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Tag Archives | Toni Buzzeo

Teaching K-2 Science with Confidence

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Teach Life Science, K-2
Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley
Stenhouse Books, 2014

Authentic science always begins with a question, with a fleeting thought, with a curious person. That curious person has an idea, wonders if it is valid, and then tries to find out. Because wondering is at the heart of discovery, each Perfect Pairs lesson starts with a Wonder Statement that we’ve carefully crafted to address one Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectation. It is followed by a Learning Goal, which clearly specifies the new knowledge and essential understanding students will gain from the lesson. Together, the Wonder Statement, Learning Goal, and fiction-nonfiction book pair launch students into a fun and meaningful investigative process. (Perfect Pairs, pg. 8)

Perfect PairsMelissa Stewart, you and educator Nancy Chesley created Perfect Pairs for teachers because you felt that children’s literature could be a fun and effective starting point for teaching life science to students in grades K-2.

In your introduction, you state that “many elementary teachers do not have a strong science background. Some even report being intimidated by their school’s science curriculum and feel ill-equipped to teach basic science concepts. Building science lessons around children’s books enables many elementary educators to approach science instruction with greater confidence.”

Why does this matter to you?

Because students can tell when their teachers are comfortable and confident, and when they’re having fun. If a teacher has a positive attitude, his or her students are more likely to stay engaged and embrace the content.

So many adults are turned off by or even afraid of science. They say, “Oh, that’s hard. That’s not for me.” But science is just the study of how our wonderful world works. It affects everything we do every day. I hope that Perfect Pairs will help teachers and students to see that.

What type of science education did you receive that propels you to provide this aid to educators?

I do have a degree in biology, but my science education really began at home with my parents. My dad was an engineer and my mom worked in a medical laboratory. From a very young age, they helped me see that science is part of our lives every day.

As a children’s book author, my goal is to share the beauty and wonder of the natural world with young readers. Perfect Pairs is an extension of that mission. Nancy and I have created a resource to help teachers bring that message to their students.

For each lesson, where did you start making your choices, with the topic, the fiction book, or the nonfiction book?

We began with the NGSS Performance Expectations, which outline the concepts and skills students are expected to master at each grade level.  Each PE has three parts—a disciplinary core idea (the content), a practice (behaviors young scientists should engage in, such as asking questions, developing models, planning and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations, etc.), and a cross-cutting concept (pattern, cause and effect, structure and function, etc.) that bridges all areas of science and engineering. Here’s a sample PE for kindergarten: “Use observations to describe [practice] patterns [crosscutting concept] of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. [DCI]

Just Like My Papa and Bluebirds Do ItNext, we searched for fiction and nonfiction books that could be used to help students gain an understanding of the target PE. The books became the heart of a carefully scaffolded lesson that fully addressed the PE.

In Lesson 1.7,How Young Animals Are Like Their Parents,” you paired Toni Buzzeo’s fiction title Just Like My Papa with Pamela F. Kirby’s nonfiction title, What Bluebirds Do. For this lesson, the Wonder Statement is “I wonder how young animals are like their parents.” Your lesson focuses on Inheritance of Traits and Variation of Traits, looking at similarities and differences.

With each lesson, you provide tips for lesson preparation, engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions. What process is this establishing for teachers?

We hope that our three-step investigative process (engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions) is something that teachers will internalize and adopt as they develop more science lessons in the future. The first step focuses on whetting students’ appetites with a fun activity or game. During the second step, teachers read the books aloud and work with students to extract and organize key content from the fiction and nonfiction texts. Then, during the final step, students synthesize the information from the books and     do a fun minds-on activity that involves the NGSS practice associated with the PE. The practices are important because research shows that children learn better when they actually “do” science.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

In many cases, you’ve not only provided questions that teachers can ask their students, but you’ve included the answers.  Is this the only possible answer to the question?  

In many cases, we’ve included answers to help the teacher learn the science before working with his or her class. Many elementary teachers have a limited science background and need the support we’ve provided.

