Image of Science Glassware, Title Quick Wins with the Crosscutting Concepts Episode 64

64 Quick Wins with the Crosscutting Concepts

February 15, 2021

In this episode, Erin explains that Crosscutting Concepts can give you some quick wins in your science class.  Teachers are overwhelmed with the number of things that they have to do right now.  However, the CCCs can be easily incorporated into your lesson sequences and make a significant impact on your classroom.

Why it’s important to Teach the Crosscutting Concepts in your Science Class

The Crosscutting Concepts are one of the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards. But, what impact do they have on your lesson sequences?

The CCCs help students to make connections between science and engineering disciplines.

Crosscutting Concepts are concepts that connect science and engineering. They are applicable in a wide range of contexts. By using them in your classroom, you help students to see the relationships between these disciplines and between seemingly unrelated content.

So, students build a more usable understanding of science and engineering by building a clear overarching framework.

A common vocabulary helps all students understand the big ideas.

The Crosscutting Concepts appear several times throughout the school year. So, students see the same terms that are related to the concepts over and over again. As a result, they see the terms repeatedly but applied to different content. This helps students understand the many ways in which these terms can be applied.

The CCCs help cement student understanding of the content.

Applying the CCCs significantly impact student understanding of the material. Also, they help student to retain the information they have learned.

By asking students to apply a CCC to the content, you are reinforcing the information they have learned. Also, you are helping them see a larger connection to science and engineering. This improves retention and saves times that would be otherwise spent reviewing content.

The Crosscutting Concepts are a great place to start.

If you are new to three-dimensional learning. The CCCs can be a great place to start. Here are a few reasons why:

1) You don’t have to change your systems that already exist in order to be able to use them.

It’s easy to add the CCCs to your science courses. You don’t have to make any major shifts in your classroom to start using them. So, this makes them an excellent starting point for teachers who are new to NGSS.

2) They don’t require a lot of time to add.

The CCCs appear over and over again. In fact, you can add them to your lessons any time that you find a connection. So, you can introduce them once and then ask students to make the connections.

For example, ask students to write down a pattern that they noticed in a set of data as they exit the classroom. Or, have them identify components of a system.

3) They already include connection to the Science and Engineering Practices.

Take a look at the NSTA Matrix for the Crosscutting Concepts. If you look carefully, the connections to the Science and Engineering Practices are apparent.

For example, the CCC of Systems and System Models connects easily to the SEP of Developing and Using Models. Start by asking students to identify components of the system. Then, ask them to create models of the system.

Still, you don’t have to include the SEPs right away. It’s fine to start with the CCCs and and add in the SEPs when you are ready.

The Crosscutting Concepts must be explicitly taught in order to make these connections.

Often, teachers believe that their lessons include the CCCs. However, these connections are often apparent only to the teacher. If the connections aren’t made explicit, the impact is significantly diminished.

How to explicitly teach the CCCs.

It isn’t difficult to make connections to the CCCs clear for your student . Here are a few suggestions.

Don’t teach the CCCs all at once.

Often, teachers introduce the Crosscutting Concepts all at once. However, this practice doesn’t allow students to make connection to the content. As we have said before, context matter. Without context, this practice ultimately leads to wasted class time.

1) Start by Providing Example of Direct Instruction

Erin suggests providing some type of explicit instruction the day before students are asked to apply the concept to content. She provides students with a reference sheet that acts as an overview of the concept. Then she reviews this with her students.

Here are her reference sheets:

2) Ask student to apply the CCC to your content.

Students have a foundational understanding of the CCC because you provided them with the information. So, you just need to ask students how the CCC applied to the content.

This will likely be difficult for students at first. You will probably have to help them at first. However, once they have applied the CCC once or twice, they will be able to make the connections on their own.

Erin uses exit tickets and graphic organizers to help scaffold this process for students. These are included as part of her reference sheets in the resources above and can be used over and over again in your classroom.

3) Find a way to track the connections in your classroom.

Its a good idea to find a place to track each time that you made a connection to a concept and make this visible in the classroom.

For example, use these Crosscutting Concept Posters from Juli Cannon science. Post them in your classroom. Then, each time you make a connection, add a post-it underneath the poster.

Other Things to Consider

  • You do not have to use the Crosscutting Concept that is associated with a given performance expectation. Use any CCC that connects to your content.
  • Start with something easy. Many teachers find the Crosscutting Concept of Patterns or Cause and Effect the easiest to teach. Once you feel comfortable with these, branch out to other CCCs.

More Resources to Help with the Crosscutting Concepts