Kicking off the school year… part 1

This weekend I was working with a teacher preparing for the first week of school.  This teacher has been thinking a lot about three-dimensional instruction and the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education since his state adopted new state standards based on the Framework. Before his state adoption, he had consistently kicked off the school year with a demo embedded below.  This coaching moments blog focuses on a teacher’s evolving understanding and road to expertise as he translates the Framework vision into classroom teaching and learning.


“The mind is entertained by the unusual, the different, and the new.”

Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

On the first day of school in this teacher’s district, students only spent about 20 minutes in each period. He loved how curious and interested students were in the discrepant event embedded above.  It just felt right to him as a great way to kick off the year in a science classroom.  Last year, he had started learning more about the science and engineering practices with his new state adoption.  He noticed the mention of phenomena and use of observations as a foundation to begin the sensemaking process embedded throughout the elements of the science and engineering practices in appendix f of the Next Generation Science Standards.  With this new understanding, he added a focus on observations and inferences to his first activity with the goal of supporting students in being able to make careful, accurate and complete observations of phenomena in order to engage in the science and engineering practices. (Read more about his first iteration of the activity here).

asking Q progression with highlight

Since last fall, this teacher has evolved his understanding even further about the role of phenomena in a three-dimensional classroom.  This weekend our conversations included a-ha moments about how phenomena in this new Framework vision have many essential attributes.  They are engaging and evoked curiosity in kids (the gut feeling he experienced for years with this kick-off activity).  Phenomena empower students by becoming a rich context for their own questions (careful, complete, and accurate observations of phenomena increase the probability for good questions).  Phenomena are the context for both the scientist and the engineer because they can be explained with science ideas. This last attribute, the science ideas needed to explain the phenomenon, was the new understanding that this teacher wanted to add to the activity this year.  He wanted his students to start the year understanding how phenomena and their questions would drive learning in this classroom, and how phenomena will be the context for learning because we need science to explain them (and answer the questions we generated). His evolving understanding of the role of phenomena can be evidenced in his iteration of this kick-off activity, from fun engaging event to a trajectory for the year and an establishment of the culture of learning in this classroom:  

It is the phenomenon plus the student-generated questions about the phenomenon that guide the learning and teaching”

Using Phenomena in the NGSS resource from Achieve

In our conversations, we referred often to the resource linked above to deepen our understanding of phenomena and their critical role in the new vision for science education.  Coaching conversations using classroom experiences and third-point references and resources have resulted in this evolution of understanding.  How have you changed your thinking about phenomena and its focus in your classroom?


An Invitation: Create a Lollipop Moment

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to create a lollipop moment for someone else.  Thank you to Drew Dudley — Twitter @DayOneDrew  for the inspiration!  Check out his Ted Talk Everyday Leadership  

In this Ted Talk, Drew discusses lollipop moments that he defines as moments when someone says or does something that makes our lives better.  His claim is that these sometimes seemingly everyday moments are examples of leadership redefined. This got me thinking and reflecting on the moments that have made a difference in my life, and for the purpose of this blog, the moments that have made my professional life better.  Here are two game-changers in my professional life:

  1. In 2013, a friend of mine encouraged me to start blogging and share what was happening in my classroom.  She also mentored me through my first few blogs. That process of reflecting on my practice and sharing with others has made a world of difference in my classroom and in my professional life (and has open a million doors to new learning and new opportunities, both for my students and for myself).  You can read more about that here.
  2. The “bravery” I embraced that resulted in sharing our class story led to many opportunities for us, one of which was an opportunity to have a video shot in the Shelton classroom for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The sharing of the Shelton story through this and other videos to follow opened up a new set of doors and opportunities for learning and growth for us.

There is a pattern in these two examples- my choice to share with others (the wins, the challenges, and the path) resulted in new learning and new opportunities for both me and my students.  One of the big impacts that I did not realize until many years later was that sharing our class story, sharing our road to attempt to translate the NGSS and the Framework into classroom instruction, supported others in their journey.  It also inspired them to do the same, to share their story and contribute to the conversation around contemporary research in science education.  This is an amazing era in science education.  Researchers, policy makers, scientists, and teachers all have a shared goal exemplified in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and three-dimensional standards, like the Next Generation Science Standards.  Teachers throughout the nation are working to support each other on the path to realize a new vision for students when it comes to STEM.  This is everyday leadership.

