Face-to-face tools are used with students during teaching (that’s where the name comes from) to represent their current ideas. These representations are often put on the walls of the classroom so that students’ current thinking can be made public and revised over time. These tools don’t just represent thinking, they help organize and refine student thinking as well. Some of the types of face-to-face tools are:

Small group models (if you are interested in the practice of scientific modeling, this tool is for you)

Whole group consensus models (great also for scientific modeling)

Summary tables (students keep track of the sense they make of each activity during a unit)

Sticky-notes (for revising ideas on models, questioning other ideas, adding, etc.)

Competing hypotheses (for helping students see how hypotheses are supported—or not—in response to evidence and new ideas)

Explanation checklists (negotiated by teacher and students about what should be included in final evidence-based explanation)

It’s important to realize that ideas written on face-to-face tools “belong” to students are supposed to change over time as the unit progresses.

See examples of face-to-face tools here…

Scaffolds for writing and talking are prompts for communicating in science-specific ways that may seem unnatural for students. By this we mean for example, writing causal explanations, talking in small groups about how evidence can be used to support a claim, or critiquing the ideas of one’s peers in a whole class setting. These tools can take the form of sentence frames, guides for how to help ELL students practice final explanations, norms for whole class discussion that are developed by students, roles that students can take up in small group activity, and others.

Planning tools come in three types—guides for learning about each of the four core sets of practices, guides for developing anchoring events complex, puzzling phenomena that students develop explanations for as the unit progresses), and unit planning guides.

Mentoring tools are created by teacher leaders for helping groups of educators improve practice as they collaborate with peers. These teacher leaders might be instructional coaches, professional developers, department chairs, or teacher educators. They have their own sets of professional practices, but these are for helping classroom teachers learn to advance their instruction together. The tools for teacher leaders can range from models for running a studio day with in-service teachers to guides for having pre-service teachers do teaching simulations.


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