Our answers may not be the only ones that students suggest, but they are the ones teachers should guide their class to consider because they develop student thinking in the right direction for the concepts we are targeting in that particular lesson.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

I appreciate the photos and examples and kids’ drawings you’ve included throughout the book. How did you go about collecting these visuals?

Nancy tested all the lessons in the book at Pownal Elementary School in Maine. She took the photographs as she was working with the students, and the student work in the book was created by those children. I love the photos because you can tell that the children are really enjoying themselves.

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

You provide more than 70 reproducibles to accompany the lessons in your book, from Wonder Journal Labels to Readers’ Theater Script to sample Data Tables to drawing templates. How did you decide which items to provide to teachers using your book?

Writing can be a challenge for K-2 students. We created the Wonder Journal Labels to minimize the amount of writing the children would have to do. The goal of the other reproducibles was to help teachers as much as possible and reduce their prep time. It was important to us to create lessons that were easy and inexpensive to implement.

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

To Melissa and Nancy, I express my gratitude for thoughtfully preparing this guide, Perfect Pairs, that will make science lessons an approachable part of lesson planning. Thank you!

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Skinny Dip with Toni Buzzeo

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Available May 2015

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

Although only my father is Italian, I grew up with a strong connection to my Italian heritage. And really, when does one’s heritage shine more brightly than the holidays? So, every Christmas Eve finds me with my family in our Maine farmhouse kitchen making homemade ravioli. My husband Ken rolls out the dough that has been resting on the counter under a bowl for several hours while my son Topher and I wrestle the circles of dough he provides us into folded cushions of deliciousness that we drop into a boiling pot of salted water. Later, we light the candles in our formal dining room and sit down with our grandbaby Camden and our daughter-in-law Caitlin to a feast of baked ravioli, homemade rolls, green salad, and glasses of red wine—the perfect Christmas Eve feast.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Oh goodness, I was neither teacher’s pet nor teacher’s challenge. Instead, I was the invisible child. If my best friend, Linda Benko, was absent, I spoke to no one the entire day, including my teacher! I was so desperately shy, and lived in a cocoon from which I didn’t emerge until I was sixteen years old when I suddenly and quite unexpectedly metamorphosed into the gal I am now, verbally exuberant and highly interpersonal.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

While I don’t remember writing my first book report, I am absolutely sure that, as an enormously passionate reader, I wrote it with great enthusiasm and ardor.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Presents! I adore presents—getting them and especially GIVING them. For me, a deeply satisfying part of preparing a gift for giving is the wrapping, the beribboning, the embellishing. Of course, that means that I keep a five-foot- wide drawer full to the top with a tangle of wrapping paper, ribbons, tags, flowers, gauzy bags, and all manner of doo-dads.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

“As you gobble those piles and piles of library books, Toni Marie, think about what it would be like to WRITE books like those. Dream the dream of being an author.” Sadly, I was never encouraged to write, even in high school when surely, I’d begun to show signs of talent, which is why it took me so very long to launch my career writing for children. How much earlier I might have begun had I heard that advice!

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Here’s one of the best things about being a children’s author. I often get to have dinner with my favorite (living) writers. So, given this opportunity, I’d like to go to my childhood favorites and invite 98-year-old Beverly Cleary, author of my beloved Beezus and Ramona and Henry books; Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy books I read over and over; and Carolyn Haywood, author of my other favorite Betsy books. And before that dinner, I would re-read every single one of those childhood favorites.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

For me, there is something completely luxurious about crawling back into bed, of a morning, with a cup of tea and pillows piled all around, and spending an hour or two with a book and not a single electronic device in sight.

 

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Chapter & Verse picks the winners … or not

In CLN’s Chapter & Verse, with six of our bookstores reporting, we had no clear winners for our mock Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards. Steve and I have visited many of these locations, talking with the book club members. Each book club has its own character. The members bring different life experiences, different reading preferences, […]

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