This Ted Talk took me back to those early days when I was attempting to translate the new vision for science education into my classroom- when I was unsure and maybe even scared.  I leaned on communities like #NGSSchat for support, and I sought out every opportunity for professional learning that I could find.  Once I designed my first instructional sequence and experienced the energy, excitement, student thinking and deep understanding of science that resulted, I knew I shouldn’t quit.  Also, I knew I had to share this journey with others.

You are catalysts for lollipop moments. What you are trying out in your classroom is an important contribution to the science community conversation? Please consider sharing.

You will be amazed at how much it will help you learn and grow; your sharing will support and inspire others..

Ideas to get started…

  1.  Share your Summer Learning book to read to the #NGSSchat and #SciRead As you read and learn, share your aha moments and Ideas for changing your practice to the hashtags (both please!) along with a link to your book.
  2. Comment on this blog with a tool, strategy, or resource that helped you translate 3D standards and/or contemporary research into your classroom.
  3. Share a tool or strategy that helped you translate 3D standards and/or contemporary research into your classroom on the #NGSSchat hashtag in a paragraph or even through a blog post shared to #NGSSchat and #Sci4allSs.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”

John F. Kennedy Jr

An Invitation to start a science blog focused on 3D Learning and/or the NGSS: Reflect, Connect, Share

My guess is that you became a science teacher because you love learning, you love working with kids, and you love science.  Loving science means you are probably a question-asker.

Today’s question:  “How do I grow as an educator and work to continually create improved classroom experiences to honor those students I love?

Today’s Answer:  Blogging

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This is an invitation to consider joining us in the #Sci4allSs  Blog Project taking place on Twitter at #Sci4allSs (Science for all students).

We would like to bring people together across states to share our thinking and learning around A Framework for K-12 Science Education and/or Next Generation Science Standards.  Implementation of this contemporary research will lead to great student achievement and progress towards the goal of new state and national 3D standards: depth of understanding through the three dimensions of science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts.  We call this thinking and acting like a scientist. True integration of the 3 dimensions to explain phenomena and solve problems, will require a collaborative effort, collective conversation, and individual reflection.  Blogging is one way to support this effort.

Why should we blog?

Reflective Thinking

Blogging gives you a platform for reflective thinking (writing that we do for ourselves to think through things). This clarification of our thinking helps us improve our practice by what I call reflection into action.  My reflections always move me forward in some way to the next steps mode, leading to my personal professional growth.

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Collective Conversation

By sharing your blog, you are making your thinking visible to others which supports them on the path of understanding, inspires reflection and revision of thinking.  Sharing your blog enables you to get feedback, affirmation, and a new lens into your classroom from others.  When you read and comment on the blog posts of others, you are also gaining great ideas and resources to enhance your own understanding and curate creative and innovative ideas for your classroom.

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Getting Started Tips

Blogging is about the journey of reflection and collective conversation.  It is not about perfectionism.  Every teacher has amazing things to share from their experience as a learner and a classroom leader.  Please consider sharing any 3D/NGSS reflections.

Some sample ideas:

  • your classroom story
  • your ideas and reflections
  • resources you are finding useful in implementing the Framework or new standards.
  • how you are utilizing technology to teach the three dimensions.
  • your PLC or PLN story
  • responses to something you have read or heard or conversed around (like in #NGSSchat 😀 )
  • things you try that may or may not have worked
  • ANYTHING you would like to clarify thinking around.  If it helps you, it will help others.

Blog Posting Suggestions:

  • Create a blog site using platforms like or
  • Create a blog post and send the url link to #Sci4allSs  and #NGSSchat on Twitter
  • Commit to trying to post your first blog (or first blog of 2019).
  • Commit to trying to comment and/or repost/retweet the blogs of others

Great website for teacher blogging tips

Blogging is about being part of a conversation.  Please consider becoming part of this global conversation around great science teaching and learning. Educator voices need to be shared and heard as we work towards shifting science education and preparing students for this 21st Century world.  All stakeholders (educators, parents, students) need to have a seat at the table about translating NGSS into classroom instruction during implementation.  As professionals and stakeholders in NGSS implementation, sharing our teaching and learning reflections is key to advancing science education.

