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

Promoting Reflection through Community: PLN- We need your Help!

The NGSSblogs project is an initiative created by the Multi-Tools Online Community (MTOC) facilitators to encourage teacher reflection and collective conversation around the Next Generation Science Standards.  The goal of this community is to change the culture of science education by providing a space for educators to learn, connect and share as well as to provide opportunities for teachers to lead from the classroom.  There is not an instruction manual on how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, but there are thousands of science teachers who can play a central role in transforming science teaching and learning and creating a path for translating the Next Generation Science standards into instruction. The Multi Tools Online Community seeks to centralize these voices and connect these educators with one another to work together from a common language of the NGSS with a common vision of advancing student science achievement. The pillars of the MTOC community: Reflection, Relationships, Resources:

  • Collect, create, and curate resources for NGSS implementation
  • Encourage and empower teacher leadership from the classroom through active participation in this global community and building both online and face to face relationships.
  • Support reflection that leads to educator professional growth.

The first project of the MTOC is to focus on the reflection pillar of our community.  We are promoting the practice of reflection through writing and sharing blogs around NGSS, science teaching and learning, and professional learning.  Through blogging, teachers are telling their stories, sharing their voice, and carving out the path for NGSS implementation. We have been inspired by reading the blogs of other educators working to learn about and implement the Next Generation Science Standards.  We are launching a campaign to add more bloggers to our family and encourage more educators to join in this reflection by reading blogs and providing feedback to our bloggers.

We need your help.  

  1. Do you know of any educators who might be willing to and join share a blog post?  Here is an invitation to take the leap and reap the benefits of reflection around classroom teaching and learning  Please share this invitation with any educators you would like to nominate to participate in this initiative.
  2. Do you know any educators who would be willing to read and provide feedback to our bloggers by posting comments?  Here is a link to our @NGSSblogs Twitter account and #NGSSblogs hashtag as well as our NGSS Peer Learning Network Google Community.  Educators can read and provide feedback to bloggers. Educators not quite ready to blog themselves can become part of the community by reading and commenting on blogs.  New and existing bloggers can support others by providing feedback.
  3. Are you an educator who uses blogging as a vehicle for reflection and professional growth?  We need your help to encourage other bloggers as well as to develop supports for providing feedback to our NGSS bloggers with the goal of moving their thinking and learning forward. Would you consider taking a minute to respond to our brief 3 question Google survey?

To transform science education, we need more than just a set of standards that capture a vision.  We need stakeholder voice to drive and sustain the work needed to create STEM classrooms that prepare students for a successful future. We need you help- please support our NGSSblogs project by sharing our invitation, supporting our bloggers, or sharing our thoughts around blogging through our survey.

We would love to have your voice in our community.  This community is for all educators and educational stakeholders (not just for science teachers :D).  Please contact us for more information:

Trish Shelton @tdishelton  or @NGSSblogs

NGSS PLN Google Plus Community

Peer Learning Teams for Teachers and Students

In the summer of 2013, I launched a Google plus community called NGSS Peer Learning Teams.  The peer learning teams structure has been a successful component in my classroom for years.  21st Century Technology and Social Media provides a great opportunity to capture those same benefits between teachers and between classrooms on a global scale.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have met Amanda Meyer, @alynmeyer, a fantastic reflective educator innovator from Minnesota, in the Spring of 2013.  We set out to collaborate as professionals to find ways to change our classroom practice to positively impact student learning.  We also sought to connect our classes so they could serve as peer learning coaches to one another.

Shared Vision and Partnership

To begin our journey together, we established our shared vision of exploring ways to improve the classroom environment for improved student learning.  In our vision, we were all full partners in learning, students and teachers.  To us, that meant that the voices of all the partners were critical in the direction of the learning. A second part of our vision involved working together to develop units driven by an explanation of a phenomenon and capturing the 3-Dimensional learning of the Next Generation Science Standards.  Most importantly, we sought to provide opportunities for our students to develop an appreciation for the amazing field of science that Amanda and I love so much.

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Our students collaborate via Schoology and Google Hangouts

Collaborative Culture

The key to the collaborative culture is the emotional bond combined with the intellectual task:  head and heart.  The relationship must proceed the discourse. Trust is the foundation for our adult partnership as well as our classroom partnership with our students.  “With the belief that I am a full partner, I can feel my lens is valued and I then feel motivated to contribute to the external reflections that move collaborations.”  Amanda and I are clear and explicit with our students that we need them and their feedback to do this important work.  We would partner to find answers to the questions that the group constructs together.  A necessity in this collaborative culture is a focus on reflection and “Alone Zone” thinking time.  In building our culture, Amanda and I focus on providing all students the space they needed for internal dialogue before expecting external dialogue.  Especially for introverts, that means scheduled class reflection time.

