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Science for the Next Generation: Preparing for the New Standards

Nov 17, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

Educational leaders often speak about preparing the “next generation” for the future. In the years ahead, the next generation will work in jobs that are just emerging or don’t yet exist and will face challenges we can only theorize on today. While leaders often pay lip service to “investing” in the next generation, only one content area explicitly states that the next generation is their focus. That area? Science.

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Topics: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards

What Are the Next Generation Science Standards?

Nov 12, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

What Does NGSS Stand For? NGSS refers to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which are used in some form by 44 US states and territories to shape instruction and excite the next generation of scientists and engineers. Developed by prominent scientists and teachers, the NGSS aims to inspire curiosity and engagement for students who might otherwise lose ambition for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as they enter middle school.

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Topics: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards

5 Steps to Use NGSS Phenomena More Effectively in Your Classroom

Nov 9, 2021 by Sara Goodman

There are 5 steps educators can adopt in their own classrooms to use NGSS phenomena most effectively in the classroom.

Step 1: Find a real-world phenomenon.

Phenomena are observable events where using ideas, based on evidence, we can explain or predict their occurrence. In accordance with NGSS, instructors will begin their lessons by selecting an anchor phenomenon for discussion. Note that NGSS phenomena are complex and based in real-world context. They represent questions we can’t answer in a single experiment or problems we can’t solve in one round of prototyping. They also should relate to one or more of the standards you plan to explore in the lesson/unit.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Phenomena-Based Learning

The NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: An Overview of the Fundamentals

Nov 3, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is a multi-state initiative to create new education standards for students from K-12.  It establishes a progression of performance expectations spanning the elementary through high school years that promote growth in students' abilities to participate in science and engineering.

Rich in content and practice, an NGSS curriculum should delivers a coherent learning experience across disciplines for a grade specific and internationally benchmarked education in STEM subjects.  There are three foundations of the NGSS standards which are the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices, which together guide the development of K-12 science curriculum, instruction, and assessments that form the most critical areas of science education.

What are the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas?

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas ( DCI ) are fundamental scientific ideas that form the content of an NGSS curriculum.  They cover four domains: physical science, life science, earth and space science, as well as engineering, technology, and applications of science.

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Topics: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

Next Generation Science Standards by Grade Level: From Elementary to Middle School

Nov 1, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

As teachers read the NGSS, they see a clear progression of Next Generation Science Standards by grade level.  From kindergarten to middle school, the standards increase in complexity as students grow and learn.  When rooted in next generation pedagogy, the standards expand with the capacity of the student.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Elementary Science Curriculum, Middle School Science Curriculum

Next Gen Curriculum Mapping: 3 Important Things to Unpack

Oct 28, 2021 by Judy Higgins

When it comes to Next Gen Curriculum and Standards, it's important to unpack curriculum mapping. NGSS Standards are performance expectations (PEs), and there are infinite routes to student mastery but for students to get there requires the skill and knowledge of teachers to create deeper learning opportunities.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, STEAM, Growth Mindset, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

Tools to Develop a Growth Mindset in Cooperative Learning Discussions

Oct 26, 2021 by Judy Higgins

Whether you are currently using KnowAtom or not, all teachers know the importance of a great discussion. I'd like to share with you some of the teaching strategies I've learned over the past 20 years to help prepare your students for meaningful scientific discussion. If you're not a science teacher, many of the cooperative learning and growth mindset strategies I am going to discuss will work with your students as well.

What is a growth mindset? The education concept was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck and shared in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She writes, "In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits…. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort." In contrast, "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning…." says Dweck.

Teachers who use the KnowAtom curriculum understand first-hand how implementing cooperative learning strategies, including Socratic dialogue, in the classroom improves student engagement and strengthens learning outcomes. I've also seen how as I give the reins more to my students, letting them take the lead in classroom discussions and small group projects, they can accomplish amazing things together. Seeing this first-hand has definitely strengthened my belief in a growth mindset!


Preparing for student-led discussions

Giving students the tools they need to prepare for a great discussion is something that we really need to remember to do because students don't always know how to do it on their own. With this support, we can create students who are confident in their ability to discuss their ideas. With Dweck's growth mindset in mind, we can prepare students to engage in cooperative learning strategies that strengthen their critical thinking skills and set them up to become lifelong learners.

