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5 Social and Emotional Strategies for STEM Learning in Twig Science Nevada

The skills we want to help young students develop don’t just include those directly connected to the subjects being taught. Nevada Academic Content Standards for Science give guidance on how students should investigate matter, forces, and living things, of course, but they also emphasize skills like working in teams, collaboration, and engaging in argument from evidence. These skills are important parts of students’ social and emotional learning (SEL), but why is SEL so important and what makes it ideal for bringing into science lessons?

Science lessons—even virtual ones—provide great opportunities to give students investigative problems they must work together to solve. The engineering design process is a perfect opportunity to encourage students to team up, develop and test ideas, appreciate each other’s creativity, and talk about their successes and failures.

As students work in teams, they’re learning to communicate, to respect the ideas of others, and to understand why everybody’s role is important. These are essential aspects not only of classroom collaboration, but also of being part of society. Good teamwork improves students’ social skills. It makes them more self-confident. It even reduces bullying. And it helps children to go on to become successful adults.

That’s why we made teamwork, communication, and collaboration fundamental components of Twig Science Nevada. It’s there in all of our story-driven investigation modules, and we also created special 3-D Team Challenge mini-modules totally focused on teambuilding and how scientists and engineers work in teams. In doing so, we came up with some useful ideas for increasing the SEL value of lessons that we thought we’d share with you—you’ll find all of these in the Twig Science Nevada Team Challenges and investigations, but they can be adapted for any lesson.

Here are our favorite five ideas:

1. Student-agreed Science Expectations – Children hate being told what to do when they don’t understand why they’ve got to do it.

It’s a good idea to get students to discuss the factors that create a productive learning environment. Guide them to come up with their own ideas for how investigations should be carried out in an environment that encourages collaboration and respect. Children hate being told what to do when they don’t understand why they’ve got to do it—but if they are included in creating the rules, they respect and learn from them. Twig Science Nevada mini-modules include sections where students brainstorm “Science Expectations.” They think about what good teamwork involves and how it could work better, and they produce a Science Expectations poster to display in the classroom throughout the year. Examples of Science Expectations could include “We respect each other,” “We let everyone share their ideas,” “We encourage each other,” or “Everyone helps to clean up.”

2. Team-building exercises – Prepare students for just about every situation they’ll ever encounter in their professional and personal lives!

Before getting students to embark on in-depth, full-length engineering investigations, it can be helpful to have them take part in shorter, low-stakes team-building exercises. In the Twig Science Nevada mini-modules, we suggest various icebreaker activities, storytelling games, and classroom discussions. These get students engaging in civil discourse, deliberating, debating, building consensus, compromising, communicating effectively, and giving presentations. These are incredibly valuable skills that not only prepare students for the long-form storyline investigations that make up the main Twig Science Nevada modules—they prepare them for just about every situation they’ll ever encounter in their professional and personal lives!

3. Reflection points – Students review and discuss their work as a form of self-assessment.

Involving students every step of the way in thinking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they could do it better helps to embed the skills that they are developing. We made sure to put frequent reflection points in Twig Science Nevada to give students a chance to discuss how teams are working together and whether everyone is getting their chance to take part. The important thing about reflection is that it’s a form of self-assessment. You’re not grading the students, and there are no correct or incorrect responses. The purpose of the discussion is for students to think about the investigation processes and to share and reflect on different ideas. What have they enjoyed? What was easy and what was challenging? How do their experiences in their teams connect to experiences outside the classroom?

4. Real-world connections –  Get students acting out behaviors that they’ll be able to use again and again throughout their lives.

A big part of Twig Science Nevada’s collaborative investigations is how they connect to the way real-life scientists and engineers work in teams. Giving students this real-world connection adds meaning and purpose to what they’re doing. As they take on the roles of scientists and engineers, they’re acting out behaviors that they’ll be able to use again and again throughout their lives. They’ll understand that scientists, too, have team roles. They listen to each other. They’re respectful when they disagree. They build on each other’s ideas. Students will associate these attitudes with success as they act them out and become used to recognizing them in the world around them.

