by Chelsea Haynes
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have been on the rise and new state assessments went into pilot mode this year. Over the last three years, our district has been ‘rolling out’ lessons to align with NGSS, and also incorporate the current modules we have to work with. But, why should we embrace the change? Why is it important to know the full sequence of the standards from elementary to high school? How can we become better in creating lessons to guide our students’ thinking? In my next few monthly blogs, I will introduce components to NGSS, give examples of teaching practices and strategies, and share my personal reflections regarding the standards.
In truth, I was hesitant to embrace the new standards. After teaching 6th grade science for many years, I got comfortable in my ways and I thought this was just another obstacle that I was going to have to overcome. When the standards first came out, they were extremely difficult to read in the fact that there are many components to just one standard, and it was challenging to really know what students needed to know to show mastery and growth. I’m still continually learning and deciphering the NGSS. However, reflecting over the three year period Kentucky and JCPS has implemented NGSS in middle school, this change is so important. In today’s world, we need to teach children to become innovative, critical thinkers to be successful for future jobs. Kentucky Core Content 4.1 did not do this. The NGSS encompasses so much more than learning and memorizing facts of science. It teaches children to be solution driven. Also, It has completely changed my mindset of how to teach science through many dimensions of learning and has made me aware of teaching critical thinking skills. Let’s be honest, one is probably not going to have to regurgitate the different moon phases on the job; however, one would use the critical thinking process of figuring out why a phenomenon occurs.
So, let’s look at the basics of NGSS. When looking at just one standard, it has many complex components. The Performance Expectations (PE) are the items that are assessable. The Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) and the Cross-Cutting Concepts (CCC) are all the components to form the PEs. These are also referred to as the three-dimensions of the standard or 3-D learning. Three-dimensional learning is important to build children’s skills in critical thinking and problem solving of everyday phenomena. The Connection Boxes are the connections made to Core Content standards and other NGSS. If you are new to the standards, this is very overwhelming. Inside the NGSS Box is a great resource to help you better visualize and understand how to read NGSS.
On top of reading and understanding NGSS, I found it very cumbersome to document NGSS in a formal lesson plan to my administrator. Over the years, I have tweaked my lesson plan template to help me document all parts of the standard for each lesson. This document helps me break down each component and think of how I am going to incorporate all three dimensions into my daily lessons. On a side note, it also keeps me accountable for ELA standards as well as differentiation within the lesson. After seven years teaching in a priority school, I have learned very quickly that it is essential to incorporate literacy strategies on a daily basis. As I went through (required) literacy instruction courses in college, I thought to myself, “I’m not going to use this.” However, I instantly realized how lucky I was to be exposed to literacy strategies when my school required me to actually teach a reading class along with my science courses.
Even though JCPS has incorporated NGSS in the last three years and we have been fortunate to have excellent district support staff, we still have a long way to go for all teachers to completely embrace and understand them. This is why we need to rally together for a change. We need to push for science to be just as important as mathematics and language arts. We need to support one another through district and state-wide PLC’s since we are all riding this innovation wave together. We owe it to our students to be prepared for the innovative world.
With this said, I challenge you to jump in, ride the wave, and embrace NGSS. Even if you are not a science teacher, check it out. The cross-curricular opportunities are endless. Check in next month for more NGSS wave riding.
Chelsea Haynes is a former Math and Science Instructional Coach at Stuart Academy. She is returning to the classroom at Newburg Middle School as a science teacher. When not expanding her knowledge and professional networks, she can be found at home with her two children Oliver and Jaxson.