Dr. Milton Huling, Curriculum Specialist for Elementary Science at Polk County Schools. As a classroom teacher, Milt has taught physics and earth science at the high school level. He has also taught physics and middle school comprehensive science in a virtual school setting. Milt has been a Curriculum Specialist for Secondary Science and is currently the Curriculum Specialist for Elementary Science in a district serving over 100,000 students. Milt has presented at regional and national conferences.
With our District’s switch to elementary science FlexBooks from CK-12, questions are being asked by teachers about how they can use the FlexBooks in their classroom if students are not provided a hard copy version. We have purposefully chosen not to print the FlexBooks as we do not want science classrooms to turn into reading classrooms, which can often be the case (Britner, 2008). Instead, we have chosen to utilize the FlexBooks as a resource and place the focus on inquiry.
Even with the emphasis now placed on inquiry, there is still a great need for text within the science classroom, so how can we balance the use of text without foregoing our vision of inquiry. Our solution is to not print the FlexBook and utilize it in what we feel is its best form, electronic, if possible. By doing so, it gives the student and teacher access to all the features of the FlexBook where it can be utilized most effectively. Unfortunately, the online option can be difficult given the limitations of the technology within the classrooms.
Currently, I have proposed several ways to use the FlexBooks:
- If necessary, print only the small sections used.
- Project the section of text to be discussed at key times during the lesson.
- Utilize the small amount of computers available in the classrooms during center time.
During a recent training, one of our most visionary teachers presented an incredible new way to use the FlexBooks that I had not considered. Using her classroom’s Smartboard (Interactive Whiteboard), during center time she has students do a close read on the text. In groups of 4-5, she has students read and then underline or highlight key vocab in the text. She then has students predict word meaning using context clues. She has them answer the questions at the end of each section, or adds additional questions as needed, and has students write their answers in their interactive science notebooks. On the computer connected to the Smartboard, she has made folders where students save their work from the day.
As most elementary teachers understand the concept of centers where students are given differentiated work aligned to their learning needs, this could be an excellent option for any classroom. Once again, I am reminded that I do not need to know all the answers. As an instructional leader, all I may need to do is to pose the challenge to the 10,000 teachers we have employed in our district.
Saving trees, promoting great inquiry and still bringing in the great resource of CK-12 FlexBooks!
Britner, S. L. (2008). Motivation in high school science students: A comparison of gender differences in life, physical, and earth science classes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45, 955-970.