5. Language routines – Communication is a fundamental component of teamwork.

How students use language is an important indicator of their levels of understanding and respect. Communication is a fundamental component of teamwork, which involves a careful balance of being able to express ideas and opinions and also listen to those of others. It’s directly connected to our social and emotional development because language is our primary method of expressing what we feel about ourselves and each other and describing what we agree and disagree about. Twig Science Nevada includes a number of repeated language routines (e.g. Turn and Talk, Collect and Display) that structure the way students use language in investigations. They’re encouraged to use the words they feel comfortable using—without the need for formal “perfection”—while given the support to connect these to scientific vocabulary when they’re ready. The language routines support English Learners—and other students who lack confidence—to take part fully in discussions. Communicating in an inclusive, encouraging, understanding environment leads to confidence, and confident communication increases students’ ability to work well as team members in the classroom and as successful and respectful citizens.


To find out how you can implement Twig Science Nevada in your school or district, get in touch today.

Ciencia de actualidad—Enero 2021

¡Feliz año nuevo! Estamos emocionados de comenzar un nuevo año y esperamos impacientes por todo lo que está por venir. Como siempre, nuestro objetivo es compartir la educación científica de calidad con tantos estudiantes de todo el mundo como sea posible. Como parte de esto, continuaremos compartiendo contenido científico de actualidad cada mes. ¡Echemos un vistazo a lo que viene en enero!

Viernes, 1 de Enero

Mes nacional de la donación de sangre

El Mes Nacional del Donante de Sangre se celebra desde 1970, con el objetivo de concienciar sobre la importancia de la donación de sangre. La transfusión de sangre puede salvar vidas, pero durante la guerra de Vietnam, los médicos aprendieron que, a veces, el cuerpo necesita tiempo para curarse a sí mismo primero …

Lunes, 4 de Enero

World Braille Day

Este día celebra el braille, un sistema de escritura que permite a las personas con discapacidad visual leer tocando una serie de puntos en relieve. En Twig, creemos en hacer que la ciencia sea accesible, por lo que hemos creado 145 conjuntos de archivos NIMAS, lo que permite crear versiones en braille y en letra grande de nuestros libros y lectores Twig K-6.

Descubre más.

Martes, 5 de Enero

Día Nacional del Ave

Este evento anual celebra la observación y estudio de las aves, al mismo tiempo que apoya los programas de conservación del hábitat de aves silvestres y las organizaciones de rescate de las mismas. En este día, ¿por qué no averiguar más sobre el pájaro cascanueces y el importante papel que tiene en el mantenimiento de la biodiversidad del Parque Nacional de Yellowstone?

Aprende más.

Jueves, 7 de Enero

Día de las Rocas Antiguas

En este día, los geólogos y entusiastas de las rocas celebran el estudio de fósiles, minerales y rocas. ¿Por qué no unirse a su celebración y aprender más sobre los diferentes tipos de rocas?

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Sábado, 9 de Enero

Día de la electricidad estática

El Día de la Electricidad Estática nos anima a aprender más sobre este extraño tipo de electricidad. Probablemente todos lo hemos experimentado, pero ¿qué es exactamente? Lo vamos a averiguar:

Martes, 19 de Enero

Día Nacional de las palomitas

Este día celebra uno de los bocadillos más populares del mundo. Pero, ¿por qué revientan las palomitas de maíz?

Descubre más:

Miércoles, 20 de Enero

Día de la concienciación sobre el pingüino

¿Sabías que hay hasta 20 especies de pingüino? No todos viven en lugares fríos como la Antártida; de hecho, ¡se pueden encontrar en muchos de los continentes del mundo! En este día, ¿por qué no aprender más sobre el pingüino con cresta de Fiordland?

Aprende más.

