Objectives and Essential Questions in the NGSS Classroom

February 10, 2019 No Comments

When I first began teaching, I was required to list the objectives of my whiteboard every day.  In the last couple of years, I have almost given up this practice entirely in my classroom.  In my classroom, students work to figure out how the natural world works.  Writing the objective, or what they are supposed to learn, kind of ruins the punch line.

This is not to say that objectives do not have a place in my classroom.   It is imperative that you have a goal in mind before you start any lesson with your students.  However, objectives should be used carefully in an NGSS aligned classroom.   If you would like to know more about using evidence statements to write objectives, check out this blog post.  


Shifting to essential questions

Most administrators still love to see objectives on your board.  To meet this requirement, I have started to post essential questions instead.

Essential questions are a vital component of inquiry-driven instruction for many reasons.  First, essential questions stimulate student thinking.  Secondly, a well-written essential question can relate your content to a real-world scenario or a big idea.   Finally, essential questions provide an excellent opportunity for you to use student-generated questions to drive your lessons.

Trees with question marks.jpg

How should objectives be used in an NGSS aligned classroom?

I use objectives in two primary ways in my classroom.  The first is for planning purposes.  My objectives list everything that I want my students to know and be able to do by the end of my lesson or unit.

For me, it can feel disingenuous to link every lesson to an essential question.  Sometimes, we simply spend the day practicing a skill.  For example, at the start of each unit, I introduce an anchoring phenomenon and ask students to generate questions about the phenomena.  Similarly, when students are designing an experiment, I could easily connect this practice to an essential question.  However, it feels more appropriate to tell students what the goal for the class period is.

How do you use objectives and essential questions in your classroom?



Erin Sadler

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