Turning a Storyline Plan into Lessons

October 26, 2019 1 Comment

In my last post, I wrote about how I create cohesive storylines for a bundle.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the planning process.  Building your initial storyline is an outline that helps you get an idea of where you are going.  But the day-to-day lesson planning still needs to be done.

I use questions as a focal point for my lesson planning process.  I start all of my longer instructional sequences or units with an anchoring phenomenon.  That phenomenon is used to generate student questions which I use to help build out the rest of my lesson sequence.  If I have never used this anchoring phenomenon in a classroom, I will need to anticipate student questions in order to build a tentative storyline.

My General Outline Sequence

Here is the general outline that I use when planning shorter instructional sequences. Ideally, I start with a student-generated question related to the phenomena.  (Don’t worry, I will be posting more on this piece soon!)  I find an investigative phenomenon related to the question. Students would then use a Science and Engineering Practice to make sense of the phenomenon and then come away with a piece of the Disciplinary Core Idea, Crosscutting Concept or both.

Lesson Sequence.png


Within a single lesson sequence like this, I would expect that students meet one objective.  To see how I come up with unit objectives, check out this post. Once a question is answered, we can explore another question.

I sequence like this may take between 2-3 days or a week.  We will have to go through this look several times before students walk away with a complete understanding of the performance expectations in the bundle that I am teaching.

I didn’t add the assessment to the diagram above because I may assess my students formally more than once in the sequence.

I created this graphic organizer to help me organize my lesson planning.

Graphic Organizer Lesson Planning

This graphic organizer is the October Freebie when you sign up to receive my newsletter.

Using the Practices

Students should be using the practice of Asking Questions at all times in your lesson sequence.  I recommend creating a spot in your classroom where students can write down the questions they have when they come up.  These can be used for future instructional sequences.

You should review the practices to determine which is the most appropriate to help your students to better understand the concepts.  For example:

  • Have students analyze data related to the concept.
  • Give students the opportunity to create and share their models with their peers.
  • Have students design an investigation to collect data that relates to the content.

You do not have to stick to the practice that is mentioned in the performance expectation.  Just make sure that you allow students to have the opportunity to use the designated practice within your unit before they are formally assessed on that practice.

Making Sure Students Get the Disciplinary Core Idea and Connections to the Crosscutting Concept

One of my favorite things to do after students have used the Science and Engineering Practice is to provide them with an exit ticket that links to one of the Crosscutting Concepts.

For example, when students are learning about the relationship between particle motion and temperature, I provide students with a beaker of hot water and cold water.  Then I put a drop of food coloring in each.  Students create a model to show what they believe is happening.  Before they leave the room, I give them an exit ticket that asks “I put water in an ice cube tray and put it in the freezer.  What effect will the freezer have on the speed of the water particles in the ice tray?”.  This will provide a link to the Crosscutting Concept of Cause and Effect.

For this particular concept, I find that almost all of my students understand that heat causes the particles to move more quickly so I don’t need to provide much more explanation.  However, I do need to provide them with the vocabulary to help them better explain these concepts.  At this point, I might introduce terms like kinetic and thermal energy.  Providing students with the vocabulary may be all that I need to do to help students understand this piece of the Disciplinary Core Idea.

In other scenarios, I may need to provide students with more of an explanation.  This may come in the form of a simulation, a short video or something that they may read.

What questions do you have about my lesson planning process?




Erin Sadler

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1 Comment

  • Alison July 8, 2020 at 5:59 am

    Is that NGSS lesson planner template still available?

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