S1 E14: How to build an NGSS Storyline

July 20, 2020

In this episode, Erin discusses how to build an NGSS storyline. These storylines will guide your students to discover content.

Before you listen:

You might want to listen to these episodes first.

What is an NGSS storyline? (1:34)

A storyline is defined as a coherent lesson sequence designed to guide your students in their understanding of phenomena. Storylines are generally longer lesson sequences.

However, they can vary in length. Some teachers will create a storyline to cover a single unit. Others may be able to create a semester or year-long storyline to weave together multiple units.

For example, if you look at the California Framework for Science (linked below), they have a year long storyline for each grade level. One topic leads into the next.

Are storylines different than phenomena?

This question came from the NGSS Newbies Facebook page. Yes, storylines and phenomena are different. But we never talk about one without the other.

Phenomena cause students to wonder and asked questions. These questions are investigated as students move along your storyline. Through the storyline, students make sense of phenomena.

Can I use a storyline created by someone else?

Storylines can be shared between sites, districts, and created by publishers. However, this implies a storyline will be meaningful to all students, regardless of location, interest, or other characteristics.

Storylines help to connect the content that they are learning to the real-world. The scenarios presented are most effective when they relate directly to student lives. This makes it difficult to build storylines that are one-size-fits-all.

Why are storylines important?

It is important to create storylines for several reasons. For example, they help students connect what they are learning to the real world. Also, they help students understand the connection between related topics.

What do you need to create an NGSS storyline? (3:10)

You will need to start with a performance expectation. However, this process is much more rich is you start with a bundle of standards. (If you aren't sure what a bundle is, you can check out this post.)

You also should have an idea about the phenomenon that you want to use. Make sure that the phenomenon is relatable to your students. You want them to be curious.

It is also a good idea to have your objectives written out ahead of time. (To find out how to use evidence statements to write objectives, check out the links below.)

Also, Erin recommends having plenty of sticky notes on hand. They are good to use because you can move them around as you build and edit your storyline. She also uses a large poster board.

How to Build an NGSS Storyline

Use your phenomena and think about what questions your students might ask. These will serve as your student questions. When you present your phenomena to your students, you can swap many of these for actual student questions.

Erin likes to build her storyline by creating a frame first. She puts the student questions she has generated on the left and corresponding objectives on the right.

After that, she fills in the lesson sequence from left to right. Students should use the Science and Engineering Practices to help them to explore the phenomena and answer the questions on the left.

Erin says that she uses a structure similar to the 5E model to fill in the lesson sequence. Each line (lesson sequence) that she creates might not have all of the components of the 5E model… but remember the 5E model isn't linear so that's okay.

Want to Learn More?

Are you interest in more information about how to build NGSS storylines? Here are some more resources to help you.


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