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



Collective Wisdom

Fotosearch_k19828896Image credit: (c) aksakalko http://www.fotosearch.com

The Need…

One of the many benefits of being a connected educator is the end to isolation.  According to studies by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers spend only about 3% of their teaching day collaborating with colleagues.  Lack of time to collaborate with colleagues has consistently been reported as one of the top 2 challenges in teacher’s daily work.  Considering these statistics, it is no surprise that in our opening #NGSSchat on Goals for the New Year, collaboration was a top trend.  I loved this tweet shared by a member of the #NGSSchat PLN, DIane Johnson @MDHJohnson pictured below in response the the question:

What support do you need to achieve your 2016 classroom goals?

Collective WIsdom

Collective Wisdom paired with Reflection continues to drive my professional growth.  I agree with Diane in that what educators report they need are models and examples to enact the kind of transformative change envisioned in the Framework and NGSS.

The Plan…

I am blessed to be involved in many collaborations that continue to support the development of my capacities which, in turn, support my students.  In addition, I have adopted a classroom thought partner.  In this partnership, we will work to coach each other to strengthen classroom practice and implement new instructional models around the NGSS and 21st Century Learning.  As we navigate this semester, we will be sharing our classrooms through blog posts in a thread called

Making Thinking Visible


Our hope is that by sharing our classrooms and the thinking behind instructional and assessment decisions, we will be able to connect and receive feedback from others as well as contribute to the national science education conversation.

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 https://bchsshelton.wordpress.com/ and share your feedback and our products!

PIC Power of Video

Image credit: http://success8760.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Power-of-video-infograph.png

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


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      http://bit.ly/1qHJe5V  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?     http://goo.gl/forms/NIrWkPtOLK

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


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


An Invitation to Start an NGSS Blog: 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

This is an invitation to consider joining us in the #NGSSblogs Project taking place on Twitter at #NGSSblogs and with our NGSS Peer Learning Network Google plus community throughout the 2014-2015 school year and beyond.  Blogs and information about the project can be found at http://www.ngsspln.com/

We would like to bring people together across states to share our thinking and learning around the Next Generation Science Standards.  Great implementation will lead to great student achievement and progress towards the NGSS goal of depth of understanding through thinking and acting like a scientist. True integration of the 3 dimensions of the NGSS: disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts 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.

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.

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 NGSS reflections.

Some sample ideas:

  • your classroom story
  • your ideas and reflections
  • resources you are finding useful in implementing the NGSS
  • how you are utilizing technology to teach the NGSS
  • 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 WordPress.com or blogger.com
  • Create a blog post and send the url link to #NGSSblogs on Twitter and/or post in our NGSS Google community
  • Commit to trying to post at least 1 blog per month.
  • 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.

Please visit our NGSS Peer Learning Teams Website at NGSSPLN.com

Contact me for more information:

email: tdishelton@gmail.com

Twitter: @tdishelton or @NGSSblogs

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TriciaShelton/posts

Blog:  tdishelton.wordpress.com

website: NGSSPLN.com




Reflection into Action: Growth Through Collaboration


How will the Next Generation Science Standards affect my teaching, my classroom and most importantly, my students’ learning?  That’s the question many teachers in Kentucky are asking themselves as they begin or continue to walk down the road of NGSS implementation throughout the upcoming school year. Inspired by the blogging of fellow KY science teacher Patrick Goff, @BMSScienceteach, I am going to join him in his quest to use a thoughtful approach to NGSS implementation where collaboration with others is key and support is ongoing.  What better way to focus on reflection and putting that reflection into action to build capacity than through blogging.

How will the NGSS affect my teaching?

