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3- How To Start Teaching the NGSS Today!

April 3, 2022 No Comments

Are you just getting started with the NGSS?  Not sure where to start?  In this episode, Nicole discusses 3 main ways to start teaching the NGSS.  Nicole discusses getting to the heart of the instructional shifts without worrying about the NGSS jargon.

How Can I Teach the NGSS? Quick Resources for Teachers New to the Shift

The NGSS is unlike anything that you've ever experienced before. The Teaching Science in 3D Podcast was created to help teachers like you.  If you are a science teacher and don't know where to begin, Nicole Van Tassell and Erin Sadler are here to help.  

In order to make the best use of this post, you will need some basic background knowledge about the NGSS.

How the NGSS Changes it All

Are you BRAND new to the NGSS? Or, you have been trying to meet the intent of the standards for a while, but haven't gotten anywhere. Start here. We discuss some of the biggest changes that have come with the NGSS in this episode.

What's up with the NGSS lingo?

The NGSS has its very own vocabulary. It can be tricky to keep it all straight. So, Erin created a FREE NGSS Glossary to help you keep it all together.

Three Steps to Teach the NGSS Today

Follow these three simple steps to begin to make the shift to the NGSS in your classroom.  These instructional shifts will have an enormous impact on your classroom.  And, they don't require that you change everything at once.    

  1. Quit the Chapter by Chapter Approach
  2. Use an Explore Before Explain Approach
  3. Trim your Content and Focus on the Big Ideas

Step 1: Stop Focusing on “Chapters”

The first way to start to meet the intent of the NGSS is to quit the chapter-by-chapter approach. 

Traditionally we look at content as pieces that are taught separately.  However, this prevents students from seeing the connection between units.    With an NGSS approach, lessons are woven together to emphasize this connection.

For example, the topics of cells and photosynthesis are closely related.  But, they are often taught separately.  Instead, they can be taught together to give students a better idea of the relationship between cells and photosynthesis.  

Bundles, Storylines, and Phenomena – Where to Start

Combining topics that are similar is called “bundling”.   Often, 2-3 standards are bundled together to make them more relevant for students.   Teachers find a phenomenon that links the standards together.  And, students gain an understanding of the lesson sequence through a storyline – also known as a lesson sequence.  

Narrow sand-colored canyon pictured from the bottom.
Phenomena are used to tie different pieces of content together.

Storylines are often very complicated.  If you feel ready to start creating storylines, we are here to support you.  However, if you are brand new to NGSS, we recommend that you slow down a little.  

Instead, understand that these complex storylines are an end goal in your planning.  For now, focus on looking for the connections between areas of content.    

Step 2: Shift to an Explore-Before-Explain Approach

The second way to implement the NGSS is to use an “explore-before-explain” approach. 

There are many models that can be used in a science classroom.  These include, but aren't limited to project-based learning, problem-based learning, or the 5E model. 

But, no matter which model you choose to use, you should be using an Explore-before-Explain approach. 

What does a discovery-based approach look like?

In a traditional science classroom, students learn primarily from their teacher providing information.   Then, students complete a lab to confirm what the teacher told them. 

Person with long, cream colored nails holding a white pen with black stars.  Person is writing on a paper.
While notes are commonly used in a traditional science classroom, they are less essential in an NGSS classroom. Instead, teachers create activities where students learn the content primarily through discovery.

A discovery-based approach flips this model.  For example, the teacher provides the students with an investigation to complete.  Students gain an understanding of the content.  Then, the teacher provides an explanation.  

To learn more about the discovery-based approach, check out this episode.  

Step 3: Focus on the Big Picture

Previous versions of science standards had teachers covering too many minute details. Unfortunately, students knew a lot of things. But, they had difficulty applying their content knowledge.

Therefore, the writers of the NGSS made a conscious effort to cut down on what students needed to know. Instead, they decided to emphasize the practice of science. Therefore, the content that you cover will likely change.

To learn more about how the NGSS will change your content, check out this episode.

What they don't know won't hurt them.

For many educators, ditching some of their content is a major sacrifice. However, students today have unprecedented access to knowledge. In fact, most carry smartphones that allow them to access facts with the touch of a button.

Magnifying class with background out of focus.  Turquoise box with white text that reads "Stop focusing on the details and focus on the big ideas."
When you are thinking about how to teach the NGSS, focus on the big ideas.

Instead, it's important that students focus on the practice of science. That way, students have a strong understanding of how scientific discoveries are made. And, they learn to apply their knowledge rather than memorize facts.

More Resources to Help You Teach the NGSS

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