Sábado, 24 de Enero

Día Internacional de la Educación

Este Día de Observación de las Naciones Unidas celebra la importancia de la educación para la paz y el desarrollo, y reconoce la educación como un derecho humano. Este es un sentimiento que compartimos en Twig Education, razón por la cual nuestro objetivo es brindar educación científica de calidad a estudiantes de todo el mundo.

Sepa más sobre nuestros productos.

Scaffolding and Differentiation in Twig Science Next Gen

Twig Science Next Gen provides EL, SEL, and special needs supports, as well as Below-level and Honors/Above-level supports, via scaffolding sidebars within lessons (print and digital).

These supports provide instruction to teachers on how to scaffold and amend the activities to support students of varying backgrounds and abilities. This could range from sentence or writing frames to additional handouts and differentiated texts, or more challenging or accessible configurations of the task (e.g., reading one/two short articles in pairs could be turned into a synthesis of multiple sources task for Honors students).

English Learners

EL sidebars provide strategies for teachers to support ELs of all proficiency levels, with specific guidance on how to tailor the lesson to accommodate ELs. Strategies include:

  • Cloze Frames
    • Differentiated cloze sentence and paragraph frames.
  • Language Comprehension Strategies 
    • Setting viewing, listening, and reading purposes
    • Displaying word charts, discussion questions, and so on in advance.
    • Vocabulary strategies using text, video, visuals, Spanish–English cognates, and the academic word wall
    • Listening to an audio recording of the text in addition to reading it
  • Language Production Strategies
    • Prompt questions aimed at the teacher to engage students
    • Suggested discussion questions for ELs to use in group work
    • Scaffolds for class presentations and written work
  • Close Reading Strategies
    • Previewing the text in a small group before the activity
    • Picture walks
    • Reading the text with a group, partner, or individually, depending on students’ proficiency level 

Some EL sidebars offer guidance for all EL students, while others offer differentiated guidance for varying language proficiencies, as indicated by bolded subheads. We use three differentiated levels (proficiency levels in parentheses are determined by ELD standards):

Substantial Support (Emerging Proficiency) 

  • For beginners and early intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are learning to use English for immediate needs and who are beginning to understand and use academic vocabulary.

Moderate Support (Expanding Proficiency) 

  • For intermediate learners, this level addresses students who are developing a richer vocabulary and more sophisticated linguistic structures.

Light Support (Bridging Proficiency)

  • For advanced learners, this level addresses students who are applying a range of high-level English language comprehension and production skills.

Monitoring English Language Proficiency

Monitoring English Language Proficiency (MELP) sidebars complement EL sidebars, and provide the teacher with point-of-use instruction to assess ELs’ progress in their English language proficiency. They appear alongside close reading activities, and always refer to an article.

MELP sidebars are divided into four bolded standard subheads and are introduced by standard text (see Misc Text Bank).

Writing Domain

  • This section includes writing tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs write a description of how an illustration relates to the text.

Reading Domain

  • This section includes reading tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., having ELs reread a section and then share what they learned.

Speaking Domain

  • This section prompts the teacher to collect academic vocabulary as students discuss the TB text.

Listening Domain

  • This section includes listening tasks specific to the TB text, e.g., reading aloud a section and then asking ELs comprehension questions.

Standard English Learners

SEL sidebars provide point-of-use strategies for helping students develop their command of oral and written Standard English, a component of ELD standards. Standard English is a term for conventional, grammatically-accepted English, in contrast with home dialects or Community English. In California, SELs include students of African American, Chicano, Pacific Islander, and Native American heritage.

These sidebars do not address the specific home dialects of students, but instead encourage all students to use appropriate academic language in a formal register. 

Strategies include:

  • Contrastive analysis, e.g., asking students to deliver the same presentation to two distinct groups, such as a group of peers and a group of teachers)
  • Recasting, e.g., recasting what students say using Standard English and/or academic vocabulary
  • Support with pronunciation, e.g., chorus repeats
  • Grammatical scaffolding

Special Needs Support

These sidebars offer point-of-use strategies for tailoring activities and learning points to accommodate special needs students of all backgrounds and abilities.

