What Comprises Next Generation Science Standards Lesson Plans?

A lesson is a group of experiences. Each lesson represents deliberate practice, a deliberate thoughtful experience that comes together in the following way. Think about a lesson taking place in a middle school, for example, over the course of five days, meeting with students for 45 minutes at a time. On the first day, you might use a read-aloud, a visual or some other kind of media that brings that anchor phenomenon to life. Students encounter the anchor phenomenon – the flooding in New York City, for instance – within the context of this piece of media.

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To implement phenomena within lesson flow works essentially the same from kindergarten up through 8th grade. It begins with introducing the anchor phenomenon and Socratic dialogue, progresses through the planning and carrying out of investigations or engineering processes, and culminates in forming conclusions, sharing and debriefing.

Then the next day, or as part of a second half of that first class (depending on how the middle school structures science time), you engage in Socratic dialogue to unpack students' observations about that anchor phenomenon. Your goal is to ask questions that require them to create, evaluate and analyze, and helps them actually form concept to concept, concept to self, concept to world connections.

We're still with the anchor phenomenon though. We need to transition into that investigative phenomena by releasing responsibility to the students to outline their individual or their team's investigative approach. Now that we understand the anchor phenomenon somewhat – we've talked about it, we've connected with it – the next question becomes how each student or team will choose to investigate it as either scientists or engineers.

We outline that investigative approach and then we actually get into the investigative phenomena by carrying out the science or carrying out the engineering that we've outlined. That's why planning is so important. This is where we encounter other phenomena, other observable facts of nature, isolated elements that impact the flooding and inform their investigation. It’s important to realize we can have more than two phenomena – the anchor and each student or team’s investigative phenomena – because we will be observing the other phenomena that crop up naturally as part of any science or engineering investigation.

To return to our soil example, in investigating the differences between clay and concrete, students will be observing such phenomena as how water travels through clay, how it travels through concrete, the time that it takes, the volume that's makes it through from the top to the bottom of that surface. That's where they encounter investigative phenomena.

Finally, students use those observations to unpack the investigative approach and their observations and relate them back to their hypothesis or their proposed solution as well as the larger anchor phenomena context. At the end, we would transition naturally to the next lesson in the unit, or the next unit. For instance, perhaps we were talking about flooding in New York City in this lesson and the next is something like runoff and pollution in public waterways. We can, and should, bridge from one to the next, so that new knowledge and skills are always scaffolded onto those we’ve previously developed.

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