Grade-appropriate elements of the science and engineering practice(s), disciplinary core idea(s), and crosscutting concept(s), work together to support students in three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions to problems.
The first words of the statement are "grade-appropriate elements." In one sense, it's easy to say that I accomplished this aspect of the standards this year. Kentucky took the grade-banded middle school standards and divided them into grade levels. By teaching to these grade-leveled standards, I was working with grade-appropriate elements.
However, I don't think it's that simple. The depth and complexity required by the standards was a big challenge in this first year of implementation. The middle school standards presuppose students' exposure to the elementary standards. This year's students had no prior NGSS exposure.
This year, my teaching partner and I had students construct explanations after several investigations. Because this was the students' (and our) first exposure to constructing explanations, our expectations were simple. We required students to state their claim, provide some evidence to support that claim, and use scientific vocabulary and/or scientific principles where applicable.
Is that a success? In year one of implementation, I believe it is a success. While we may not have reached the depth of complexity required in the the NGSS in statements like the one below, we did move students forward in their abilities to think like scientists.
Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena. (NGSS Appendix F)
The second area for improvement is the depth of thinking expected from students. As I reflect on the activities of the past year, I realize that I need to slow down at the end of the investigations to give students time to think about and discuss their findings. From that discussion, students will better be able to construct explanations.
I also see that students need experience analyzing data to use in constructing explanations. Next year, I'll consciously provide those opportunities throughout the year as well.
Overall, with respect to grade-level appropriateness, I am happy with this past year, but I also realize that I have a lot of work ahead of me to truly reach the level of depth and complexity required in the NGSS.
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