This week, I was asked to submit some student work for a PLC reflection. Since the practice used in the student work wasn't the practice used in the performance expectation, I decided to go to Appendix F to select specific elements (the bullet points listed for each practice at specific grade bands) of the pracitces that students were demonstrating in the modeling activity.
The students had spent time creating analogies (which can be considered models) and identifiying strengths and limitations of their classmates' models. I knew that I was embracing the shifts in the idea of modeling that the NGSS required. We certainly weren't duplicating existing models, and no one was creating anything edible. Plus, we were talking about strengths and limitations. Those are key words for NGSS modeling.
When I went to Appendix F, I found these elements of the modeling practice
**Develop a model using an analogy, example, or abstract representation to describe a scientific principle or design solution (from the 3-5 grade band).
**Identify limitations of models (also from 3-5 grade band).
So far, so good, right? If you know much about me, you may remember that I teach middle school (7th grade). In one glance at Appendix F, I went from being an NGSS rockstar (in my own mind) to a teacher working at least 2 grade levels below where I should actually be teaching.
After I picked my self-esteem up off the floor, I made a few important relfelctions. The first was that the students I was working with had probably not been exposed this type of modeling in grades 3-5, and had not experienced it at this depth in 6th grade either. So I wasn't totally unfounded in working with elements from the 3-5 grade band, however unintentionally it has happened. The second reflection was even more important: If I never look at the elements of the science and engineering practices in Appendix F, I may never be reaching the grade-band expectations for the practices. The same holds true for the crosscutting concepts.
Achieve, Inc, emphasized this idea this week as well when they published their NGSS Screening Tool that teachers can use to evaluate their lessons to see if they align to the vision of the NGSS. That tool suggests that science instruction should look more like this: