Thematic and Topic Models for NGSS

May 31, 2020 No Comments

If you are an elementary science teacher, you have probably seen that there are two different suggested models.  These models, the Topic Model and the Thematic Model for NGSS, are available for kindergarten through fifth grade.

What does “Model” mean in NGSS?

The term model means two different things in NGSS.  Most of the time, when we are talking about modeling, we are talking about the Science and Engineering Practice of Developing and Using Models.

However, the model that I am referring to in this post is different.  There are two different suggestions for bundling elementary NGSS standards.  Each of these is called a model.  The two versions are the thematic model and the topic model. To view these models by grade level, click here.

If you aren't familiar with the concept of bundling, you might want to read this post that explains bundling in detail.  There are usually three to five bundles per grade level, depending on the model.

What is the Thematic Model?

In the thematic model, bundles are created to support a given theme.  This theme increases in depth and complexity throughout the school year.  For example, I have provided information about the first and fourth-grade thematic models.

First Grade Example: Thematic model

The first-grade bundle is written around the theme of light. Students learn how light affects our ability to see and interacts with various materials.  Students will then learn how light affects organisms and see how daylight changes over time.

Fourth Grade Example: Thematic Model

The fourth-grade thematic model focuses on the theme that the designed (human-made) world can be divided into systems.  Across these systems, there are patterns that exist throughout the designed world.

What is the Topic Model?

In the topic model, each bundle has a separate but related topic.

First Grade Example: Topic Model

The first-grade topic model is broken into three bundles.  The first model looks at the concept of light.  Next, the second bundle introduces the concept of sound and communication.  Finally, the third bundle focuses on the concept of structure and function in organisms.

Fourth Grade Example: Thematic Model

The fourth-grade topic model is broken into five bundles.

  • 1: Information Processing
  • 2: Energy
  • 3: Energy and Collisions
  • 4: Waves and Wave Properties
  • 5: Impact of Natural Hazards

Which is better, the thematic or topic model?

Neither of these models is better than the other.  It is really about choosing the model that makes the most sense to you.

I personally find the topic model easier to work with.  It is easier to find phenomena that work with these more specific pieces of content rather than an overarching theme.  However, that is a personal preference.  Also, what works better for you may vary between grade levels.

Do you have to follow one of these models?

Again, these models are just a recommended sequence.  If you are comfortable with the concept of bundling, you may wish to build your own.

For more resources for building your own scope and sequence, check out these resources:

Erin Sadler

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