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Focus on Inquiry

Inquiry is a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world (  I love this quote that captures what I love about science and what I love about learning.  My favorite part of this work with Amanda is that it is driven by questions instead of beginning with an answer. The search for the answer is more important than the answer itself, mostly because of the dynamic nature of thinking and learning.  Every group of students is different, research is constantly giving us a better lens into how people learn, and the field of science is always giving us new context to seek to explain our world. In addition to the foundation in questioning, an inquiry focus means students are the constructors of understanding.  The focus of our instructional design is that students will use previous knowledge and experience and connect those to the experiences we design for them as a result of their questions.  This enables the collaborative group to build and revise understanding together over time.  Amanda and I could support each other on becoming better question askers to support students who are doing the heavy lifting.  Lastly, an inquiry focus means a focus on evidence-based communications, shifting focus from the one right answer to the claim that can be best supported by the evidence gathered from my explorations.


Amanda and I agreed to a full examination of our teaching and our students’ learning.  WIth a shared vision, collaborative culture, and focus on inquiry, the trust and support necessary to have open and honest dialogue was already in place.  We welcome the feedback and appreciate the additional lens into our work.  Through examination of student data, we made decisions about our instruction and assessment design.  The philosophy that our design is never “finished” enabled us to welcome changes even as the unit progression was wrapping up. Even though the focus on student work was critical, the biggest impact for me was our reflective dialogue.  Having the privilege to hear the thinking of a colleague I admire is truly a gift.

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Students peer coaching Video Thinking Products of Minnesota classroom partners

Over the next month, I will reflect and blog about each of the critical components of our Peer Learning Team (as it stands currently in its evolution).  Our goal is that by sharing our experience, we can open up our network and grow from the feedback of others as well as possibly providing the impetus for others to create virtual Peer Learning Teams as well.

Being involved in a Peer Learning Team enables me to reflect with someone who has a shared experience.  That reflection enables me to make decisions that improve my teaching and the learning of my students.  This reflection enables me to better understand my profession and fuels my constant quest for answers to me evolving list of questions. I am beyond words appreciative of my partnership with Amanda, and I am so excited about the future of our collaboration.

Here is a link to our first joint teaching unit- our shared classroom experience.


NGSS 3 -Dimensional Learning: Hands-on Minds-on Science

“The more hands on the experience, the more excited students will be about the learning.  The more minds-on the experience, the deeper the understanding will become.”

How do we design experiences for students that are both hands-on and minds-on?  The Next Generation Science Standards provides us with a beautiful vision for science education for all students obtained by engaging in the Science and Engineering practices and applying Cross-cutting Concepts to gain an understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas.  This 3- Dimensional Learning (the blending of the three dimensions of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts driving both the instructional progression and the assessment) is the most significant way that the NGSS differs from prior standards and is thus a challenge for many teachers.  In the NGSS, the 3 -Dimensional Learning in the classroom leads to proficiency demonstrated in the Performance Expectations. This blog uses a learning progression around Performance Expectations LS1-2 and LS1-3 as a context for sharing thinking around how NGSS 3- Dimensional Learning can provide students with hands-on minds-on experiences that lead to engagement and understanding.

Urinary PEs

This summer, I transitioned from focusing on understanding the Next Generation Science Standards to focusing on understanding how to translate the NGSS into student learning within my classroom.  I developed a unit, Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology: Systems, Subsystems, and Balance: Conceptualizing a Single System, to serve as the foundation for my course and the start of our NGSS road together.  I designed the learning progression around this core principles:

  • All NGSS aligned instruction must have students working to explain a phenomenon or solve a problem.

 Joe Tweet

  • Understanding develops as learners make new connections between their prior knowledge and the new experience. Understanding is built over time with each new experience.  This evolution is ongoing and flexible.

Making the unit’s center an evidence-based explanation of a phenomenon and student’s building/revising understanding of the science needed to communicate this explanation over time is key to designing a unit storyline that exemplifies 3-dimension learning while providing coherence between learning experiences. The progressions of these learning experiences involved a deliberate planned iteration of:

Exploration- learner actively constructing understanding

Reflection- making internal connection as well as external sharing of the experience through discussion and feedback

Extension– transferring understanding to a new context/ cements the experience and leads to deep understanding of the core ideas

The Exploration is Hands-on. The Reflection is minds-on. The Extension gives students the opportunity to transfer knowledge gained from these stages to a new context leading to deep understanding.

Over the next month, I will share a blog reflection around how each of the critical elements listed above were integrated into my unit plan. My hope is that by making my thinking public and sharing my unit, I can receive feedback from the Science education community so I can grow in my capacity to design NGSS experiences for my students.  I also hope that my reflections may support others on their NGSS journey and contribute to the collective conversation and effort to shift science education to prepare our students for career, college and life.

The framework and NGSS can provide us with a beautiful vision.  It is the work of classroom teachers and those that support classroom learning that makes the vision come to fruition.  Teachers sharing classroom stories and practical applications of the standards are the impetus that leads to improved science practice for all.

Please support my growth by providing feedback on my unit and my blog reflections and consider sharing your classroom stories, instructional and assessment designs, and reflections around the NGSS with me and the NGSS PLN so you can move our learning and thinking.

Thank you