When using the KnowAtom curriculum, there are simple steps to every lesson that we do together as a class. We always start with nonfiction reading. Then we move into a Socratic dialogue where the students discuss their thoughts and get ready for what they will be planning next. The goal of a great classroom discussion is to create a bridge between what the students have read and the lab they will soon be preparing for. They are better prepared when we get to the cooperative learning groups' hands-on science investigation because of this step-by-step process.

The most important part of a good Socratic discussion is that the teacher is not the only one asking the questions. The students ask each other questions. They challenge each other to defend their thinking, and in the process, learn to use evidence to support their arguments. It's important to remember that cooperative learning doesn't happen overnight. When I started teaching with KnowAtom, my students were really excited about what they read. When it came time for the formal discussion, I assumed they would be very eager to discuss the information. I was wrong – we just sat there. The students either looked at me with panic or looked at their lab books. I was the only one asking questions. So, I had to go back and think about, how am I going to help my students feel prepared and comfortable to discuss these lessons?

Developing cooperative learning routines

The first thing we do together is develop routines. First, students gather the resources they need. Next, we review pre-lesson questions to get the students thinking about what they are going to read about. For the reading portion, we develop different cooperative learning strategies, including reading individually, as a class, or with a partner. We also use read-aloud videos and reading strategies to help all students access the nonfiction text. Finally, we use picture thinking graphic organizers to help students focus on the pictures from the text.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, STEAM, Growth Mindset, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Remote Learning, KWL Chart

The Best Cooperative Learning Involves Release of Responsibility

Oct 17, 2021 by Judy Higgins

What is cooperative learning? Cooperative learning is an instructional model designed to improve student learning outcomes by promoting teamwork. Do you allow students to work together on small group learning projects? If so, you're already modeling cooperative learning strategies in your classroom. When our students work together on interactive classroom activities, they strengthen communication, social, and critical thinking skills. When collaborating in small groups of two to four peers, students have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. Collaborative learning strategies require teachers to give up some responsibility for classroom instruction to their students, letting them take the lead.

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Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, higher order thinking, STEAM, interactive science, Professional Development, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

CER Sentence Starters Help Students Form Claim Evidence Reasoning

Oct 12, 2021 by Judy Higgins

Teachers know the feeling – it's either absolute silence in your classroom when it's time to kick-off a classroom discussion, or everyone is talking at once and over each another. One of the tools I have used to help students get comfortable talking in the classroom while implementing KnowAtom's inquiry-based science curriculum is sentence starters. When students first come to us, they may need help understanding how to begin a group conversation and how to take part in one respectfully. In addition, learning active listening skills is just as important.

Let's explore how analysis sentence starters can help students learn how to listen to one another and form claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) arguments, rather than talking at or over their peers. I am going to use examples from the KnowAtom curriculum to show you how to implement CER sentence starters. But it's important to note that sentence starters for evidence can be used as discourse frames for just about any subject. Ultimately, they help students learn how to talk, listen, and support their arguments with evidence and reasoning.

Improving Student Discourse and Encouraging Discovery with CER Sentence Starters

The KnowAtom curriculum starts off with nonfiction reading, followed by Socratic dialogue for each lesson. Within classroom discussions, students take the lead in discovering what's most important about the reading and what connections can be made to concepts they already know. These discussions serve as a useful bridge to the hands-on part of the lessons, where students investigate, experiment, and engineer together. Classroom discourse is an important part of helping students thinking critically about what they've read and how they can use that information in their lab work. The analysis sentence starters tool helps students get the most out of group discourse while respecting their peers and learning from different viewpoints and experiences.

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NGSS Evidence Statements: Developing an Effective Classroom Experience

Oct 11, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

Creating a next generation learning experience with the appropriate challenges is what leads to student learning. NGSS Evidence statements are key to facilitating an interactive student-led learning environment when used properly. 

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards

Evaluating an NGSS Aligned Science Curriculum: 3 Key Features to Look For

Oct 7, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

The curriculum translates the Next Generation Science Standards into a classroom experience where students can be scientists and engineers. It’s what helps students gain experience performing science investigations and making connections on an everyday basis in order to reach mastery. Over time, they can generalize those skills in a variety of situations.

The curriculum translates the Next Generation Science Standards into a classroom experience where students can be scientists and engineers. It’s what helps students gain experience performing science investigations and making connections on an everyday basis in order to reach mastery. Over time, they can generalize those skills in a variety of situations. 

