How to Start the School Year in an NGSS Aligned Classroom

June 8, 2019 No Comments

You may have read a previous post about why I am not using the Scientific Method in my classroom anymore.  So, how are you supposed to start the school year in an NGSS aligned classroom?  Keep reading to find out.

Start your school year by focusing on procedures. (In context!)

Even before I started using the NGSS in my classroom, I would spend a significant amount of time going over procedures.  It's important to teach students how you want them to behave, move around the classroom, get supplies, and ask how to use the bathroom.  Students need to be told things that may seem obvious to you.  (No, you can't play tag in the classroom!)

However, it is important that procedures be taught in context.  If you aren't using microscopes until week 3, it probably isn't a valuable use of class time to show them how to carry the microscopes during your first week.

Teachers often try to teach all of the procedures right away. This can cause students to shut down due to information overload and boredom.  The first time (and maybe the second and third) that you do something in your class, plan to spend time going over the procedure associated with the task.

Start your NGSS aligned class by looking at content early.

I know this sounds crazy, but there is nothing wrong with jumping right into your content.

This, of course, kind of depends on your school.  One of the schools I worked at made schedule changes for up to two weeks into the new school year to balance classes.  With five teachers teaching the same subject, this could be really tricky, especially if your team isn't on the same page about how to start the year.

That being said, students are ready to start the school year.  Don't be afraid to jump into your first unit, but start slow.  At the same time, you will be acclimating students to your procedures so you won't be ready to move at full speed right away.

Teach students how to use one of the Science and Engineering Practices (and then another one!).

I have seen several teachers talk about teaching students how to use ALL of the Science and Engineering Practices as an introduction to the class.  I would strongly advise against this.  Instead, start with one.

For example, with my 7th graders, we start the year by discussing particles and particle motion.  MS-PS1-1 and MS-PS1-4 require that students develop and use models.  We start discussing modeling right away.  We discuss the different types of models, how they are used, and how to make them.  Once students have the basics of modeling down, they can start creating their own.

Then they learn about argumentation.  Students share their models and discuss similarities and differences and learn to argue (nicely!) about the differences.  In the first few weeks, students start to become familiar with two practices.

The practices are always taught in context.  When I teach students about modeling, I explain it is one of the practices used by scientists.  I show them where the other practices are posted on my wall, and leave it there.

Want to learn more?

Erin Sadler

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