For a Blog Coach consider the National Blogging Collaborative.

Contact me for more information:


Twitter: @tdishelton






Our First Day


“Teacher Learning is interwoven with student learning”  This is a core belief from the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework that is the driver behind our Making Thinking Visible  partnership.  With the goal of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, we started our discussions with the question:

When considering our past “first days” of our classes that focus on the nature of science, how does the new vision in the NGSS include how science works or the Nature of Science (NGSS Appendix h)?


A  key element of NGSS alignment is 3 Dimensional Learning.  The vision of the NGSS describes student learning as sensemaking where “students are, over multiple years of school, actively engaged in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen the understanding of the core ideas.” (Framework p. 10).  That sensemaking can also be described as the ability for students to connect empirical evidence to core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena.  Empirical evidence is defined as information acquired by observation or experimentation that is recorded and analyzed.

Pre-NGSS, we often started our discussions at the beginning of the semester with a focus on observation and inference.  We may have even checked to see that students could explicitly define and describe these terms and differentiate between them.  In the NGSS era, observations are serving as the foundation of empirical evidence gathered, then reasoned, and finally communicated in an explanation of phenomena.  Using this understanding, we decided to focus on observation and inference but under the umbrella of gathering information that we can record, analyze, and then communicate an understanding of the natural world.  Our target was

Careful observation, attention to detail, and consideration of validity and reliability are important when acting and thinking like a scientist.

We didn’t just want students to know this, we wanted them to experience it and understand the importance of observations in understanding the world, and also in practicing science.  In addition, we wanted them to begin to see that it is evidence, not just answers, that we will value in this class.

Student Learning

This is a quick demonstration performed by the teacher where students are asked to make observations of a phenomenon.  


Teacher Learning

One of the outcomes of this experience that I did not see coming initially and used as a teachable moment was students confronting the bias that they bring into an experience, and why confronting this bias was important in a science classroom where empirical evidence is king.

Post ReflectionNGSS Brett Evidence

In NGSS Appendix h, The Nature of Science, there is a discussion of a quote in the Framework “Epistemic knowledge is knowledge of the constructs and values that are intrinsic to science. Students need to understand what is meant, for example, by an observation, a hypothesis, an inference, a model, a theory, or a claim and be able to distinguish among them” (NRC, 2012, page 79). The discussion in the appendix goes on to point out that the Framework quote above presents concepts and activities important to understanding the nature of science as a complement to the practices imbedded in investigations, field studies, and experiments. In other words, an understanding of the Nature of Science and how science works is necessary for students to engage in the practices and 3-dimensional learning.  This learning experience and discussion serves as the springboard to a series of experiences to help students understand:

  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence  
  • Scientific Knowledge is Open to Revision in Light of New Evidence


Grade- Level Specific #NGSSchat Opportunities

#NGSSchat provides support to deepen participant understanding of the #NGSS that can then be leveraged to implement the standards to transform teaching and learning. A primary goal of this chat has been to provide opportunities for learning and sharing through conversation around the vision captured in the Framework for K12 Science Education “that students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas”

The #NGSSchat PLN is excited about providing a forum to continue those K12 conversations around the research-grounded NGSS and Framework to improve science teaching and learning.

We are also excited to launch a new series of grade-level specific chats during the hour leading up to #NGSSchat.

Mary Starr @starrscience and Kathy Renfrew @KRScienceLady have launched and elementary NGSS chat #elNGSSchat .  This chat focuses on K – 5 #NGSS discussions and takes place from 8 – 9 ET on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month prior to #NGSSchat.

Grade-level chats for Middle School and High School educators and those that support them will begin on October 15 at 8:30 PM ET.  These chats will last 30 minutes and take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month just before #NGSSchat.  The Middle School chat will use the hashtag #msNGSSchat and the High School chat will use the hashtag #hsNGSSchat .

