Planning Lessons that Align with Local, State, and National Standards (NSTA Standard 6-Curriculum)

When planning my lessons, I make sure to closely align my instruction with local, state, and national standards. For my future biology classroom, I created an annual plan detailing the scheduling of instructional units. As part of this annual plan, I created charts to detail the connections between unit content and the Virginia Standards of Learning. By creating these charts, I am ensuring that my curriculum and instruction are harmonious with state curricular standards. With regard to National Standards, I am well versed in the National Science Education Standards, and regularly incorporate these standards into my overall lesson plans. For example, a recent lesson I taught regarding the properties of water aligned with the following national standards:

Teaching Standard B: Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers
  • Focus and support inquiries while interacting with students
  • Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas
  • Encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Content Standard C4: The Interdependence of Organisms ("The atoms and molecules on the earth cycle among the living and nonliving components of the biosphere.")

When planning lessons, I incorporate a number of different lesson plan formats. Overall, I feel it is important to select your lesson plan format based on your instructional goals. In the past, I have used lesson plans that focus on inquiry, content reading strategies, and connections to the whole unit.

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An Explanatory Worksheet to Accompany the Pasta Activity

Drawing Upon Content Knowledge to Select Appropriate Instructional Strategies (NSTA Standard 3-Inquiry)

In science instruction, I feel it's incredibly important to incorporate hands-on activities and laboratory exercises into lesson plans. From the I received from students, it seems that most of my students prefer hands-on work and would rather do an activity than listen to a Powerpoint presentation. In order to incorporate these activities and make certain that the activities align with specific content, it's incredibly important to choose demonstrations and activities that maintain the connectivity of the lesson. For example, in a recent lesson I co-taught with a fellow student teacher, we began the day with an egg osmosis activity. The students had not yet been introduced to osmosis-related vocabulary, but through the use of guiding questions, we were able to connect the students' observations from the egg activity to specific diffusion/osmosis content and vocabulary.

Typically, the activities that I design and implement focus on facilitating some degree of student exploration and inquiry. In response to student feedback during my evolution unit, I designed a classification unit that allowed them to come to an understanding of the material without a good deal of direct instruction. I was particularly proud of an activity regarding the classification of pasta shapesthrough the use of dichotomous keys. This activity helped students learn to use and construct dichotomous keys and assess the usefulness of this classification method.

Additionally, in my student teaching placement, I have given students opportunities to teach each other. During a lesson regarding terrestrial biomes and biogeochemical cycles, I first asked students to fill out a worksheet comparing the biomes and cycles. Then, I assigned each pair of students to a biome or cycle. At the end of the class period, the students presented on their topics, and I found that they seemed far more engaged and took ownership of the material. While I recognize that this type of learning may not work well with more complex content, it served the content and purposes of the lesson quite effectively.

Integrating Tech
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pH Gizmo Layout
nology into My Lessons:

In today's tech-driven world, it is becoming more and more necessary to introduce students to the types of technological tools they will encounter in higher education and their future careers. That said, I do not feel that technology should be included in instruction merely for the sake of adding technology. Rather, any technological tools used in the classroom should help to support instruction. In my properties of water lesson, I made use of several online animations to help illustrate concepts such as hydrogen bonding that students may not have been able to understand with pictures and diagrams alone. Also, this lesson incorporated a Gizmo, which is an online manipulative designed by ExploreLearning.com. The Gizmo involved electronic pH testing of common household substances, and it seemed to capture the students attention. I have also used Gizmos to reinforce concepts such as DNA transcription and DNA fingerprinting. Over the course of my student teaching experience, I have received very positive feedback from my students regarding the Gizmos.

In my biology classes, I have also used a Webquest in order to guide student research regarding the six kingdoms of life. Without the structure and links provided by the Webquest, students may have had difficulty selecting reputable sites with relevant material. Additionally, in my zoology class, I created a Wikipage where students posted information regarding chosen nematode parasites and amphibians on their own personal pages. This format helped to support my instruction because it allowed students to simultaneously focus on a particular species and learn about a variety of different species by visiting each others' pages.