Teaching science is often lower on the list of priorities for some teachers. I get it. In elementary classrooms everywhere, there is a HUGE emphasis on math and reading. But if you want your students to be successful, you have to make sure you aren’t making these ten mistakes in your science classroom. You have to know about these ten things to avoid so that when you do teach science, it will make things go a lot smoother for everyone.
10 Mistakes Teachers Make when Teaching Science
I’m working my way down the list, backward, from number 10 to the number 1 thing you do not want to be doing in your science classroom. Consider it like a top 10 list you may see on Jimmy Fallon or something.
Number 10 – Not getting students excited about science.
The best way to get students excited about science is to you see YOU excited about it. The more passion you have, the more they will too! However, you can also get them excited about science by having science posters on the walls, occasionally having demonstrations to illustrate science concepts or anything that brings a little excitement into the room!
Number 9 – Not providing the relevance of the science.
I can’t tell you how often I overhear students (and my own children) utter the phrase (or a similar one), “what am I even learning this for?” or “why do I need to know this?” Often if students don’t understand why they need to know it, they won’t take an interest in learning it. Help students see why it’s important (other than for a test!) and they’ll likely take an interest. Try to tie it to something that relates to their lives!
Number 8 – Not choosing your resources wisely.
I am by NO means criticizing anyone here, but be careful of the resources you pick up online. Evaluate them carefully to make sure that they are TRULY ALIGNED with your standards and are not just “fluff.” I have seen many resources that “claim” they are aligned with NGSS or other standards that are not. This includes STEM. It’s disappointing, but it’s the clear-cut truth. There are some that are VERY good also. These are the ones you want to regularly return to. These are your children that you are teaching science to. You want them to be successful and it starts with you.
Number 7 – Using the SAME materials for EVERYONE.
Differentiation is hard, but it has to be done. When planning, first start with planning what the majority of your class can do (middle of the road). Then, determine how you can differentiate it for lower learners and how you can bump it up for advanced learners. It’s not about providing more work or less work. It’s about providing the same material on a different level. Sometimes it’s about providing more scaffolding or less. You can do it!
Number 6 – Not providing enough rigor.
I’m always amazed at the comments that I get on TpT about my resources “being too hard.” While I would never want anyone to feel that it wasn’t a perfect fit for their classroom, I do want teachers to feel that first, they can adjust it for their class, and second, that they SHOULD challenge their students.
Storytime: My oldest child went through her entire childhood and teen years earning straight A’s. She was NEVER challenged. Not once. It disappointed me greatly. (Yes, I should have challenged her at home myself looking back.) Every year she breezed through school. In fact, I recall her Junior year she earned an A- (and here’s the kicker part!) when all she did was take the tests! She absolutely refused to do the homework because she felt the teacher was just creating “busy” work for the class and that it didn’t prove that she understood the material. (That was a rough year for me!). Anyway, guess what happened her first year of college? I hate to say it… She failed. She failed miserably. She flunked the entire first semester, ended up with extreme anxiety, and would constantly ask me what was wrong with her. She suddenly didn’t understand why she was so “dumb.” (Her words, not mine. And it still breaks my heart.) It was hard to explain to her that she went through her education before college not being challenged enough.
R-I-G-O-R. Provide rigor. Help your students see that NOTHING isn’t solvable.
Number 5 – Giving too much information.
Often when we teach science, we have students read a textbook (or some form of information) or we tell them the knowledge. We provide a resource and spew it at them. That is not how it should be. Instead, we should be providing ways for students to discover information. This is called inquiry.
Have you ever sat back and watched a toddler? I mean, really watched them? How do they learn? They learn through curiosity. They explore. They try things many times. They make mistakes – and learn from them. This is a perfect example of inquiry and it’s how everyone learns best.
Number 4 – Not letting children make mistakes.
This really aligns well with number five. It’s important that children make mistakes and that we aren’t spoon feeding them or just guiding them too much. We need to be there, sure, but we also need to help them figure out what to do next when they make a mistake. There is this “stigma” around the idea that if we make a mistake that somehow we are a failure. The reality is, when we make mistakes, that’s how we move into our “genius” zone.
Number 3 – Failing to be prepared.
From my experience, there are a lot of teachers who don’t feel comfortable teaching science. Many teachers have a background in the language arts. That means you need to make sure you are really prepared when it comes to teaching science. You may need to spend a little time reviewing the chapter/material before you teach it. You may also need to take professional development in science. When doing demonstrations look online for videos of it, and have all the necessary materials for experiments. When purchasing resources, look for materials that provide a teacher background to assist you (btw, I include those in my newer ones and am updating my older ones! Shameless plug?) You can also read my post on how to feel confident when teaching science to help!
Number 2 – Fail to provide enough investigations or experiments.
I know that investigations and experiments take time. You have to set them up, then go through them, and then take them down. But every minute is worth it. Keep your classroom management good, and it’ll definitely be a win-win in the learning department. Investigations and experiments help the concepts come alive, create the passion in science, and really drives the ideas home.
AND the Number 1 mistake teachers make when teaching science is…
They fail to provide enough variety.
Often times teachers have students read a textbook, or supplement sheet and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. I know, there’s some variety mixed in there by having them occasionally look up vocabulary terms or complete some fill-in-the-blank type worksheets. BUT that is definitely not what I mean by variety.
Students need science to be engaging just like any other subject.
Consider using trade books, discrepant events, picture books, simulations, online simulations, role-play, reader’s theatre, science drawings, and other engaging science ideas.