The NSTA Quick-Reference Guide to the NGSS, Elementary School
by Ted Willard

Price at time of review: $14.95
114 pp.
NSTA Press
Arlington, VA
ISBN: 9781941316115

Grade Level: K-5

Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant

Are you working with teachers and students at the elementary school level? Need some new ideas when it comes to planning and working with NGSS now and in the future? Look no farther as there is help for you here with a focus on K–2 and Grades 3–5.

The NGSS is a formidable document which encompasses pedagogical information in a three dimensional matrix. It contains eight scientific practices associated with engaging in scientific endeavors. There are seven crosscutting concepts in different disciplinary domains. Finally the disciplinary core ideas are grouped in four domains: the physical sciences; the life sciences; the earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and applications of science. This document is overwhelming to an experienced educator and would be even more so for a new teacher to comprehend or to even know where to begin.

It is for this reason, NSTA Press has published four quick–reference guides to the NGSS. Three are grade specific and follow the grade grouping of the original standards: elementary grades K–5; middle school grades 6–8; and high school grades 9–12. The fourth book combines all of the content from the other three books into one volume. Each of the guides are laid out in a similar manner. The first chapter describes the basics of NGSS. The second shows progressions from K–12 no matter which volume you are looking at. The next chapter or chapters focuses on the grades each volume addresses. Selecting a volume allows an educator to find the information that pertains to their particular needs. On the other hand, for an administrator the complete K–12 volume provides for a broader understanding.

Presenting the NGSS information in smaller grade groupings can be less intimidating. There are some special features in each of these volumes that make the task of deciphering the NGSS much more palatable. These are found in chapter one of each volume. The first page provides a three column chart that describes what is assessed, the foundation box, and the connection box. The next page has the feature called "Inside the NGSS Box." This one page provides information about what is assessed, where and what the foundation box is, and then how to tackle the connection box. This page contains arrows that point to words in the chart such as performance expectations, clarification statements and assessment boundaries and end in definitions for these terms along the margins of the chart. The next page has a simple chart which organized the NGSS by topics. This is followed by a page that organizes the NGSS by disciplinary core ideas. My favorite feature, found on the fifth page, is the colorful Venn diagram that shows the commonalities among the practices in Math, Science, and English Language Arts. The last page of chapter one is a chart identifying these practices simply laid out in three bold columns listing the practices in Mathematics, Science, and English Language Arts. It is important to point out that the English Language Arts and Mathematics practices are related to Common Core State Standards.

There is much more to each of these volumes. Each volume contains a section for science and engineering practices. There are simple to understand tables that describe the various parts of the standards. There are two kinds of matrices in the book that shows how the NGSS are organized by topics and by disciplinary core ideas. The first set of matrices are the progression matrices. These help the educator understand what their students should have learned before a particular grade, what they are supposed to learn in that grade, and what they will be learning after that grade. This will help the educator in assessing students knowledge, knowing what to teach, and preparing them for future learning. The second set of matrices combines all the materials for any given grade level together. These matrices will be essential in their curriculum planning processes for each year. Anyone of these volumes are a must have for classroom teachers, curriculum supervisors and/or administrators. Information provided in these volumes definitely demystifies what might be described as a very confusing document.

Review posted on 1/6/2015

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