Grade level

These grade-level chats will provide opportunities for more specific and personalized discussions around the #NGSS as well as a rich network of support for implementation.

Please join us!


Science for All Students

“The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues to their daily lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside of school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering and technology.”

(A Framework for K12 Science Education, NRC 2012)

The (Carnegie/IAS) Commission found that far too few students in the United States received high-quality instruction in mathematics and science, and subsequently, the nation was falling behind many countries in these areas.”

(The Opportunity Equation, Carnegie Corporation of New York 2009)

 PIC NGSS for all Students

When we look at these two quotes together, we see a need and the vision for the Next Generation Science Standards; We see an opportunity to empower students.  The vision is clear, all students need a rich, rigorous and engaging science curriculum so they can have access to opportunity.  The path to mitigating the disparities that exist for access to this vision is not as straightforward; NGSS presents the goal of a rigorous set of standards to prepare students for full participation in a globally connected world plus the challenge (and blessing) of a steady increase of student diversity in classrooms across our nation.   For this reason, our virtual Professional Learning Network of educators and partners organized a virtual book study to join people together who are passionate about the NGSS as the great equalizer in Science education.  We were excited to use the book  NGSS for All Students  by Okhee Lee, Emily Miller and Rita Januszyk to guide our study.  Stephen Pruitt, Andres Henriquez, Joe Krajcik, and Helen Quinn also contributed chapters to this book.  The dialogue, learning and sharing using this book provided support for shifting instruction to make science accessible to all students and prepare them for college, career and life. This blog describes some of my take-aways from the study that I will use to inform the instructional and assessment design in my classroom for the 2015-16 school year.


Engagement through the Practices

The current research on how students learn clearly indicates that students need to be engaged in doing science whether than just hearing about it, figuring out as opposed to knowing about.  This “doing” science, however is different from hands-on inquiry.  The Science and Engineering practices of the NGSS involve both knowledge of the practice itself as well as the ability to demonstrate the skills of a scientist.  It is truly acting and  thinking like a scientist.  Supporting students in that thinking allows science to be a great equalizer by building on student interest and actively engagement that is both hands-on and minds-on. “What the research tells us is that students learn science best when they are deeply engaged in the practices of science and engineering, and apply these practices over multiple years to develop a set of disciplinary core ideas and connections between those ideas across science disciplines (crosscutting concepts).” –Helen Quinn  Practices are the vehicle for the deep understanding of science ideas.

My goal:  As I design classroom learning, I will carefully choose phenomena and design problems to enable opportunities for students to confront misconceptions, to raise and seek answers to questions they find important, and have a need to engage and persist in the learning.  As students act and think like scientists to figure out phenomena or solve problems through engagement in the practices, they are incorporating science ideas and concepts into their personal way of looking at the world, leading to deep understanding through this 3-dimensional learning.

Science Talk

Four foundational areas of capacity development that are critical for academic success are outlined in NGSS for All Students: language, analysis and reasoning, representation and symbolization, and social and emotional capacity.  Science Talk or “discourse-laden science practices” provide opportunities to stretch vocabulary, distill and clarify thinking for communication, and benefit from the modeling and public thinking of  peers to move forward the learning of all students.

My goal:  Provide regular opportunities and scaffolding for the practice of discourse “Science Talk” in my classroom.  This will require particular attention to building a class culture that supports risk-taking, self-regulation, persistence, and belief in self.  These aspects of learning can be best realized in a classroom climate that is not focused on who is sharing the “right” or “wrong” answer, but on who is sharing evidenced-based thinking to advance the thinking and shared understanding of the group. A critical element of this collective conversation will be supporting students in providing evidence-based feedback through critique.  The end-goal is full participation by all students in science talk where students have the right and responsibility to contribute and a valued perspective and experience to share.

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Questions serve as the “breadcrumbs” that support students’ journey and the need to engage in the next evidence-gathering investigation or experience.  I will use questioning as the center of our learning experience, from the driving question that frames the unit and the story as the students work to make sense of phenomena or develop solutions to problems, to the daily questions that draw on student funds of knowledge and encourage making thinking visible.  I will use questions to make crosscutting concepts more explicit in the classroom because those are the thinking tools that empower students and add to their confidence.  I will use questioning to support students in developing original conceptual models that as the unit progresses to support students in challenging that model when needed to encourage revisions and evolving understanding.  Instead of planning the knowledge I will give students, I will plan the questions I will ask them.

