When I started teaching to meet the intent of the NGSS, my students struggled with creating models. Over time, I have learned how to help my students make better models. Here are five ways to improve your student’s NGSS models.
How can I help my students make better NGSS Models?
There are several ways that you can help students make better models. Below, there are five simple strategies that are easy to implement in your class.
1. Ask students to focus on the seen and unseen in their models.
Students are likely to create models based on what they see. However, there is more happening within a system or during an event. Things like energy, small particles, and forces can’t always be seen, but we know that they exist because of observations that we make.
Encourage your students to include these components in their model. One way you can do this is by asking students to include what they might see through a microscope or with a telescope.
By doing so, you bring in the Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity.
2. Allow time for revision.
When students create their initial model, I don’t provide them with many guidelines. It’s important that students get their initial ideas down without being restricted by a list of requirements.
However, when students are revising their models, I provide more instructions. When possible, we decide on these requirements as a class.
It is so important that you slow down and find time for revisions. When given the time, students will begin to make higher-level connections. Revisions also allow you to include other practices and make connections to the Crosscutting Concepts.
List components of the system as model-must-haves.
Before the students revise their models, we discuss the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System models. As a group, we list components of the system. These components become models-must-haves.
A model-must-have is a simple list of things that should be included in a model. This list should only have the most basic components and shouldn’t include vocabulary terms.
For example, if third-grade students are creating a model to demonstrate their understanding of forces when a soccer ball is kicked, the model should include the person kicking the ball, the ball itself, and perhaps the direction of the force.
Agree on shared symbols.
This is where common symbols come in handy. Models are more clear if there are some symbols that are used each time an item shows up in a model.
For example, if students are adding forces to their model, you might decide as a class that students will use an arrow to show forces. If students are showing particles in their model, it might be useful to decide that small circles will be used in the model to represent particles.
3. Provide scaffolding for the models.
Simple graphic organizers can be a great way to help students create better models. Graphic organizers provide students with clear expectations about what is expected from a model. Also, they make it easier to provide feedback or grade models.
This and several other graphic organizers are available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store in my Scaffolds for Modeling Resource for grades 3-5. Click here to check out this resource. Middle school resources are available here.
4. Provide time and scaffolds for discussions about student models.
Allowing students time to engage in peer review has so many benefits to everyone in your classroom. Students can increase their understanding of a concept by discussing it with their peers. And, if students can provide meaningful feedback to each other, it gives you more time to spend working with students who are really struggling with concepts.
However, the ability to provide thoughtful feedback and engage in high-level discussions isn’t a skill that comes naturally to students. Providing students with scaffolds like sentence frames, as seen in the example above, will support them in their conversations. Using graphic organizers that help students to compare their models is also incredibly valuable.