NGSS Science – How to Get Started

January 17, 2021 2 Comments

Here are 5 things that you can do to start using NGSS style teaching in your science class. It’s easier than you think!

What is NGSS Science?

NGSS Science refers to the Next Generation Science Standards.  The standards are based on research that was done by the National Research Council to improve science education.  The council published their findings in a Science Framework in 2012.  From there, standards were created to help implement the changes and recommendations made by the council.

The Next Gen Science Standards are significantly different than previous versions of standards.  For example, the NGSS does not focus on the memorization of facts.  Rather, they are written in a 3-dimensional form to emphasize content knowledge AND science practices.  To learn more about three-dimensional learning, click here.

Everything You Need to Know About 3-Dimensional Learning

How to Get Started with NGSS Science – In 5 Easy Steps

I made a LOT of mistakes when I first started teaching NGSS science in my classroom.  For example,  I thought I could do all of the things right away.  I worked endless hours and truthfully didn’t produce much great content.  Instead of taking on everything all at once, I recommend making small changes in your classroom.

Here are five easy ways to begin to make the transition.

1. Come up with an initial game plan for NGSS implementation with your team.

The more people that you involve in this initial part of the process the better.  Ideally, you would work with your entire team of teachers and include some administrators in this process.   By working as a team you will have more buy-in and will be less likely to have to redo your work later.  It’s awful to see teachers writing lesson sequences and assessments only to have them replaced later.

2. Review the Disciplinary Core Ideas.

When you look at all of the standards in their entirety, they can be more than a bit overwhelming.  However, the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) most closely resemble the old standards because they tell you what a student should know before they leave your classroom.

When you are just starting to implement NGSS in your classroom, this can be a good place to start.  Before you dive deeper into the standards, get familiar with what is (and is not) in the DCI.

Some of these things might surprise you.  For example, as I have mentioned before, there is no longer a requirement to teach atomic structure in middle school.  Students should be able to distinguish between atoms and molecules, but they don’t have to know about protons and neutrons.

3. Start thinking about phenomena.

Phenomena are such a vital piece of NGSS instruction.  To learn more about why check out this post.

While I believe you should be using phenomena all of the time, it isn’t reasonable to expect that you will be able to have it all right away.  Try making a list of phenomena that you can use in your classroom.  I am starting to keep track of things that I see out and about in the world using the hashtag #ssphenomena.

4. Assess the materials you already have.

Many of the activities you already have can be used with some minor adjustments.

Is there a way to make your labs more inquiry-based?  Can you include a phenomenon?  Can you add Science and Engineering practices or use the lessons you have already created to teach Crosscutting Concepts?

You may also realize that some of the material doesn’t fit with your curriculum anymore.  Again, you don’t have to get rid of it all at once, but start phasing it out.

5. Choose a Crosscutting Concept or a Science and Engineering Practice to focus on.

By narrowing your focus, you are more likely to create high-quality content that requires fewer revisions in the future.  You can choose the Crosscutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Concepts that you are most comfortable with, or choose the ones that seem to show up a lot in your grade level.

Both the SEPs and CCC’s should be explicitly taught, so create a clear method for helping your students to understand these concepts.

Not sure you are getting it right??!?  Check out these posts!

This post was orginally published on July 8, 2018.  It was last revise on January 17, 2021.  

Erin Sadler

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  • Melissa B. December 27, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestions! NGSS seem more approachable now!

    • Erin Sadler December 27, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      That’s great to hear!

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