All students should have the opportunity to experience a learning atmosphere built for their success and exposure to the world of science in a methodology that engages, inspires and empowers them as visioned in The Framework.  All students should have equal opportunity for adult success.  Classrooms who use the NGSS standards to guide instruction and assessment while focusing on equity  are grounded in the best research about how students learn. The Next Generation Science Standards guide educators on the path to science literacy based on extensive research to assure all students are prepared for the next step of their choosing.  Even if you are not in an NGSS-adopted state, you can use this research on how students best learn science in your classroom.  This will require an understanding of the NGSS, the translating of NGSS into instruction and assessment using tools and strategies, and the opportunity to try these new tools and receive feedback.

Join the Conversation

First Steps

Use the guidance provided on how to engage students from all backgrounds with the NGSS found in Appendix D and the Case Studies which provide examples of effective classroom strategies.  All students have the ability to learn science, however their level of development of scientific literacy depends on their classroom experiences.  Read about the research based vision for the NGSS in A Framework for K12 Science Education, NRC 201.  Visit the NGSS website at and the NGSS @NSTA Hub at .  See the archived chats from the NGSS for All Students book study this past summer at

Join our Network

Consider connecting your self to other educators passionate about transforming science teaching and learning.  Visit our website hub at and join us on Twitter and Google plus.  We join together for #NGSSchat the first and third Thursday of the month at 9 PM ET to support each other in learning and translating the NGSS.  You can even link to archived chats or watch the chat without having a Twitter account!  Learn more here.

Interested in becoming a Connected Educator– find support at


Share to the Hashtag

We are excited to promote the #Sci4allSs hashtag as a place where educators are encouraged to share their classroom as they work to implement the Next Generation Science Standards.  Please consider sharing classroom stories via text tweets, pictures, and video.  You can also share questions you have about providing a quality science education to all students.  

To Parents… The WHY, HOW, WHAT of the Shelton Class

There is only one success:  To be able to spend your life in your own way.

-Christopher Morley

Empowerment, Choice, Independence.  These are words I use to describe what I wish for my High School students; that when they leave us after twelve years of education, they are prepared for that Next Step of their choosing.

The challenge for me is that even though the end goal is clear, students arrive to our classroom to begin the journey with very different experiences and knowledge.  How can we support all students in reaching their goals?  How can science be the great equalizer?

The Why…

Scientific literacy is necessary for every adult to live a successful life.  In this globally connected society, information is literally available at our fingertips.  When we can evaluate information and  weigh available evidence, we are empowered when making important choices.  These choices impact our health and our families and enable to participate as citizens by making informed decisions.  In addition, employability in the modern world requires collaboration, decision-making, problem-solving and communication skills as well as the ability to respond to changing circumstances.  Using the standards to drive our classroom instruction and assessment  means we are using current research on how students best learn science as well incorporating the 21st Century skills that employers want.  The Next Step requires scientific literacy and 21st Century skills; the NGSS standards provide a path to achieve a vision of student independence, empowerment, and choice.

The How…

WIth the standards as our guide, our classroom learning will focus on students gathering, reasoning and communicating evidence-based thinking in a variety of formats and through a variety of vehicles.  Students will use the practices of scientists, leverage thinking tools, and use the core ideas of science and engineering to explain their world or solve problems.  This focus on “figuring things out” as opposed to collecting facts told to them leads to deep understanding because students are interested and engaged in the learning that focuses on their questions and curiosities.

pic Thinking

The What…

Our students will make their thinking visible through products that serve as evidences of NGSS learning.  We need your support and feedback about our products to move us forward.  Our “thinking products” will include explanations, models, and arguments shared through multiple vehicles like video, speaking, writing, and screencast.  Your feedback about our products and evidence-based communications will help prepare us for the Next Step. Please follow our class story on Twitter at @BCHSstory and through our website at and share your feedback and our products!

