May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Big Idea Page: A Creative Way to Emphasize the Crosscutting Concepts for Three Dimensional Learning

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Jennifer Weibert

Making three-dimensional learning a reality in the classroom of teachers starting to implement the NGSS can be a struggle. In many cases, the Crosscutting Concepts are often an afterthought. According to A Framework for K-12 Science Education, “…the purpose of the Crosscutting Concepts is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas, and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (NRC, 2012). This is achieved via the Crosscutting Concepts, “because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (Achieve, 2016). The NGSS were designed for all three dimensions (Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts) to work together allowing the teacher to create an environment where students make sense of real world phenomena. To measure the success of this in an NGSS aligned classroom, teachers need access to evidence of student understanding and thinking. The Big Idea Page was my solution for that.

I originally developed The Big Idea Page when I was teaching 8th grade science. The idea came about after using the Big Idea Thesis (a 5 paragraph essay at the end of each unit developed by the K-12 Alliance) as a way to synthesize student learning. Through trial and error I found that students needed to collect evidence of learning throughout the unit, not just at the end of the unit in a reflection. The idea of a using a graphic organizer as a tool that students could use to process information as they worked through unit came to mind. It turned out to work very well, especially with my students who were English language learners. As an added benefit, the tool also has value in teacher planning where questions for the unit are generated by looking at the breadth of content students will be engaging in. In my current position with the Fresno County Office of Education, I now provide professional development to teachers, and I’ve experienced that they too find the Big Idea Page to be a useful tool for both student learning and teacher planning.

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Students actively engage in making Big Idea Pages because it is their own personal processing page. As a result, no two students have the same exact looking page. Below is are two examples completed student Big Idea Pages for the same unit. (For more information and detailed instructions on how to construct a Big Idea Page with examples of student work in several grades click here.)

The questions you see in the light bulbs drawn in these examples were based on the 1998 standards. They are fact based, and do not reflect the three-dimensional nature of the NGSS. My success in using the Big Idea Page with the 1998 standards led me to suspect that it could be used to create NGSS-aligned units of instruction and would be especially useful for integration of Crosscutting Concepts. I suggested to my K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative content cadre team (consisting of Herberta Zulueta of Oakland Unified and Dr. Art Sussman, one the authors of the draft California Science Framework), that we adapt the Big Idea Page to reflect three-dimensional learning and use it with our 7th grade Early Implementer teachers.

Below is the year-long sequence we developed with the integrated model for 7th grade. You’ll note that this sequence is parallel to the sequence identified in the draft California Science Framework.

Weibert-3

Click image for full size view.

We taught components of the first unit of this sequence to our 7th grade Early Implementer teachers from the Oakland area this past summer. We made the decision to break the unit into four pieces that could be tied to real life phenomena, offering opportunity for questions that would engage participants in making their own questions, provide opportunities for observable investigations, and create “buy-in.”

To accomplish this, we began by identifying how the Performance Expectations (PE’s) and Crosscutting Concepts (CCC’s) for each of the questions were divided. The Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI’s) that correlate are found on the outside of the light bulb you see in the image below.

Click to view a full size image.

Click to view a full size image.

You’ll notice that we also identified the Science and Engineering Practices that students would engage in, but our focus on Crosscutting Concepts helped us think about phenomenon and drive our questions. For this unit, the two CCC’s of Patterns and Energy and Matter were prominent. One additional consideration we had when generating questions was to stay away from vocabulary that would lead to an answer; we wanted to make the questions open enough for participants to collect evidence to answer it. For example, the first question we generated was intended to facilitate participant investigations of bonding and develop understanding that what happens at the microscopic level can also be seen on the macroscopic level. We came up with a creative way of asking about patterns of strong bonds in nature by asking the question, “Why don’t rocks melt on the playground”? The tool allowed us to be explicit about the use of Crosscutting Concepts in our planning and to generate a question broad enough to sustain investigation by participants. The image below shows the questions that we used for the 7th grade unit: Living and non-living things are made of matter.

Click to view a full size image.

Click to view a full size image.

Once we had determined our phenomenon questions, we were now ready to teach the unit. On the first day of the unit, the Big Idea Page was created in our session by asking the participants to draw a light bulb (or any other central icon of their choice that fits the theme of the unit). All four phenomenon-based questions were given to the participants to write down. Participants then work during the time we had together in class and go back to the Big Idea Page every so often and fill in evidence. As instructors, we would monitor work and ask smaller questions of our participants that related to the Crosscutting Concept as they investigated phenomenon and then encourage them to make that connection on their Big Idea Page. (Initially, participants or students new to this need teacher prompting to work on this page. In actual classroom practice, once students understand the purpose of the Big Idea Page, they often go back to this page on their own as their learning progresses to make connections.)

The Big Idea Page has great potential beyond daily input. Culminating activities at the end of the unit could include having students make a collaborative group Big Idea Page or use their evidence from their existing Big Idea Page and write an answer to a question in paragraph form for an essay. Both of these examples would provide another opportunity to bring back the Crosscutting Concept. For example, “what patterns explain the idea that living and non-living things are made of matter?” could be an end of unit question. Students eventually realize the value of the Big Idea Page as a tool that will help them with an end-of-unit task. Additionally, while some teachers include one question from the Big Idea Page on a unit test, others let this page be used as a resource by students on their test to further encourage student buy-in and support quality learning throughout the unit.

Overall, the process of using the Big Idea Page as a tool for constructing linkage among the three dimensions of teaching in the NGSS enhances a teacher’s ability to design, construct and deliver lessons that facilitate deeper understanding among students. It is also a creative tool to help teachers and students start digging into Crosscutting Concepts.

References:

Achieve (2016). Three Dimensions. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/three-dimensions

National Resource Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Fresno County Office of Education Big Idea Page with examples of student work in several grades: http://stem.fcoe.org/resources/science-notebooks.

Jennifer Weibert is a Science Coordinator for the Fresno County Office of Education and a member of CSTA. She can be reached at jweibert@fcoe.org

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.