My Review of

Posted June 24th, 2012 in Review by Jessica

On February 13th I placed the following order with ForTeachersOnly:

1 Smile Face Timer for $4.95

1 Box of 144 Pencil Wedge Cap Erasers for $3.99

1 Box of Misc Blank Hex Golf Size Pencils with Erasers for $4.95

20 Future Leaders of America – Class Roster Rulers (Customized with names of students in my class!) for   $13.80

The order arrived promptly on February 18th.  Five days from placing my order to having it arrive on my doorstep was impressive.  It was even better they shipped so quick because I wanted to have the rulers for my students as a surprise for President’s day (which falls on Monday, February 2oth this year of 2012).  Everything I ordered, including shipping, was $29.53.  I did manage to snag a 15% off coupon with my order.  This is my second order with ForTeachersOnly and I have been pleased so far with their service and product.

Usings NAEP and TIMMS to Improve Science Teaching

Posted February 27th, 2012 in Science Instruction by Jessica

Testing in Science

Fu and Shavelson share that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is leading by example for what science assessment should entail.  Because previous NAEP assessments have relied on “conceptually disconnected multiple-choice and short-answer items … not ideal for assessing such practices as relating multiple concepts, explaining scientific phenomena, conducting a physical investigation, and manipulating variables in a dynamic simulation”, the 2009 framework began using new item types.

Photo by dullhunk.

New item types recommended or implemented include concept maps, item clusters (analysis the responses to several multiple choice questions in conjunction with one another to gain fuller understanding of student understanding), “Predict-Observe-Explain” items, hands on performance tasks (HOTs), and interactive computer tasks (ICTs).  ICTs integrate the other item types to computerized testing, solving logistical issues such as grading concept maps and supplies needed for HOTs but is “the least psychometrically studied of the item types” (2009).

Self Concepts in Science

Numerous findings from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data have found that students that have a positive self-concept about their science ability score higher on science tests (House, 2008; Mettas, Karmiotis, & Christoforou, 2006; Shen & Tam, 2008).  To me, it is unclear if students have a more positive self-concept as a result of their higher proficiency or if simply believing they are more proficient in science leads to higher proficiency.  I think it is likely my first assumption.  Whichever the case, it is clear that students’ self-concepts about their ability affect their achievement.

Teaching Strategies in Science

Using TIMSS data, it has been found that cooperative learning activities and active learning strategies positively affect science achievement (House, 2008).  Accordingly, these strategies should be implemented in science classrooms.

Number of Concepts Taught

Baybee (2007) shares that TIMSS data has brought to light that U.S teacher report significantly more science topics addressed and taught during a school year than teachers in Japan and Germany (about 60-70 topics versus 6-8 topics respectively).  This is approximately 10 times more concepts being attempted to be taught!  I think this may be evidence that more depth and less breadth needs to be a focus of science instruction in the United States.

Takeaways for Science Teachers

The following points can be taken away from the NAEP and TIMSS:

  • Add to your variety of assessment methods.  Have you used “Predict-Observe-Explain” or concept maps with your students?
  • Improve student confidence in science by providing specific positive feedback.
  • Implement cooperative learning activities.
  • Focus on depth of understanding.  Analyze the standards carefully and cut any content that does not align.  You may be surprised at the time you are able to free up!


Fu, A., Raizen, S., & Shavelson, R. (2009). The Nation’s Report Card: A Vision of Large-Scale Science Assessment. Science, 326(5960), 1637-1638. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

House, J. (2008). Effects of Classroom Instructional Strategies and Self-beliefs on Science Achievement of Elementary-school Students in Japan: Results from the TIMSS 2003 Assessment. Education, 129(2), 259-266. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Mettas, A., Karmiotis, I., & Christoforou, P. (2006). Relationship Between Students’ Self-Beliefs and Attitudes on Science Achievements in Cyprus: Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 2(1), 41-52. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Shen, C., & Tam, H. (2008). The paradoxical relationship between student achievement and self-perception: a cross-national analysis based on three waves of TIMSS data. Educational Research & Evaluation, 14(1), 87-100. doi:10.1080/13803610801896653.