PIC Power of Video

Image credit:

This blog framework was inspired by the Ted Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action and the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Classroom Commentary and Resources

Communicating the WHY, HOW and WHAT with classroom partners (students and parents) is essential to successful teaching and learning.  Here are some resources we use to communicate our WHY:

Next Generation Science Standards Q and A: Fostering Science Learning to Last a Lifetime


The 10 SKills Employers Most Want in 2015 Graduates by Susan Adams/ Forbes Staff

Why the Science Standards

Thank You…#NGSSblogs in Review

“That’s what we do when we find something of value, we share it with the people we love.”       

                                                                                                                      -Simon Sinek

 NGSSblogs first 2

During the summer of 2014, inspired by the blogging of fellow KY teacher Patrick Goff, @BMSScienceteach, the #NGSSblogs project was born.  Our goal was to use a thoughtful approach to NGSS implementation where collaboration with others is key and support is ongoing. By fall, we had the framework of the project in place and an invitation for others to put reflection into action and build NGSS capacity through blogging and sharing. It is with great gratitude for those initial bloggers who by sharing their blogs, made their thinking visible to others to support them on the path to understanding the NGSS.

David Grossman     @tksciguy

Don Black @dblackscience

Tricia Shelton @tdishelton

Kate Heavers @KateHeavers

Patrick Goff @bmsscienceteach

Chris Baker @Chris_sorry

Frank Noschese @fnoschese

Jodie Deinhammer @jdeinhammer

Frank McGowan @frankmcgowa

Tony Borash @tborash

Josh Hubbard @jhubb546

Richard Bacolor @richbacolor

Jen Gable @gablejen

Holly Steele @bwscisteele

Wanda Battaglia @wanbattchem

Amanda Meyer @alynmeyer

Peter A’Hearn @casciencepete

In December of 2014, an idea that I had become my passion project since the summer with the support of Melissa Ferrell became a US DOE Teach to Lead project.  Our team designed the framework for a Multi-Tools Online Community to support NGSS implementation (MTOC).  The #NGSSblogs project became our whole-community Passion Project.  At the start of 2015, we relaunched the #NGSSblogs project after evaluating and discussing the fall exploration phase. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to read the reflections and learn from so many amazing educators nationwide.  The tremendous scope and diversity of perspective provided a rich tapestry of ideas.  Built into this iteration of the project was a focus on Collective Conversation through retweeting, commenting and providing feedback on the blog’s of others as well as the reflection of writing and sharing one’s own blog.This phase of the project encouraged us to consider categorizing the blogs to support the great learning potential for all that results from seeing the thinking of others as they work to translate the NGSS into instruction.

Deepening Understanding of the NGSS

Chris Baker @Chris_sorry

Taylor Sullivan @tdsull0518

Richard Bacolor @richbacolor

Kathy Renfrew @KRSciencelady

Looking at the NGSS through the Classroom Lens

David Grossman @tksciguy

Don Black @dblackscience

Courtney Robinson @MrsRobinson4th

Tricia Shelton @tdishelton

Kate Heavers @KateHeavers

Patrick Goff @bmsscienceteach

Translating the NGSS into Instruction (Classroom Level)

Jessica Holman @bchsholman

Frank McGowan @frankmcgowa

Peter A’Hearn @casciencepete

Wanda Battaglia @wanbattchem

Josh Hubbard @jhubb546

Translating Standards into Instruction (CCSS/NGSS Classroom Level)

Hallie Mills @halliesmills

Tom Hathorn @thathorn

Classroom Learning

Marsha Ratzel @ratzelster

Frank Noschese @fnoschese

Jodie Deinhammer @jdeinhammer

Tony Borash @tborash

Jen Gable @gablejen

Joshua Marsh @jjsmarsh

Alfonso Gonzalez @educatoral

Ashley Hammonds @AshleyR_Hammond

As I reflect on the last 331 days since the birth of #NGSSblogs, I am so lifted and inspired by the educators who have committed to doing this incredibly important work: building their capacity, reflecting on their practice, and contributing to the collective conversation through blogging. The passion of this group of edubloggers is unmatched and their service to the profession is exemplary.  Thank you to the 2014-15 #NGSSblogs contributors.

Thank you to the MTOC Team for leading this work and constantly looking at feedback and data so this project can continue to grow and improve.

Interested in joining the #NGSSblogs project:

Visit our website at


Check out the #NGSSblogs hashtag on Twitter.

Tweet us @NGSSblogs

Clarity and Coherence Through Collaboration

Thank you to Ashley Hammonds, Berea Independent Schools, who co-wrote this blog with me.

This blog was originally published in “Science Connection” A Kentucky Department of Education Publication.  Thank you to Christine Duke, the editor and creator, for the opportunity to share. This publication can be accessed at the link below:

Science Connection, KDE, March 2015

Clarity & Coherence Through Collaboration

A Framework for K 12 Science Education (National Research Council ,2012) presents an evidence-based vision for science teaching and learning that is grounded in decades of research. As states look to the Framework and NGSS to guide science education, it becomes evidence that significant shifts in science teaching and learning are required to meet this new vision and provide meaningful and effective experiences for students.

One article describing these important shifts is that of Dr. Brian Reiser’s: What Professional Development Strategies are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (2013). According to Dr. Reiser, “Central to the vision of teaching and learning articulated in the Framework and NGSS are three interrelated goals that affect how teachers need to support student learning: 1. Core Ideas: 2. Practices: 3. Coherence.” The focus of the core ideas goal is depth over breadth, while goal 2 elevates the practices (acting and thinking like a scientist) to be equally important to content. Core ideas and practices intertwine with crosscutting concepts (the thinking tools) resulting in the 3 dimensionality of the NGSS where students develop understanding of key core ideas as they engage in the practices and apply the crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena or develop solutions to problems. This emphasis on 3 Dimensional learning has, and should, receive much focus in NGSS conversations. Equally important, however, is the third goal: coherence. Dr. Reiser describes coherence as “Building explanatory ideas requires treating science learning as a coherent progression in which learners build ideas across time and between science disciplines”.

The following piece offers insight into the power and potential of the coherence through collaboration. We strongly believe in supporting students in 3D learning where each year is carefully designed to build on prior understanding. This is just one example of the collaboration that continues between two passionate teachers to support students as they continue to develop…

Behind the Scenes

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

In preparing my lessons related to sound waves, I spent time digging deeply into the intent of the corresponding performance expectations. I learned that these performance expectations will measure students’ ability to develop a model of waves to describe patterns in amplitudes and wavelength. So I started planning and had a brainstorm! I recalled an informative and creative session I attended at last June’s KEA Let’s Talk Conference. The presenter, Tricia Shelton, inspired me as she shared her success in integrating technology in the classroom. I began thinking about all the possibilities that could become unique learning opportunities for my students that focused on the performance expectation dimensions. I contacted Tricia and the story began. I just so happened that Tricia was currently focusing on this same content at the high school grade band. What good fortune! We began collaborating via google hangouts and dissected the standards for sound waves across the progression to ensure that we had a feel for what is expected of students as they grow their understanding of this concept as well as the other dimensions. Tricia and I worked together to develop a lesson plan integrating common components of the standards in elementary and high school that includes the use of technology.

Tricia–High School Teacher

My class was really excited to connect with the 4th graders at Berea Community Elementary School. They were eager to take on this unique task to support the students as they learned about waves. We were finishing a learning progression in which I bundled several of the physical science performance expectations. My students were using their understanding of waves to make sense of digital and analog communication. Having pre-assessed my students on this content, I found that the high school students did not have a strong foundation in the middle school performance expectations about waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer. This was not a surprise since the new KCAS Science standards have only been implemented a short time. I knew that I needed to fill in the gap with foundational experiences using models to strengthen their understanding of those skills and concepts that are associated with the middle school grades. This provided the perfect opportunity to address the basic components that were similar to those being addressed by Ashley’s students.

The Berea/Boone Collaboration

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

Our collaboration began by making a video of my 4th graders from Berea Community Elementary School discussing the topic “do sound waves move?” Students, armed with a dry erase marker and a small white board, shared their current understanding of sound waves as I captured their thinking on my iPhone.  Some students drew detailed diagrams, some used their body to show me how sound waves move, and others were more comfortable sharing verbally.  This activity engaged them and it was an opportunity for me to assess any misconceptions or if I needed to reteach and focus on certain aspects of sound waves.

