By Tricia Shelton and Kate Soriano, National Science Teaching Association
Posted on 2022-07-07
NSTA serves as a hub for implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and three-dimensional state standards based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education (referred to as Framework). NSTA is committed to supporting science educators as they enact the instructional shifts these standards require (see Blog 1 in our blog series).
Essential to support these instructional shifts and to provide opportunities for teachers to build on and extend their practice is access to high-quality instructional materials (HQIM). To be considered high quality, these materials must be designed for three-dimensional standards and exemplify contemporary instructional approaches. We recommend that these HQIM be paired with professional learning to support teachers in enacting HQIM with integrity by leveraging their students’ assets and lived experiences. The field of science education is exploring multiple approaches to developing NGSS-designed instructional materials, as described in the “NGSS Special Issue” of the Journal of Science Teacher Education (Campbell & Lee, 2021).
NSTA has been developing our approach to creating instructional materials informed by the field and teacher feedback. NSTA develops three categories of instructional materials: NSTA Daily Do Lessons, NSTA Daily Do Playlists, and NSTA Storylines. (These names are shortened to Daily Do Lessons, Daily Do Playlists, and Storylines hereafter.) These instructional materials can be accessed directly by educators and are also part of NSTA’s curriculum-based professional learning (to be addressed in Blog 3 in our blog series). Features of NSTA’s three-dimensional instructional materials (independent of category) include:
NSTA instructional materials are an important aspect of the NSTA mission to promote teacher sensemaking (see the figure below). Student equity is at the center of NSTA instructional materials. These materials are guided by conceptual frameworks or instructional approaches to support all students, especially those groups that have traditionally been marginalized in science education.
The purpose of this blog, Blog 2 in our blog series, is to share the three categories of instructional materials used by NSTA members as part of their professional learning ecosystem. While the instructional materials in all three categories translate contemporary research into teaching and learning, they differ in the complexity of classroom implementation (teaching) and student learning. The increasing sophistication is also reflected in the increasing investment of instructional time from an individual Daily Do Lesson (a couple of days), to a Daily Do Playlist (a couple of weeks), to a full Storyline (several weeks). Each category of NSTA instructional materials is described in terms of our rationale and examples of the instructional materials in that category. These examples are selected because they are written for different grade levels and subject areas and are positioned at different time points in a larger instructional sequence.
Daily Do Lessons
Daily Do Lessons are discrete, stand-alone lessons in which students make sense of a phenomenon or design solutions to a problem over the course of one to three 45-minute class periods. The lesson plans include rich but concise guidance for teachers and families to engage students in sensemaking. Students are positioned as the “knowers” to authentic and relevant science learning.
Daily Do Lessons serve as the foundational access point to curriculum-based professional learning. Teacher guidance around contemporary pedagogy and critical aspects of student sensemaking is at a grain-size digestible to teachers who are beginning to shift their instructional practices. Teachers can use Daily Do Lessons to extend their professional learning to learn while teaching in the classroom.
Why is my shadow always changing?
Elementary (Grade 1) physical science (one or two 45-minute class periods)
This lesson makes use of formative assessment probes as a means for young students to share their science ideas about shadows. The lesson plan includes a video in which NSTA Press author Page Keeley provides teacher guidance for using these probes to engage students in productive talk and science and engineering practices to explain how shadows change size and shape. These instructional strategies can be employed with different formative assessment probes across grade levels and science subjects.
Why don’t the dishes move?
High school physical science (two 45-minute class periods)
Many magic tricks are applications of science ideas performed with a flourish! Removing a tablecloth from beneath the dish set on a table without removing the dishes is no exception. Students engage in the science practice of using mathematics and computational thinking and the crosscutting concept of patterns to make sense of forces. Students use their science ideas about forces to explain how the “tablecloth trick” works. The lesson is positioned second in sequence of three lessons as part of Daily Do Playlist Newton’s Second Law (described below).
How can computational modeling help explain how different groups of people are affected when COVID-19 spreads through a community?
Middle school science and engineering (two to three 45-minute class periods)
This lesson engages middle school students in science and engineering practices, especially computational modeling, to explain the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups. First, students identify patterns in COVID-19 data by racial and ethnic group. Then they use a computational model to test their ideas about how different groups of people are affected when a virus spreads through a community. This lesson leverages the assets of all students, but especially multilingual learners, by drawing on their knowledge and experiences related to a pressing societal challenge (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic) and providing multiple ways to express ideas (e.g., code blocks, dynamic visualization). The lesson is positioned second in a sequence of three lessons that make up Daily Do Playlist Understanding COVID-19 Disparities Using Computational Modeling (described below).
Daily Do Playlists
Daily Do Playlists are a suggested instructional sequence of two or more Daily Do Lessons in which students coherently build science ideas over time. These short instructional sequences include teacher guidance for supporting students to move from one lesson to the next in the context of a We Culture; that is, students’ questions that arise from experiencing the phenomenon are strategically used to move students to the next lesson in a way that is coherent from the students’ perspective. Students and teacher decide together which student question should be answered next and how to put science ideas together to explain the phenomenon or solve the problem over time:
Source: NextGenStorylines Five Questions to Guide the Development of a Classroom Culture That Supports “Figuring Out”
Daily Do Playlists provide curriculum-based professional learning through workshop immersion and/or enactment in the classroom. Daily Do Playlists are more complex than teaching a stand-alone Daily Do Lesson, but much more accessible than teaching a full storyline or unit. Because Daily Do Playlists are developed from Daily Do Lessons, they include teacher guidance around contemporary pedagogy and critical aspects of student sensemaking. Playlists also contain teacher guidance for supporting and sustaining teacher sensemaking, which in turn supports and sustains student sensemaking over multiple lessons. Like Daily Do Lessons, Daily Do Playlists are at a grain-size digestible to teachers who are beginning their instructional shifts.
