KnowAtom's Blog

How Thinking Moves Bring NGSS Storylines to Life

May 16, 2023 by Staff Writer

The idea of using learning tools to think isn’t new, but what storyline pedagogy provides students is a creative place to practice their critical thinking skills. Students who repeatedly work together as a team, speak in front of their class, and provide feedback to their peers – get better at it. Engaging in NGSS storylines in the classroom gives students a chance to take the lead in their own learning process, while practicing hands-on investigation skills and thinking moves in the process.

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Topics: Thinking Moves, NGSS Storylines

How Important is Routine and Structure in NGSS Storylines?

May 9, 2023 by Staff Writer

When we talk about storyline pedagogy, we describe the individual lessons, or ‘episodes’ that make up a storyline as unscripted opportunities for student-led discovery. But, without the frameworks and classroom routines in place to prepare students for this next-generation model of instruction, we’re not setting them up for success. In fact, without strong routines and structures in place in the classroom, the idea of ‘unscripted discovery’ may make teachers and their students uncomfortable. That energy, however, is what sparks scientific discovery. Students need the time, space, and structure to create, to interact with phenomena personally, and to make mistakes and learn from them – for deeper learning to occur. With frameworks and processes in place, students and their teachers have common tools to engage critical thinking, personal reflection, and hands-on investigation.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, Thinking Routines, NGSS Storylines

How NGSS Storylines Shift the Roles of Students and Teachers

May 2, 2023 by Staff Writer

When students own their own learning, they are more engaged and personally invested in the outcome. One of the keys to implementing storyline pedagogy effectively is allowing the students’ own questions to drive the storyline. In this model, teachers are co-creating an understanding with their students. For students, it is an understanding of the lesson’s big ideas, and for teachers, it is an understanding of the dimensions of their student’s learning. To engage in deeper learning, students need a safe space where intellectual risk taking is protected and encouraged. Processes and frameworks can be put in place to allow them to be creative, take risks, and create on their own. As co-creators in the classroom, a teacher’s role is different, but even more important than transferring knowledge. 

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

How Important are Generative Questions in NGSS Storylines?

Apr 25, 2023 by Staff Writer

Storyline pedagogy gives students a chance to decide what they want to learn more about. To take the lead in the classroom, our students need to know how to ask good questions. Teachers can model intellectual curiosity to help students learn how to think more critically. Asking authentic questions, ones that we don’t know the answer to, is an important part of storyline pedagogy. For example, ‘What do you think of when you think of wind,’ is an authentic question. When compared to the question, ‘What is wind,’ this example highlights how asking better questions encourages students to connect personally with science phenomena and think deeper about its impact on their life. The first question is both authentic and generative, because it sparks even more questions. Generative questions help power student-led investigation and NGSS storylines, as the students build knowledge around an anchor phenomenon and pick the next question they want to investigate. 

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

How to make NGSS Storylines a Student Centered Learning Experience

Apr 21, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


Storyline pedagogy is modeled on a new partnership between students and teachers. The students’ own questions are the catalyst for each part of an NGSS storyline. Through self-discovery, reflection, questioning, and risk-taking, students make connections across science disciplines and concepts. Through student-let investigation, they make personal connections with the phenomena and engage in deeper learning. The teacher’s role in this next generation learning model is essential. They must create a culture of thinking and a safe space for risk taking by allowing students agency over their own learning. Classroom frameworks and formative assessment can help release responsibility onto the students for this to occur consistently.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

How to Improve the Effectiveness of NGSS Storylines with Formative Assessments

Apr 6, 2023 by Francis Vigeant

In Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based classrooms, students are required to learn more than facts. The standards are skills and performance-based, grounded on the understanding that students need to build their own skills and work with their own ideas, rather than the ideas of others. NGSS storylines promote this type of personal, hands-on learning through an investigation into real-world challenges.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, NGSS Storylines

Deeper Learning Hands-on Screens-off: NGSS 3 Dimensions & Storylines

Mar 24, 2023 by Francis Vigeant


The world needs more big thinkers – scientists and engineers with the critical thinking skills to tackle the big challenges facing our world. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based three-dimensional learning, or “NGSS 3 Dimensions’ are designed to build those critical thinking skills and connect learning science with building a better understanding of the world we live in. Storyline pedagogy sparks hands-on learning over a series of episodes where students create, evaluate, and analyze. These are higher-level thinking skills that scientists and engineers use every day.

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Topics: Phenomena-Based Learning, NGSS Storylines

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

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