It was brilliant, I thought. My undergraduate students are brilliant. In a fifth-grade lesson on levers, my students handed out a worksheet—in Spanish. The fifth graders struggled to make sense of the sheet, and as they did they reviewed the content and the relationships between the fulcrum, load, and effort. In addition, the three Spanish-speaking fifth graders became the experts—even though they often lacked access to the lessons because of the language barrier.
All of the students, the fifth graders as well as my undergraduates, were motivated and energetic. All of the elementary kids learned the content as the Spanish-speaking kids were placed in the flattering and all too unfamiliar position as experts. But it shouldn’t be so unfamiliar. We know that. None of us become teachers expecting “most” of our students will learn. We all start with the greatest intentions that all students will learn. Yet national and state statistics tell us we are not reaching everyone.
While we know that teaching matters, we are sometimes at a loss about what to do about specific kids who don’t get it. I struggled to keep tabs on everyone in a class. Sometimes I knew that certain kids weren’t understanding, but I lacked the time or knowledge to do something proactive. In my recent observations of classrooms and discussions with classroom teachers, I take little solace in the realization that it wasn’t just me. Many of us struggle to include everyone. It is our hope that the articles in this issue can provide practical ideas to help all students succeed.
- “Strategies for ELL Success” (page 22) makes the important point that while there is some truth to the phrase “Good teaching is good teaching,” there are some particular needs of English Language Learners that demand special attention. The author carefully incorporates the needs of English Language Learners into the important learning cycle structure.
- Too many times I have been in classrooms in which students with IEPs have marginal involvement in the lesson. Yet science should be the easiest subject with which to reach all students. It is active and interesting with less emphasis on what students often struggle with—reading and writing. In “One Mode Is Not for All” (page 26), students with various learning difficulties demonstrate their understanding in alternative ways while the lessons remain rigorous.
- Have you ever seen such a simple but brilliant idea that you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The authors of “Taking Inventory” (page 30) have developed a simple and effective strategy to introduce students to both vocabulary and concepts while getting materials prepped for teaching. It is a great win-win.
- Students who are English Language Learners often struggle with vocabulary. When science lessons emphasize motivating challenges, all students can succeed. In “Design Challenges are ELL-ementary” (page 34) the authors explain how to scaffold important vocabulary with meaningful learning experiences.
Science is for all. We know the enjoyment and meaning that all students can take from thoughtful instruction. Science can help students of all languages, abilities, and interests understand the world. We hope this issue helps extend your reach.