Newton’s Second Law
High school physical science (six to eight 45-minute class periods)
In this instructional sequence of three Daily Do Lessons, students engage in sensemaking as they answer the driving question: How do asteroids leave the asteroid belt? This driving question emerges from students’ experience with the phenomenon of the Chelyabinsk meteor in the first lesson of the sequence. Guidance is provided to use questions that arise (anticipated student questions) to move students from one lesson to the next. Over the three-lesson sequence, students engage in a wide range of science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts of patterns and cause-and-effect to build understanding of Newton’s Second Law and construct an explanation that answers the driving question.
Understanding COVID-19 Disparities Using Computational Modeling
Middle school science and engineering (eight to ten 45-minute class periods)
In this instructional sequence of three Daily Do Lessons, students use science and engineering practices and engineering core ideas to explain and design solutions to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups. In the first lesson, students use a computational model to explain how a virus spreads, which leads students to wonder whether all people are affected by the spread of a virus in the same way. In the second lesson, students use a computational model to explain how different groups of people are affected by the spread, which leads students to wonder how they could design solutions to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minority groups. In the last lesson, students design justice-centered solutions to the problem of disproportionate impact. This instructional sequence leverages the assets of all students, but especially multilingual learners, by drawing on their knowledge and experiences related to a pressing societal challenge (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic) and providing multiple ways to express ideas (e.g., code blocks, dynamic visualization).
NSTA Storylines can be described similarly to those developed by Next Generation Science Storylines (https://www.nextgenstorylines.org/what-are-storylines): "A storyline is a coherent sequence of lessons, in which each step is driven by students' questions that arise from their interactions with phenomena. A student's goal should always be to explain a phenomenon or solve a problem. At each step, students make progress on the classroom's questions through science and engineering practices, to figure out a piece of a science idea. Each piece they figure out adds to the developing explanation, model, or designed solution. Each step may also generate questions that lead to the next step in the storyline. Together, what students figure out helps explain the unit's phenomena or solve the problems they have identified. A storyline provides a coherent path toward building disciplinary core idea and crosscutting concepts, piece by piece, anchored in students' own questions."
Many similarities exist between a Daily Do Playlist and Storyline, including using student-generated (anticipated) questions to navigate from lesson to lesson, supporting students to build science ideas over time, and putting students’ science ideas together to explain how or why the phenomenon occurs or design solutions to a problem. A key differences is the phenomenon or problem anchoring the Storyline is more complex, requiring multiple disciplinary core ideas to explain the phenomenon. Greater complexity translates into more extended instructional time. Teacher guidance includes purposefully revisiting the anchoring phenomenon or problem throughout the instructional sequence so students can track their progress toward explaining the phenomenon or designing a solution. Using students’ questions to navigate between lessons and helping students track their progress over time creates coherence of the instructional sequence from the students’ perspective. This coherence supports maintaining students’ enthusiasm for learning over multiple weeks of learning.
What happens to our garbage?
Grade 5 physical science (45 45-minute class periods)
The anchoring phenomenon of this unit is that the school, home, and neighborhood make large amounts of garbage every day. In answering the driving question of the unit, “What happens to our garbage?”, students investigate a series of sub-questions (e.g., “What is that smell?” and “What causes changes in the properties of garbage materials?”) that address a targeted set of physical science and life science performance expectations. Over nine weeks of instruction, students develop a coherent understanding of the structure and properties of matter to make sense of the anchoring phenomenon and to answer the driving question. This unit was developed by NYU SAIL Research Lab with a specific focus on multilingual learners by using an engaging, local phenomenon and design principles that capitalize on the mutually supportive nature of science and language learning.
High school life science (14 50-minute class periods)
The anchoring phenomenon is something familiar yet mysterious to this generation of students—bans of certain foods in their cafeterias and classrooms. Students connect these bans to food allergies. The storyline begins by asking students to consider what they know about food allergies and what they want to find out. These student questions (anticipated) drive the investigations that provide students opportunities to make sense of the disciplinary core ideas needed to explain the biological mechanism behind food allergies and intolerances.
We share three categories of NSTA instructional materials to support teachers in transforming their practice and implement the vision of the NGSS and the Framework in their classrooms across the nation. These three categories, NSTA Daily Do Lessons, NSTA Daily Do Playlists, and NSTA Storylines, provide multiple access points for teachers so “NSTA can meet them where they are and bring them to the table.” NSTA instructional materials serve as a lever for transforming teacher sensemaking and instructional practices for the new vision in science education. This new vision focuses on all students with student equity at the center. The examples featured in this blog use conceptual frameworks or instructional approaches with a focus on student groups that have traditionally been marginalized in science education. In our next blog (Blog 3 in our blog series), we will discuss teacher professional learning, another powerful lever in NSTA’s ecosystem of support for science teachers.
Campbell, D. T., & Lee, O. (2021). Instructional materials designed for A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 32(7), 727-734.
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