5 Tips for Making NGSS Bundles

Elementary Science High School Lesson Planning Middle School NGSS NGSS Newbies

If you read my post last week about building storylines, you know that the first step in has to be bundling your standards.  To read that post click here.  Bundling is the strategy of putting together standards that work well together.  Standards are arranged in bundles for several reasons including:

  • Bundles help you connect related topics and phenomena.
  • They help you break your school year into manageable chunks when planning.
  • They allow you to plan instructional sequences that maximize instructional time.
  • Bundling helps students see the connection between topics.

The process of bundling can be difficult.  Here are my tips for creating bundles.

1. Review the bundles that already exist.

You don’t have to follow someone else’s model, but it doesn’t hurt to take a peak.  These models are very well thought out.  They might not be exactly what you need, but you might find some inspiration.  Here are a few examples of models that already exist.


The NGSS website has two versions of bundles by each grade level.  The first version is called the topic model.  In this version, the bundles are built to support a particular topic.  For example, the kindergarten topic model is built around the idea that things in the natural world (weather, sunlight and the needs of living things) affect us daily.  The same standards are also bundled differently in the kindergarten thematic model.  In this case, the standards are bundled to support the theme of patterns in the natural world.

The California Framework

The California Framework also discusses bundling, but in more detail.  The California framework is especially useful for making connects between the Disciplinary Core Ideas,  Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts in elementary grades.  There is also information for storylines in middle and high school, but I find them to be a little less detailed.  The documents are in grade-level bands so you will have to do a little scrolling to find the appropriate grade level.

Looking at other bundles might make it so you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. If you like something that was done in either of these, don’t feel like you have to use the entire thing.  Take what works best for you and make adjustments.

TPT Cover Bundles

2. Make it relevant and think about phenomena right away.

When I am deciding how I will bundle performance expectations, my first thought is “how do I make this relevant to my students?”.

It is best to relate your bundle to an anchoring phenomenon right away.  If you are able to come up with an anchor in this initial stage, the rest of your planning process will be much easier.  Check out this blog post on selecting an anchor.  Your anchor must be meaningful to students.  I highly suggest selecting phenomena that are simple, local to students or both.

Consider the background knowledge of your students from prior grade levels.  Phenomena may be more complex if students have experience in an NGSS aligned classroom while students without that experience may need more simple phenomena.  It is also important to consider the real-world experiences that students are likely to have had that relate to the topic that you are covering.

3. Bundle standards that you find most relatable with the ones that you find less relatable.

There are standards that I find more and less relatable.  For example, I find the chemistry standards (like MS-PS1-1 through MS-PS1-6) to be the least relatable to real-world situations on the surface.  However, I find them incredibly easy to relate to a larger topic and like to use these as sub-standards.

Fuel Consumption and Earth's Resources

I bundle some of these chemistry standards with standards related to photosynthesis and cellular respiration.  Both of these processes provide a real-world example of chemical reactions.  Students are generally aware of these processes by the time that they reach middle school.  They are also easy for me to relate to phenomena like air quality and food production.


As with my example above, I tend to think of the Crosscutting Concept of Scale.  Students tend to relate most easily to phenomena that occur on what I like to call the person level.  Person-level-phenomena are the things that students encounter every day. Phenomena that occur on a micro or macro scale might be too big or too small to be directly relevant to students.   However, if person-level phenomena are used as anchoring phenomena, the less relatable phenomena might work well as investigative level phenomena.

That last paragraph is totally confusing, so I will give you an example.  When I taught biology I had to teach students about macromolecules.  Macromolecules aren’t generally the most exciting (do you remember O. Chem?).  However, I built my unit around looking at food consumption.  Food is definitely more relatable to students.  We talked about macro-nutrients which were very relatable to students.

High School Food and Macros Bundle

It’s also important to note that the chemistry standards might not be the least relatable to you.  I loved biology growing up only found out that chemistry is pretty cool much later in life.  Other teachers might find the chemistry standards to be most relatable.  It’s important to take your own experience and expertise into consideration when building bundles.  It is important that you do what works best for you!

4. Don’t be afraid to bundle across disciplines.

Generally speaking, the best storylines that I have seen have been built from integrated bundles.  I think this is true, in part, because the creation of integrated bundles requires the simultaneous creation of a story behind it.

There is also some very obvious overlap.  For example, in 8th grade I teach gravity (a physical science standard) and the solar system (Earth and Space Science).  To me, these standards make more sense when taught together because one provides the context for the other.

Moon Phases Bundle

5. Make bundles for your whole year all at once.

It is important that you do this for your entire year.  Otherwise, you might be left with a few standards that have nowhere to go.

I like to write down all of the performance expectations on sticky notes (have you figured out that I love sticky notes?).  I use a different color sticky note for potential phenomena.  I put related stickies together around a central phenomenon.

It’s a good idea to put them in the order that you will most likely teach them in as well.  You don’t have to build out all of your bundles at once, just get a good idea of where you are going.

Once you have created your bundles, you are ready to work on the details of your storyline.  If you haven’t already, read this blog post to find out how I do this.

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