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum

Why Was the NGSS Science Framework Developed?

Oct 4, 2021 by Nicole Lanoue

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released in 2013. They are research-based K–12 science content standards that aim to improve science education for all students. These Next Generation learning standards are a critical component in many STEM curriculums.

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Topics: NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards, STEM

The Best Formative Assessment for Accelerated Learning in Student Centered Classrooms

Oct 3, 2021 by Judy Higgins

To help students achieve accelerated learning in the classroom, teachers need to improve how we set and communicate our expectations. In student-centered learning, students choose what they will learn, and they set the pace. Teachers become classroom facilitators when their students take the lead in an accelerated learning program. Implementing formative assessments in a student centered classroom will improve outcomes because students better understand the expectations because they are getting continuous feedback in the moment.

What's the difference between formative and summative assessments? Formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena. This real-time approach allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process and refining their skills in the moment. In a formative assessment, the teacher's role is an interested skeptic, engaged in the student's argument but pressing for evidence and reasoning. A formative assessment requires a shift in responsibility. Instead of a student trying to guess what the teacher wants, the student is productively struggling to develop skills and content knowledge, with support/coaching from the teacher. Summative assessments are more high stakes and occur less frequently, typically at the end of a lesson or unit.

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Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, interactive science, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science, NGSS-Designed Curriculum

The Best Student Centered Classroom Starts with Authentic Questions

Sep 29, 2021 by Judy Higgins

One of the most important things we can teach our students, no matter what grade level or topic you teach, is how to ask good questions. When I think about this important topic, I can't help but consider how my teaching style has changed over the past 20 years. Today, when I think about how to support student centered learning in my classroom, I want to make sure that I am modeling good questions. That's because modeling is an important way to teach students how to ask good questions themselves. I am going to share with you what a good question looks like and how to teach your students ways to identify and use them effectively.

A
student-centered classroom starts with the teacher. We've learned that we can improve student engagement and achieve better outcomes by giving up some of the control we have as teachers. Students who are given an active role in the classroom have more opportunities to think critically about the concepts and how they relate to the world around them. Rather than asking students to read and memorize, we need to be asking them to collaborate with their peers, discover new ideas, and make strong connections. With student centered learning, giving students a voice in the classroom helps improve student engagement, but students need to develop the skills to take the lead. Learning how to ask authentic questions of their peers, their teachers, and their sources – is a great way to start.


Student centered instruction and asking good questions

Good questions are good questions regardless of who you're interacting with or what subject you're teaching. If you're not a KnowAtom teacher, if you're a teacher who teaches another subject, a parent, or a principal, all of these things will apply to your students as well! Let's look first at where we can expect students to ask good questions when implementing a student-centered approach during a lesson.

KnowAtom's science curriculum starts off with a nonfiction reading component every time. That's where a lot of the questioning will happen in a student centered teaching model. From there, we move on to Socratic dialogue, where students discuss the questions, wonders, or connections they made from the reading. Questioning plays a big part in this section of the lesson and if we can improve our students' questioning skills, we can improve our classroom dialogue.

Students then move into planning, and we ask them to think like scientists or engineers. That entails a lot of questions about what's going to happen in the hands-on investigation portion of the unit. Then, the students carry out their investigation, experiment, or engineering activity. Lots and lots of questions are happening as part of this section as well. Finally, students share their conclusions in a debrief. One of the things that I enjoy most with student centered learning is listening to students question each other about their data and their outcomes.


The purpose of questioning in student centered learning

What's the purpose of questions? The main purpose of encouraging students to ask good questions is to engage them in taking a position on a concept or big idea from the reading. When you think about it, that's a really risky proposition. Perhaps that's why when I first started teaching, I asked questions like "What is a hurricane?" rather than "How are hurricanes related to the water cycle?"

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Topics: science and engineering practices, Next Generation Science Standards, higher order thinking, STEAM, Expert, STEAM Curriculum, Next Generation Science

What is the NGSS Three Dimensional Learning Approach?

Sep 23, 2021 by Francis Vigeant

Want to understand the Next Generation Science Standards? In three words: three dimensional learning. Figuring out exactly what those words mean and how they make NGSS different from existing standards will get you much closer to understanding exactly what is expected in the next generation of science education.

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Topics: NGSS

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