Tools to Grow Students’ Science Understanding

The Science Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students
By Tara C. Dale and Mandi S. White
(Wiley/Jossey-Bass, 2020 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Tracy Albers

Regardless of the branch of science you teach or the amount of time you’ve been teaching, The Science Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students literally provides hundreds of strategies and resources for grades 4-12.

It would be particularly useful to intermediate level teachers who are uncomfortable teaching science, or content area teachers who are who are in their early years of teaching or looking for fresh ideas.

The very detailed and organized Table of Contents, available here, allows teachers the option of honing in on specific chapters of their choice. It is clear that the authors believe that active learning trumps passive learning, and in order for students to effectively learn, they need to be actively engaged in the classroom.

Tara Dale (@TaraCDale) and Mandi White (@mandiwhite84) have written this book with an “intentional scholar” in mind. Intentional scholars are able to think critically, creatively problem solve, and effectively communicate.

What you’ll find

There are three parts to this book. Part One presents lab formats such as the scientific method, PBL, and the engineering process. Part Two highlights strategies that incorporate reading, writing, speaking, listening, math and art into science lessons. Part Three includes miscellaneous strategies such as assessment, reviewing content, and activating students’ prior knowledge.

Each chapter is broken down as follows:

  • what the strategy is,
  • why the authors like the strategy,
  • research in support of the strategy,
  • which aspects of intentional scholars are touched upon,
  • applications of the strategy and how to execute it,
  • problems that could arise and how to navigate them,
  • technology connections for the strategy,
  • handouts and student examples.

All handouts are available in a digital format online. The NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts are also included in each strategy when applicable.

The Science Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students – like other books in the Teacher’s Toolbox series edited by Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski – is written in clear, accessible language and presented in a very practical format with easy-to-follow directions.

I consider it a very valuable aid for upper elementary, middle and high school science classrooms. Have your page marker tabs ready when you read through this treasure trove of valuable strategies!

Tracy Albers just completed her 18th year in education, teaching at the middle school level. She currently teaches sixth and eighth grade science in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Tracy serves on various committees within her school, as well as a team leader. It’s her belief that students need to experience practical, hands-on learning that helps them make sense of the world around them.