KnowAtom's Blog

How to Launch NGSS Storylines Anchored with NGSS Phenomena

Mar 10, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


The next-generation model of instruction is based on students being in direct contact with the content. Storyline pedagogy accomplishes this with a child-centered, thinking-driven approach to each lesson, inspired by the students’ own questions. Throughout a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) storyline, students unpack complex phenomena, develop personal connections through their own discovery process, and link their new knowledge to better understand the world around them. In doing so, they are creating something personally meaningful to them. But this takes longer than a 45-minute class. Instead, a storyline is made up of a series of unscripted episodes of discovery that are connected by the students’ own reasoning.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

How to Use Socratic Dialogue to Drive Discussion in NGSS Storylines

Feb 24, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


A student-led discussion offers a low-stakes way for kids to wonder, ask questions, and change their minds. In the classroom, Socratic dialogue encourages students to think like scientists and engineers as they connect new information to their current knowledge, learn from their peers, and strengthen their understanding of the world around them. Socratic dialogue is the second step in the KnowAtom Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-led lesson routine.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

How to Use NGSS Phenomena to Construct Meaningful Storylines

Feb 8, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


When we invite students to investigate real-world phenomena as scientists and engineers, we’re giving them the opportunity to link what they learn in class to the world around them. Challenging students to uncover how and why a phenomenon occurs by questioning, testing, and discussing it engages them in deeper learning. When students realize they can use their scientific knowledge to explain and predict real-world phenomena, we are helping kickstart a lifetime love of learning.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

Engage Science and Engineering as a Way of Thinking with NGSS Practices

Jan 20, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

Exploring the Role of Scientists and Engineers with NGSS Storyline Pedagogy

The next-generation model of science instruction is not just about giving students a chance to take the lead in their own learning – it’s about students acting as scientists and engineers every day in the classroom. When we introduce real-world phenomena into the learning process, we connect classroom instruction to career exploration. With NGSS storyline pedagogy and science and engineering practices, students are unpacking complex phenomena over days and weeks. They explore real-world events, understand the purpose of the work of scientists and engineers, and use their current knowledge to uncover new information – strengthening critical thinking, communication, math, and ELA skills in the process.

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Topics: science and engineering practices, NGSS Storylines

Encourage Deeper Learning with Creative NGSS Storylines

Jan 8, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

The act of storytelling has been used to communicate information for centuries. The science behind its success is clear. Storytelling helps audiences connect personally to the subject matter, remember key facts, understand complex ideas, and learn from one another’s experiences. Research from Uri Hasson, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University, showed recently that when we hear a story unfold, our brain waves start synchronizing with the storyteller’s. 

Teachers see these results in their classrooms every day. When we connect classroom learning to real-world phenomena and engage students in critical thinking, hands-on learning, and personal reflection, we create the same type of high-level engagement as storytellers. When we challenge our students to ask questions, solve problems, and connect their classroom learning to real-world events, we use Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) storylines to bring learning to life.

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Topics: NGSS Storylines

Color, Symbol, Image: A Thinking Routine to Map Student Understanding

Dec 4, 2022 by Naamonde Williams

“Abstraction is one of the greatest visionary tools ever invented by human beings to imagine, decipher, and depict the world.” - Jerry Saltz

What is the Color, Symbol, Image Thinking Routine

A powerful way to keep students at the center of your instructional practice is to provide a diverse set of tools to enhance the expression of understanding. In the science classroom, students must organize ideas, make connections, draw conclusions, and reason with evidence. The Color, Symbol, Image routine asks students to engage in deeper cognitive work through abstract thinking to select a color, symbol, and image to represent the essence of concepts or ideas. Students use this routine as a framework to think abstractly and synthesize new ideas by connecting what they already know to new information and developing creative representations of their thinking.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Tug of War: Thinking Moves to Explore the Complexity of Dilemmas

Nov 15, 2022 by Tosha Gros

“Most of all, have the confidence in every learner’s ability to think and your capacity to nurture that thinking. The results will amaze and energize you.” - Ron Ritchhart

Why are thinking routines useful in the classroom?

Visible thinking routines actively engage students in independent thinking, creativity, and imagination by engaging students’ thinking moves. Teachers utilize visible thinking routines to support students in building a habit of critical thinking and confidence in the classroom.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Critical Thinking and the Connect, Extend, Challenge Thinking Routine

Nov 6, 2022 by Samantha O'neil

Science teachers use thinking routines to encourage students to think critically about big ideas. When students learn how to extend their reasoning using thinking moves, they are challenged to go below the surface and build a deeper understanding of scientific ideas and STEM principles. When classroom requirements go beyond memorizing facts and vocabulary, our students are free to wonder and to ask and answer their own questions. The Connect, Extend, Challenge thinking routine provides a sequence of steps that support critical thinking, student-centered learning, and personal discovery in the classroom.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Explore Change and Possibility with the What Can Be Thinking Routine

Oct 23, 2022 by Amanda Flocchini

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

What Are Thinking Routines?

Thinking routines allow you to give your students the tools they need to make their thinking visible. Instead of telling students what to think, we can introduce routines that students can use as tools to become skillful independent thinkers.

