Practical Tools to Begin Implementing the NGSS in a First Grade Classroom
Posted: Friday, May 13th, 2016
by Crystal Howe, Nicole Hawke, and William Straits:
Across the state, during the summer of 2016, hundreds of teachers of NGSS “Early Implementers” schools participated in professional development institutes designed to help teachers better understand NGSS and science pedagogy. During a week-long summer institute, we worked with 1st grade teachers to explore sound and light waves, while highlighting practical tools to help implement NGSS in classrooms. These tools included a KLEWS chart (Hershberger & Zembal-Saul, 2015) to focus science learning, a field trip structured to create opportunities for students to share their science thinking, and the Engineering Design Cycle from Appendix I of NGSS.
KLEWS is a graphic organizer that documents five steps in students learning: what students Know initially, what students Learn during investigations and what Evidence supports that learning, what students still Wonder after an investigation, and which Scientific principles/vocabulary explain the phenomena investigated. The KLEWS chart is a great way to take the well-known idea of KWL and expand it to show the importance of students’ evidence and the scientific principles students interact with. While the KLEW chart has been around since 2006, it was recently updated to include the letter S. While this addition may seem minimal, it is really at the heart of purpose behind the using the KLEWS chart, having students create scientific claims using the Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning Framework.
Our KLEWS chart focused on the question: What is sound? Through multiple Explore/Explain cycles the teachers were able to build learning, evidence, wonderings, and scientific principles from basic ideas they collected during investigations, such as vibrations cause sound, to the more difficult ones such as how sound waves move through different types of mediums. Even more useful, our teachers were able to use the Learning, Evidence, and Scientific principles of the KLEWS chart to construct strong scientific explanations at the end of the learning series, getting a hands-on experience of what it may look like for their first grade students.
We found the KLEWS chart to be a great scaffold to help elementary teachers in particular build in natural places throughout the investigation sequences, to encourage students to begin to build explanations. The hope at the elementary level is that we begin to repeatedly provide students with opportunities to document their learning as it progresses, taking away the fear of not knowing the “right” answer, and instead thinking of the evidence they have to support their learning.
Structured Field Trip
Many teachers take their students on field trips. Often these trips take place as a culminating event that rewards students for their work in the classroom and provides an opportunity for students to experience science phenomena related to their studies. However, all too often these trips are disconnected from classroom learning. We provided our 1stgrade teachers with a field trip structured to help them see that a field trip can actually be a part of the explore and explain section of a learning sequence, not just an extension.
Our teachers had the opportunity to visit the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego. Prior to this visit, as the “teachers” we took the time to visit the museum. During this planning we found that while multiple exhibits were obviously linked to the ideas of sound and light waves, certain exhibits lent themselves to the first grade context better than others. We made deliberate choices about where and what we wanted the participants to think about at while visiting. Through this planning, we designed a field-trip guide that facilitated a more meaningful use of their time than free exploration.
While teachers explored the museum, they were given a field trip guide with guiding questions that prompted them to investigate how specific museum exhibits showcased sound or light waves. In addition to these written directions, we instructors positioned ourselves at specific exhibits and provided additional challenges to teachers. This allowed us to push our learners’ thinking, help them to connect to classroom learning, and provide individualized and focused instruction during the field trip.
Additionally, pairs of teachers were assigned specific museum exhibits and expected to create a model to help them explain how the exhibit worked for the rest of us when we returned to class. This meant that teachers had to apply the learning they had been doing all week in class while they “played” in the museum.
When we came back to class, our teachers were excited to share their models of the sound and light exhibits. They were ready to show their thinking and use modeling to explain how sound and light work. Even more important, by getting the chance to see sound and light in a world outside of the classroom, our teachers were ready to ask each other questions and were confident in trying to explain themselves – we became more focused on learning and less on the “right” answer. This is the best of what we want to do in science classrooms with students, urging our students to stretch themselves and come up with new ideas based on the understanding they already have of the natural world.
Engineering Design Cycle
We decided to use the 1st grade Performance Expectation 1-PS4-4: Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance, as a culminating activity for our institute. While we don’t usually teach explicitly to the performance expectations, this P.E. allowed teachers to demonstrate their new science understandings developed during the institute and served as a great opportunity for teachers to applying their new science understandings while experiencing the engineering design process.
We defined the problem telling teachers they need to communicate over a long distance and need to design and build a device to make it happen. We supplied a great many different materials, including paper towel tubes, white paper, water bottles, plastic cups, string, yarn, fishing line, tape, boxes, flashlights, colored paper, and assorted art supplies. However we were concerned that all of our teachers would decide to build the standard cup and string device that many teachers could’ve built before the institute and that would fail to achieve the full potential of this engineering activity. So, prior to setting teachers loose on their engineering task, we helped conquer the desire to go to the most straightforward design by introducing our teachers to NGSS Appendix I: Engineering Design. (The engineering design cycles clarify what it means for students to engage in engineering at each grade band. Each cycle describes an iterative, three-step cycle that requires students to Define the problem, Develop Solutions, and then evaluate and revise solutions in order to Optimize their effectiveness. See Figure 1.)
With the focus now on solving a problem instead of just building a device, and with teachers wanting to show all they had learned about sound and light during the week, the designs were varied, interesting, and far more creative than cups and strings. After the first design and building period we asked each group to test their devices. There were varying levels of greatness to each of these, but everyone felt validated for their effort. Each was a solution to the problem of long-distance communication and a showcase of the teachers’ learning from the week. The opportunity to then update their devices based on the positives and negatives of both their testing and the other devices which had been built, led to even stronger final projects. Teachers culminated use of the device by playing “the telephone game” around a gymnasium without actually talking to one another.
Throughout our first summer institute, our 1st grade early implementers experienced NGSS-based science lessons and learned much about science pedagogy and physical science content. We hope that they were able to translate much of this to their classroom practice and that they are as excited as we are for year two with Earth and Space Science and more great science pedagogy and NGSS explorations!
Hershberger, K. & Zembal-Saul, C. (2015). KLEWS to explanation-building in science. Science and Children, 52(6), 66-71.
Figure 1: Appendix I: Engineering Design in the NGSS
Crystal Howe is a TK-12 Science/Math Resource Teacher in the San Diego Unified School District, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Hawke is a 1st Grade Teacher for the Coachella Valley Unified School District, and her e-mail is email@example.com
William Straits is a Professor of Science Education at the California State University Long Beach. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017
The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.
Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.
If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
by Jessica Sawko
January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.
California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing
The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
by Jessica Sawko
The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…