My teaching partner and I have worked diligently over the past two years of NGSS implementation to ensure that our students experience science with an emphasis on the practices. We've developed a curriculum that includes a lot of hands-on lab activities and modeling. At the end of the year, as students reflected on their favorite parts of the year, many listed these hands-on labs and activities as what they remembered and liked best.
This summer, I want to review these activities to make sure that they are building towards student understanding of the big ideas of science. I want my students to feel that they are building layers of understanding instead of participating in fun but randomly arranged activities. We've developed some great activities but we need to organize them to deliberately build toward deeper understanding. Dr. Brian Reiser has provided some graphic organizers that I am going to be using in this process. You can access his presentation here.
This type of organization of learning activities will also benefit from the selection of anchor phenomena for each unit. Phenomena-based instruction is one of the big ideas of the NGSS, but it is one that I haven't fully developed yet. Now that I have two years with the NGSS under my belt, I have some time to think about which anchor phenomena to use with each unit. I'll be using the NGSS Phenomena website as a tool, and I'll also be continuing to collaboratively develop my own phenomena list for middle school.
My final plan for the summer is to develop some quality assessments that incorporate all three dimensions of the NGSS. I'll be using guidance from STEM Teaching Tools' Short Course and the Task Formats from the Research and Practice Collaboratory.
As you begin your summer vacation, what reflection and refinement will you engage in? Remember to share because we are stronger together. Here's to a summer of rest, rejuvenation, reflection, and refinement.