Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weaving the Fabric of CCSS with NGSS

As my district’s science department is in full swing of implementing NGSS and aligning our instruction with standards based grading, the discussion of implementing the Common Core Standards continues to arise.  While tackling a new curriculum that is developed from scratch, it seems overwhelming to then include the Common Core Standards as well.  However, creating lessons to meet both set of standards can seem overwhelming, the Common Core Standards create the building blocks to reaching the intricate pieces of the Next Science Generation Standards.  The key is to use the Common Core Standards to reach Next Generation Science Standards.The connection between the CCSS and NGSS can be found at the bottom of each set of Next Generation Standards.   

I have used the ELA and Math CCSS to help my students achieve success with the science standards. With the help of colleagues, I designed a challenge based unit to address the areas of Human Impact and Weather and Climate in the NGSS.  The CCSS and google applications gave my students the resources and building blocks to reach the standards. Here are some examples of ways I used the CCSS to guide my NGSS instruction. 

After learning about weather and climate, the students had to create and implement a solution to reduce human impact on climate change (MS-ESS3-3).  Once the students have chosen a solution, they needed to create guiding questions.  Using CCSS WHST.6-8.7 and WHST 6-8.8, the students created their own questions and conducted research using the google research tool. They gathered evidence from multiple sources to discover meaningful facts to support their solution. To prove their solution would impact climate, they created a chain reaction chart that gives evidence to how their solution will affect climate change.  Here is one example of the chain reaction chart

To reach standard MS-ESS3-4, the students needed to cite textual evidence to construct a solid argument to support their solution using CCSS RST6-8.1. The students found sources, again using the google research tool, to fit their topic and organized the evidence in a chart in google classroom that is shared with the group and myself.  Throughout the process, I can see their progress and monitor their evidence. Once their evidence is organized, they can put it together to construct their argument. Check out this example.

Having a degree as a reading specialist causes me to lean toward the reading side of the Common Core, but math is such a significant part of science. Science gives the students many opportunities to reason abstractly and quantitatively (MP.2). Using the math standards, some students analyzed the school and district power bills to determine how it can be lowered. One group worked to get motion sensors installed into the school bathrooms. They will monitor if it lowers our energy use by analyzing next months power bill.  Another group wants to reduce the amount of waste at our school by using reusable silverware.  The students had to compare prices of different sets of silverware and create expressions to determine which set would be more cost effective, which aligns with Math Standard EE.B.6. Then, they had to go a step further and create a profitable fundraiser to purchase the silverware. Both of these math applications allowed the students to reach MS-ESS3-3 to apply a scientific principles to measure and monitor a way to minimize human impact on the environment. 

Since we are just starting to transition to standard based grading, my department questions assessing the common core standards as part of our system. I follow the principle that you need to explicitly teach it to fairly assess it. If students have not had a chance to learn and practice a concept, then it should not be assessed unless they are able to do so. However, this does not need to be done in the science classroom. By working with the ELA teacher, you can get a sense of the CCSS that have been taught. Often if they do not know how to meet the CCSS, they will do poorly reaching the full depth of the NGSS.  For example, they will not be able to construct a solid argument with evidence.  In my class, we do explicitly practice pulling evidence from informational text and collecting scientific data, so I feel confident assessing my students in that area. Also, many of the CCSS are naturally assessed when assessing NGSS.  

When the Next Generation Standards and Common Core State Standards are intricately webbed together, they create a logical patchwork that makes the work of the students purposeful. The students benefit from real world application and have truly experienced the process of conducting research to implement a goal. While not all solutions were implemented, the knowledge gained through this process is immeasurable.