5 Tips for Teaching NGSS Online

July 19, 2020 No Comments

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the coming school year. No matter what your district plan is, the numbers of Covid-19 cases can shift and your plans might change. Here are my tips for teaching NGSS online.

There is more to NGSS-ing online than just NGSS.

Building relationships, communicating with parents, and more are part of making sure that your online NGSS aligned course is successful. However, for brevity’s sake, I chose to stick to things that are NGSS specific.

I linked to an excellent post from Cult of Pedagogy at the bottom of this post. This post discusses all things non-NGSS. I highly recommend that you take a look.

1. Choose great phenomena to promote student engagement in your online NGSS course.

One of the biggest complaints that I heard from teachers was that student engagement was low during remote learning. While we can’t control many of the factors that were at play, we can do our best to make engaging lessons. Participation and engagement go hand-in-hand.

Engaging NGSS lessons start with great phenomena, even if you are teaching online. Phenomena help make a connection between student’s lives and what we are teaching them. If you aren’t sure how to select great phenomena, check out these blog posts.

How do you present phenomena online?

It’s easy to introduce phenomena online. Here are a few ways:

  • Present students with a video.
  • Use a Google Slides Presentation to present data or an image.
  • Use Screencastify or WeVideo to create a video of you presenting the phenomenon.
  • Follow any of these up with a Notice and Wonder activity.

2. Continue using an “explore before explain” approach for your online lesson sequences.

Even though you aren’t in a classroom, you can still use a discovery approach. If you aren’t familiar with a discovery approach, check out this episode of the Teaching Science in 3D Podcast.

Again, it is important to lead with a phenomenon and that are engaging. Then, make sure students have a chance to explore the topic before you are giving them the answer.

What type of exploration activities can be done online?

There are several types of exploration activities that can be done online. Here are just a few:

  • Simulations- If using simulations as an exploration activity, make sure students are really investigating.
  • Digital card sorts
  • Developing models- You can teach your students to use Google Drawing™ to create digital models.
  • Graph or Map Annotations- To learn more about how to teach students to annotate, check out this post.

3. Get Creative To Allow for Discussion

It’s hard to get students to talk when they aren’t physically together. But student discussions are a huge part of the NGSS.

Here are a few ideas for getting your students talking.

  • Have students respond to a prompt that you put in the stream in Google Classroom.
  • Use Flipgrid to have students create an argument. Leave commenting on and require students to respond to a set number of posts.
  • Use breakout rooms during your live meetings. I have heard that some teachers have been allowed to use parent volunteers to proctor the breakout sessions. Alternatively, you could also split up your live time into segments to proctor these sessions yourself.

Of course, students will need to be taught appropriate behavior. It’s also a good idea to provide prompts and clear guidelines to help them with their response. Also, many of these suggestions are dependent on school policy.

4. Replace and re-work hands-on activities.

The most difficult components to deal with are hands-on activities. In many cases, there won’t be a way to give your students this experience. You will have to replace the hand-on activity that will give students this knowledge.

In some cases, you may be able to modify the activities in the the following ways:

  • Record a demonstration of the hands-on activity.
  • Provide students with a list of resources that they could use to recreate the activity using common household items. In this case, make sure that you provide a list of alternate materials that may also work, just in case they don’t have the items on hand.
  • Create bags of materials that students can pick up. These work best if they are small, inexpensive, and disposable items.
  • Look for a digital replacement. Many common lab activities can be found in the form of simulations online.

Again, each of these options is dependent on local policy, resource availability,

5. Make Your NGSS Interactive Notebook Digital

I love a physical notebook. But, since we plan on spending so much time outside of our school this year, a physical notebook might be impractical.

There are several methods that you can use to create a digital notebook. In the past, I have used what I call the Table of Contents method to create a digital notebook. You can find information about how I do that here.

Many teachers also use Google Slides™ to create a digital notebook. Each slide is a page in the notebook. If you chose to use this method, there is an extension that you can download called Slip-in-Slide. This will allow you to add additional slides to multiple student slide decks at once.

6. When Teaching Online, Edit Your NGSS Storyline

It is difficult to cover everything you would like to cover, even when you are in class. But, when teaching online this can be even more difficult. Consider removing pieces of your storyline that are not absolutely vital.

In some cases, it is possible for these to be used as optional extension pieces.

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Erin Sadler

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