  • Conceptual Processing
    • These sidebars address students who struggle to understand and distinguish between concepts (e.g., how a subclimate differs from a climate, or what a cell is). 
    • Supports include: asking focused questions before replaying a video; providing focused annotation strategies to facilitate reading comprehension; and using diagrams, visual cues, or graphic organizers to help students process abstract information.
  • Executive Functioning
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with executive tasks (e.g., planning, organization, focus, and patience). 
    • Supports include: offering focused annotation or text-chunking strategies; using lists, checklists, or graphic organizers to facilitate focus and comprehension; and displaying discussion questions to facilitate focus and engagement.
  • Expressive and Receptive Language
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with communication (verbal or textual).
    • Supports include: close reading strategies like whisper reading, echo reading, and reading aloud with a partner; displaying key terms, read-alouds, or other text to provide students with visual cues; and pairing students with peers who can assist them with language tasks.
  • Fine Motor Skills
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with fine motor skills (e.g., manipulating tools).
    • Supports include: using computers or other digital tools rather than manual ones; giving students alternate tasks if an activity is too difficult for them; and pairing students with a peer to whom they can dictate investigation steps during hands-on activities.
  • Memory
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with information recall.
    • Supports include: prompting students to review notes in their TBs; recording key information on the board for students to follow; and playing videos more than once, often with a viewing purpose.
  • Physical Disability
    • These sidebars address students with a range of physical disabilities (e.g., hearing impairments, mobility issues). 
    • Supports include: ensuring ample physical space to conduct hands-on activities or gallery walks; tailoring hands-on activities for students with gross motor skills; and consulting the accommodations set forth in the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
  • Social-Emotional Functioning
    • These sidebars address students who need additional social-emotional support in the classroom.
    • Supports include: accommodating students who are overwhelmed by too much noise or too little personal space; providing focused guidance for more open-ended activities; and allowing students to record an oral presentation, rather than reciting it from memory before the class.
  • Strengths-Based Approach
    • These sidebars address all special needs students. They serve to highlight the strengths of special needs students by encouraging them to share these strengths with the class. 
    • Supports include: having artistic students share their sketches to communicate their ideas in a discussion; encouraging students with hearing impairments who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) to share a message through signing; and asking students with sensory impairments to share how they experience natural phenomena (e.g., rain).
  • Visual-Spatial Processing
    • These sidebars address students who struggle with processing visual information.
    • Supports include: pairing students with a peer who can help them with visually complex tasks such as graphing; providing students with a piece of paper to use as a reading guide, in order to screen out competing visual information; and using color-coding, labeling, and other strategies to help students visually organize information.

Below-Level Support

Below-Level Support sidebars are modifications to the task to support students lacking the prior DCIs or SEP/CCCs needed to access the task. They call back to the Grade 3-5 outcomes and expectations.

Below-Level support sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Writing and other concept frames, additional prompts that improve access to the lesson content (e.g. worksheet that structures ‘cause & effect’ thinking)
  • Restructuring of tasks to simplify the requirements
  • Intervention films from Twig Science Tools and Twig Science Glossary

Honors/Above-level

Honors sidebars are additional instructional opportunities to challenge honors students. 

Honors sidebars can vary dramatically in scope, and may include:

  • Additional variables in a hands-on investigation, and/or running additional tests
  • Additional drawing or writing prompts that build on the lesson content
  • Restructuring of tasks to provide additional challenge (e.g. through additional texts and synthesis)
  • Providing another ‘harder’ question they can do (Challenge question)
  • Stretch films from Twig Secondary

Honors Extensions

Extension activities are used to provide opportunities for extended tasks aimed at honors and GATE students. These contain standard activity instructions. For example, they may be an additional data analysis piece which extends the results of a completed investigation, or DOK4-style investigation which builds on the work of a series of lessons. They may occur every 5-10 lessons.