I have been immersed in the NGSS standards since last summer and can honestly say that I love them and I am basically obsessed with learning about them every opportunity I can.  My goal is to continue to deepen my understanding and share my reflections in this blog.  As a teacher leader, I place great value on conversations that can move the learning of others as well as my own.  I am excited about the opportunities that exist for these conversations throughout our state as well as virtually throughout the US around the common language of the NGSS.I hope others will take this approach, actively engaging in adult learning, having conversations with others, engaging in reflection for growth, and being mindful when reviewing resources for implementation.  There is always that temptation to look for the easy answers about “How to do the NGSS”.  Following someone else’s plans without the thoughtful  reflection, analysis, debate, and questioning  will not enable us to reach our own understanding so we can truly shift our classrooms in a sustained way.  I also believe as Brunsell, Kneser, and Niemi so effectively state in one of my favorite new resources Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS, NSTA 2014, “the NGSS represents an evolution of our understanding of the standards, not a complete break with the past”.  If we develop a deep understanding of the NGSS and build our capacity as teachers who coach students to independent thinking and lifelong learning, we will be able to utilize many of our resources by making revisions and shifts in design, and we will be able to be critical consumers of new resources.

How will the NGSS affect my classroom?

Over the past year, I shifted my classroom to immerse both the students and myself in the eight Science and Engineering Practices (SEP’s) of the NGSS.  Elevating the practices of science (skills in context) to be equal to the content along with the focus on engineering, K-12 coherence, and depth of understanding instead of breadth of coverage are the main shifts in moving from the old standards to the Next Generation Science standards according to one of my favorite articles for teacher reflection at the beginning of the NGSS journey, What Professional Development Strategies Are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards? Brian Reiser. The result was a classroom of empowered student meaning makers, engaged and motivated, energized by the opportunity to share their thinking with the world.  One of the best changes I made to designing instruction around the NGSS SEP’s was embracing the BSCS 5E’s framework developed by the amazing Rodger Bybee. This framework puts the student in the spotlight as meaning maker in possibly all, but definitely 4 out of 5 of the E’s (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate). This shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” is a way to embrace the spirit of the NGSS and work towards its vision for science education. A snapshot of my classroom discovering science through the 5E’s is found here: http://collegeready.gatesfoundation.org/About/Momentum/ANewFrameworkforTeachingandLearning

How will the NGSS affect my students’ learning?

My wish for my students is to act and think like scientists.  If I create a class culture that supports risk taking and reflection for growth; if I scaffold thinking skills and the NGSS Science and Engineering practices so students can work towards proficiency receiving specific, timely, and appropriate feedback; and if I give students choice and authentic audience to share that thinking; I believe that the students will achieve the goal of the standards. This goal is aligned with our state vision: scientifically literate thinkers and problems solvers who are college, career and life ready.  So many times this semester, lifted and filled with emotion, I looked out at my classroom of students with awe and pride.  They were confident, articulate question -askers and communicators of thinking that were not shaken by visitors (both virtual and face to face), cameras, or sharing their thinking with the world through video and social media.  All students can achieve big things if we trust them, provide authentic experiences that interest them, and challenge them to think while coaching from the sideline. The NGSS and the CCSS give us a framework to make that happen.

The NGSS is an opportunity for us to transform science education in our state as well as throughout the country. As I officially start my new school year, I am looking forward to sharing reflections about my partnerships with students, parents, and colleagues who continually coach me and help me grow.  I will share how I work to transform my teaching through deepening my understanding of the NGSS, curating, revising, and developing resources, and learning, sharing and collaborating with others through PLC’s, digital communities, social media, and my work on the NGSS Implementation team.  I will share reflections about the shifts in my classroom, 5E’ s lesson plans, and units developed with a UbD (Understanding by Design) lens and evaluated using the EQuIP rubric developed by Achieve.  Finally, and most important, I will reflect and share about my amazing students and their learning and how they coach me every day.

Please join me in blogging and reflecting on the NGSS, your science classroom, and your amazing students during this school year.

Thank you to Patrick Goff, @BMSScienceteach who inspires me and who had the great idea to start blogging and sharing around the NGSS.  Share your blogs to our community hashtag #NGSSblogs