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S2 E1: How to Get Your Questions Answered

August 16, 2020

Nicole and Erin welcome their listeners back for Season 2 of the podcast. In this episode, they answer listener questions about the NGSS.

Nicole and Erin Catch Up

Nicole just got back from the NSTA regional conference in Cinncinati where she presented. Erin also recently returned from presenting at the California Science Teachers Association Conference.

Nicole and Erin discuss their experiences presenting.

Listener Questions About the NGSS (11:28)

How do you do all of these things that are in the NGSS? I am feeling overwhelmed by the NGSS!

This is a sentiment that we hear often. There is so much terminology and stuff to incorporate. This often leads teachers to an overwhelmed sinking feeling.

Nicole explains that incorporating aspects of the NGSS happens in stages. Teachers progress by adding one or two components at a time. Nicole states that it isn't possible to do everything all at once because there are so many aspects to incorporate.

Starting with the Science and Engineering Practices

Therefore, she suggests that teacher's figure out what is most important for them to incorporate first. She recommends starting with the Science and Engineering practices. Using them allows teachers to shift to a discovery-based approach.

Starting with the Crosscutting Concepts

Erin suggests a different approach. She recommends incorporating the Crosscutting Concepts first. The Crosscutting Concepts provide an easy jumping in point for teachers who aren't familiar with the NGSS. They can be added before teachers are ready to make other changes in their classes.

Also, the Crosscutting Concepts tie in with the Science and Engineering Practices. Once they are ready, teachers can pull in a related practice to help students discover the content.

Use an approach that works for you.

It's important that teachers start in a place that they feel comfortable. Eventually, teachers will be able to incorporate multiple components. Then, they can add pieces until they are meeting the full intent of the standards.

Plan ahead & grab your team!

When you are ready to build storylines, make sure that you save a lot of time for planning. Storylines take a long time to develop and shouldn't be built as you are teaching a lesson sequence.

So, start building a lesson sequence that you don't plan to teach for awhile. This will give you the time you need to build a storyline that works well.

Also, Erin suggests working with a team of teachers. This lightens the workload and leads to a better product.

Build from what you already have.

You don't have to throw away everything that you used before NGSS. Many activities can be repurposed by utilizing a Science and Engineering Practice or Crosscutting Concept. Or, find a phenomenon that connects to an activity that you have done in the past.

How do you plan NGSS units in a timely manner?

Nicole explains that great NGSS lesson take a long time to build. Consequently, the amount of time you spend planning will go up.

However, many other aspects of teaching an NGSS class is easier. For example, there is more time for the teacher to talk to and assess students during class. This is because the teacher isn't the “sage on the stage” in an NGSS classroom.

Planning gets faster and easier with more experience.

As you get more experienced with the NGSS, it becomes easier to build lesson sequences. Therefore, it is faster to build lessons once you are more comfortable with the NGSS.

Also, you start to develop strategies and resources that can be used over and over again.

Listener Questions about NGSS Instructional Materials (19:48)

What should you do when you are looking to adopt curriculum?

Spend as much time as you can with your materials before you adopt.

Erin recommends that you spend as much time as possible with any curriculum that you are thinking about adopting. She saw materials that she loved at first but they didn't meet her expectations. Also, there were materials that she didn't like that ended up being a better fit.

Consider piloting for a unit or grading term. Publishers are usually more than willing to give you the materials you need to make your decision.

Look at a full storyline.

Make sure that you look at how a storyline develops for any materials that you are interested in. Check to see if the storyline uses a discovery-based approach.

Realize no materials are perfect.

All of the materials that are available have pros and cons. Look for the materials that will work best for you team. Also, consider which components your team is willing to build themselves.

It's also important to remember that a boxed curriculum doesn't incorporate local phenomena, your student's questions and other components that will make it relatable to your population. These pieces will have to be modified and reworked.

What free NGSS resources are available?

Open Science Ed (linked below) is a company that posts free units. Units are released one at a time as they are created. The have complete, well thought out units that are available to download.

Also, the Illinois Science Teachers Association and Stanford have released storylines.

Learn More

Resources referenced in this episode:

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