Tricia–High School Teacher

When the Boone County High School students in Shelton’s class watched the 4th grade video, the excitement was palpable. The high school students loved connecting with their new 4th grade friends and were very interested in talking about sharing their thinking around this phenomenon. The older students were asked to view the video and provide feedback. Students suggested sending messages through Twitter and creating a student produced video that would provide guidance and clarity on some of the younger students’ misconceptions . I was excited to provide an opportunity for my students to share their learning beyond the 4 walls. I projected the 4th grade Disciplinary Core Ideas which foster conversations and an awareness about the different grade level DCIs being in sync! The students went to work making videos to support the 4th grade students about waves. They were diligent in using correct terms and and language of the NGSS.

Feedback Fuels Future Learning

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

My students were thrilled to watch the video made by their Boone County friends and read the comments from Tricia’s students via Twitter.  Tricia’s students sent us videos approximately a minute in length.  Their video clips included the use of jump ropes, diagrams, their voices and body language to demonstrate patterns in wavelength and amplitude. The 4th graders loved watching the videos, and became excited about creating more videos.  After watching their videos, my students broke into small groups and determine if they agreed with the evidence and reasoning provided in the video.  Some students got jump ropes and replicated some of the videos clips we watched, and others compared diagrams in the video to ones they drew in their science notebooks.  The videos coincided perfectly with what we are learning about waves.  My students were very engaged and noted how they wanted to pursue science in high school like their new friends. My 4th grade students became more invested in the content as a result of the collaboration. They applied their new knowledge of waves as they provided feedback to Tricia’s students using a review form for presentations (see  The provided questions required the students to look at evidence presented in the videos to reinforce the stated claims.  Another question asked if the presenter provided evidence with reasoning, and if their claim was clearly stated.  Going through the form as a whole class we were able to define unknown words, and make a 4th grade version of the questions. This process alone was vital in building comprehension and vocabulary skills and providing a real life example of integrating reading in science.  By using the feedback form and looking for evidence it required my students to use higher ordered thinking skills as they addressed misconceptions.

Tricia–High School Teacher

The Shelton students were motivated to engaged with an authentic audience who would provide them feedback on their video products. In order to provide feedback to the high school students on their ability to communicate evidence-based thinking, the 4th graders used a “coaching” form.  This Google form asked the reviewer to determine if the video creators addressed their audience, provided multiple pieces of evidence with reasoning in their thinking product, and used effective technique. Students in the Shelton class used the data from the “coaching forms” from their high school peers as well as from the Berea class to “Reflect into Action”.   They analyzed the feedback provided and reflected on how to improve their future evidence-based video communications. With growth mindset  dispositions, the students were mindful of the feedback as they shot new video thinking products to share with our 4th grade Berea friends as well as their connected classroom of High School students in Tennessee. ( Students constructing understanding and then sharing those evidence-based communications with the others to support the learning is a powerful snapshot of what’s possible in a 21st Century classroom immersed in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Collaboration continues as Tricia and I plan to engage our students in a new context: using patterns of light to transfer information and compare multiple solutions (NGSS 4-PS4-3).  Our classes will use a code and engineer a light apparatus to act as a telegraph. My classroom will  make observations, gather evidence from the patterns of light shared through the video and work collaboratively to decipher the code.  After successfully deciphering the code and observing the lesson being modeled by Tricia’s students, my students will then engineer a light apparatus and record a code that Tricia’s class will then need to decipher.

To master a subject is to be able to teach it, which is exactly what our students are doing. They are teaching the NGSS to their classmates and Tricia’s class. By making videos, watching others on videos, and using physical models, my students have a clearer understanding about sound waves. They also have gained knowledge about technology etiquette, and constructive criticism.

The common language and K12 coherence of the NGSS makes these collaborations possible: across states and across grade levels. We hope this story encourages you to imagine the powerful stories and opportunities for teachers collaborating and supporting each other in KCAS standards implementation.

Tricia Shelton and Ashley Hammond