Thinking routines work best when they are just that - routines. Using thinking routines with your students will create habits for them to be successful lifelong learners.

The What Can Be thinking routine asks students to discuss unfolding complexities and to imagine the future opportunities created by the unfolding situation. By unpacking complexity, students can engage more deeply with a concept. This creates opportunities for skillful thinking both in and out of the classroom.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Claim, Support, Question Thinking Routine and Reasoning With Evidence

Oct 16, 2022 by Tatum Moser

Updated on April 24th, 2024. 

"The more you know, the more you realize you don't know." Aristotle

What is the Claim, Support, Question Thinking Routine?

Created by Ron Ritchhart and researchers at Project Zero, the Claim, Support, Question thinking routine shows students the importance of identifying, understanding, and making claims based on reasoning and evidence. 

The Claim, Support, Question thinking routine helps students develop key thinking moves like:

  • Identifying generalizations
  • Offering counterarguments
  • Reasoning with evidence
  • Asking questions. 

How Does the Claim, Support, Question Thinking Routine Work?

  • Make a Claim - This claim can be about a specific issue or idea related to the topic being examined.

  • Support Your Claim - Identify and document the evidence that supports your claim.

  • Ask Questions Related to Your Claim - Identify and address unexplained questions or informational gaps related to your claim. 

Strong claims, sound reasoning, and thoughtful follow-up questions ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of topics and concepts. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. This helps us to understand that we always need to ask new questions as our understanding evolves.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Inspire Skillful Listening with The Explanation Game Thinking Routine

Oct 9, 2022 by Tatum Moser

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.” - John Berger

What is the Explanation Game?

The Explanation Game thinking routine, developed by Ron Richtart and researchers at Project Zero, supports students in increasing their understanding of a concept by crafting multiple explanations based on evidence. The routine is designed to push students’ thinking as they explore complex topics and attempt to understand the whole by examining various parts and features.

Flexible in its application across subjects, you can use The Explanation Game to deconstruct almost anything, including objects, complex processes, systems, or documents. Engaging in this thinking routine will help students learn to work together toward understanding why something is the way it is. In addition to observing, crafting explanations based on evidence, and asking questions, students will also pay close attention to effective listening and how it can provide a path to deeper learning.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine for Creative Classroom Learning

Oct 2, 2022 by Tatum Moser

"To acquire knowledge, one must study. But to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” Marilyn vos Savant

Updated on April 5th, 2024.

What is the See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine?

Ron Ritchhart and the researchers at Project Zero developed the See, Think, Wonder thinking routine to support students to zoom in and experience the purpose and benefits of careful observation in the learning process.

This thinking routine uses visual imagery, artifacts, and media to engage students to carefully notice the different parts and features of objects, ideas, phenomena, etc. See, Think, Wonder engages students by allowing for open exploration of a concept rather than the more common teacher-directed delivery of information and knowledge transfer. Creating a meaningful purpose for close observation and description of a new idea or concept is also the first step toward developing thoughtful explanations and interpretations and identifying areas of further inquiry.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

What Thinking Moves and Routines Can Help Students to be Successful Learners?

Sep 25, 2022 by Tatum Moser

 “The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.”        -Elbert Hubbard

Why do students need to develop thinking moves?

Enabling a child to become an independent and motivated learner is one of our most important responsibilities. 

While it won’t happen overnight, incorporating experiences where students explore different thinking moves to increase their understanding of a concept, claim, or situation, can pave the way to deeper learning and transform your science classroom. Skillful thinking increases student competency to perform deeper cognitive work, raising their level of engagement and making your teaching more joyful and effective.

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Topics: Thinking Routines

Forming Evidence-based Conclusions and Debriefing CER in Science K-8

Mar 29, 2022 by Francis Vigeant

Key Learning Objectives:

  • What is a CER Conclusion
  • What Makes a Complete Conclusion
  • How to Write a CER Conclusion
  • How You Set Up Debriefing and Sharing Conclusions Matters
  • Tools: Motivation and Using Checkpoints and Concept Maps to Debrief Thinking

The focus of this article is on forming claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) conclusions and debriefing in NGSS Science - the fifth and last step in the KnowAtom lesson routine, and an important way to finish each lesson. When using the KnowAtom lesson routine, students discover phenomena, discuss it, and then try to answer a question or solve a problem related to it. With hands-on science instruction, students have the opportunity to be scientists and engineers, while they respond to real world problems and work together to solve them.

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Topics: Science Curriculum, Hands-On Tools

Using Socratic Dialogue with NGSS Curriculum

Feb 4, 2022 by Francis Vigeant

The second step in the KnowAtom lesson routine for grades K-8 is Socratic dialogue. This is an important part of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based curriculum for students of all ages. If you're new at implementing scientific discussions or looking to improve the Socratic dialogue in your classroom, it's important to set clear expectations for yourself and your students. Knowing what you should expect as a teacher-facilitator and what you should expect from your students as they become more familiar with Socratic dialogue in your science class, will help improve your results.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Socratic dialogue, Implementing New Science Standards

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