Choosing Variables, I tell teams to choose ONE manipulated variable that they want to investigate. We also discuss why it is important to only change one variable at a time. I encourage teams to choose different variables but if some variables are more popular then more than one team can test the same manipulated variable. I try to steer the class towards choosing the same responding variable so that they can compare their results to each other’s experiments. Then they put all the unused variables in the Controlled Variables section.

The next inquiry Board, Ask a Question, helps students write a problem question. And the one after that, Prediction, helps students write a hypothesis. Then students write their Procedure. The procedure, with step-by-step instructions is what I need to approve before teams gather materials and begin their labs.

Students use the Table of Results inquiry board to setup their data table. The Graph of Results inquiry board has been one of my favorites and it helps students make great graphs of their data. The Conclusion inquiry board underwent many revisions but recently I have settled on using CER.

In the NGSS this type of inquiry work is detailed in the Cross Cutting Concepts (CCC):

1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes
multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
3. Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
4. Systems and system models. Defining the system under study — specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system — provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.
Having kids design their own labs using inquiry boards or some other form of the scientific method and having kids design solutions to problems through some type of engineering or makerspace are great ways to incorporate the CCC’s into Science lessons. That’s why every single NGSS performance expectation embeds a CCC! Looking at how students use the Inquiry Boards they can actually do all seven CCC’s in one lab! It’s pretty cool. So I don’t think the scientific method is dead. As long as we expose students to other ways to doing Science and solving problems, then we are preparing them for whatever might come their way.

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Nov 20

Diigo Links (weekly)

More amazing resources! Check out these links:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Nov 14

Response to the Biggest Challenge Science Teachers Face

Just out on Larry Ferlazzo’s EdWeek Blog, Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo, is the response to the question about the biggest challenge facing Science Teachers. Last week I shared a link to Larry’s BAM Radio show where I got to share my thoughts on the topic and here’s a link to the follow-up EdWeek blog post where I contributed! Here’s a snippet of my response:


Click here to continue reading my response. 🙂

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Nov 07

Diigo Links (weekly)

Another set of amazing links! Check these out:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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