Greater than and less than symbol trick

Posted November 29th, 2010 in Math by Jessica

In mathematics, learners often confuse the meaning of the greater than symbol (>) and less than (<) symbol.  Last week in my math class, one fifth grade student was no exception.  At our school, students use the memory trick to think of the sign as an alligators mouth.  The way to draw the symbol is easier because the alligator wants to eat the bigger number.  Another trick we use it to think of the point as the smaller end (which points to the smaller number) and to think of the other side as the larger end (which is on the same side as the larger number).  This particular student knew both of these tricks, but was still struggling.  That is when we came up with what is now called the “bird trick” (Thanks Kara!).

Photo by tibchris.

Continue Reading »

Rebalancing Time Spent on Reading, Math, and Science

Posted November 8th, 2010 in Science Instruction, Teaching Rant by Jessica

Being a fifth grade teacher that loves science and teaching science, I apprehensively welcomed the fifth grade science End of Grade (EOG) exam. It is my bargaining tool for including more time for science instruction each week. In three years, I have moved from teaching science for 40 minutes every three days to teaching science for 45 minutes every two days. This is an increase of 40 hours of science instruction per year to 67.5 hours of science instruction per year. For comparison purposes, I teach 270 hours of math and 270 hours of reading instruction per year.

Photo by Giovanni Spina

Continue Reading »

Credibility of International Science Exams like TIMSS and PISA

Posted September 19th, 2010 in Science Instruction by Jessica

In the past I have discredited international exams with the same reasons (or perhaps what Baybee would call excuses):
-”other countries only test their brightest”

-”other countries do not include special students”

-”other countries do not have second language learners”

-”other countries teach to the test” are ill informed and wrong” (2007).

Here is why I was wrong…

Photo by peruisay.

Continue Reading »

Why Teachers Technically Do Not Have Summers Off

Posted September 17th, 2010 in Teaching Rant by Jessica

After working from 6:30 am to 5:30 (an 11 hour workday) and then working an additional 2 hours at home (making for a 13 hour workday), I decided to do the math.  This equates to a 65 hour work week.  I know I am not alone.  Most teachers work more than a 40 hour work week.

Photo by paul (dex)

Continue Reading »

Epic Tech Fail in the Classroom

Posted August 7th, 2010 in Technology by Jessica

Mp3 Player for the ClassroomA blog I always enjoy reading, The Tempered Radical by Bill Ferriter, created a new day to celebrate – Epic Tech Fail Day.  In honor of this day, Bill asked for submissions of tech fails in the classroom.  We’ve all had these experiences.  Internet crashes, computers freezing, and other uncooperative technology that decides to stand still when you are in front of 30 eager students (even though it worked flawlessly when you tested it out just 15 minutes prior).  If an administrator is there to observe, the likelihood of an epic tech fail increases ten fold.  Here are a few of my epic tech fails, as well as some tips to overcome or prevent technology failures in the classroom.  Be sure to visit The Tempered Radical to share some of your own experiences!

Photo by dawnzy58

Continue Reading »

My Fifth Grade Personal Essay Social Issues Writing Unit

Posted July 29th, 2010 in Writing by Jessica

Students WritingThe History of This Unit

This unit is the culminating project for a course I am taking at East Carolina University labeled “EDUC 6001 – Introduction to Differences in Human Learning in Schools” taught by Professor Shea.

Photo by lori05871

Continue Reading »

Using Flashcards in Science Instruction

Posted May 5th, 2010 in Science Instruction by Jessica

Patricia H., “Flashcards [Day 31/365]” . November 1,2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.I have recently integrated the use of flashcards into my science instruction and I am energized by their effectiveness and simplicity.  In the past I would have balked at using flashcards due to their implicit “drill and kill” stereotype; however, I am finding that they can be a dynamic part of instruction if used thoughtfully.  In reflecting on how I will implement flashcard use next year, I have come to the following conclusions based on my experience thus far:

Photo by Patricia H.

Continue Reading »