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



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


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


Student Created Videos to Communicate Thinking

Watch Shelton Class Video

On February 28, 2014, my students were asked via a Tweet from #scio14, the Science Online Together Conference, to share their voice to conference attendees and the world through a Twitter hashtag about the importance of using media in the classroom for learning.  This blog entry contains some of their tweets communicating their reflections.  The whole storify can be found at http://bit.ly/1lsGoB1 and an blog entry about how student use Twitter to learn, network, collaborate and share can be found here.

A2 we use video to share and contribute ideas to other students to help them understand concepts that we have learned in class!

Classroom Connections

This year, my students and I partnered to develop ways to leverage technology to communicate our thinking and extend the classroom learning “beyond the four walls”.  Our journey has enabled us to connect with other students and scientists from around the world and learn with them.  My professional journey (on Twitter) to learn more about utilizing technology in the classroom has resulted in a partnership with Dr. Alan Marnett, the founder and CEO of BenchFly. Together, we have joined forces to develop a framework of critical thinking and communication for students (and others) to use with video.

At BenchFly, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have met Mrs. Shelton—a teacher with a seemingly endless supply of energy and passion for advancing student education. Having spent nearly 15 years in the lab as a research scientist, I saw firsthand how technology could revolutionize the professional laboratory environment. But the way I look at it, being a “scientist” is not defined by working in a particular lab or earning a specific degree. It’s a frame of mind. It’s how you think. Scientists ask questions, make observations, gather data, and make conclusions. By that definition, who *isn’t* a scientist? So the technology that’s positively impacting today’s researchers should be just as effective at training our younger generation of scientists as well.

We live in an incredible era where students have access to more information in the palm of their hands than our grandparents could have gathered in an entire lifetime. So it seems we’ve solved the “information access” problem. Now on to the harder one: thinking. Thinking, and effective communication of the ideas, are skills that can be taught, developed, and perfected. When Mrs. Shelton and I embarked on this curriculum development journey, we didn’t know where it would lead. I could not be more proud of Mrs. Shelton and her students, who bravely embarked on this journey with us to create the ART of Video.

A2 Using video in the classroom has gave us a new way of teaching people and showing our thinking.

1 Retweet 1 favorite

Thinking Products

For students to leave us college, career, and life ready, classrooms need to shift from teachers filling students with facts for “student learning” to students reasoning and explaining how and why phenomena occur- “student thinking”.  Technology is a powerful tool to access, refine, and extend learning through student created “Thinking Products”.  Thinking products are defined as communications of students“meaning making” from class experiences. Communication is through the vehicles of writing, speaking, and media including video. Thinking products are the glue that binds together all of the essential elements of the current education landscape: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and 21st Century Skills in the ISTE Standards.  Through the use of thinking products, students become independent learners, critical and creative thinkers, and communicators who are prepared for success in life and career. Students, over multiple years of school, deepen understanding of content by analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, synthesizing–thinking and communicating  relationships and connections between multiple experiences. Learning becomes more meaningful to the student because he/she embeds it into their schema since the integration of evidence from class experiences and information accessed through text and digital sources is controlled by the student. The communication of the thinking is facilitated by the teacher through the framework, use of questioning, and feedback resulting in a cohesive package (through multiple communication modes) that intertwines knowledge and the practices of the discipline.   Video thinking products are engaging experiences for students that result in both in-depth understanding of content and the deep thinking necessary for students to be critical consumers of science.

Student Example of Video Thinking Product

The universality of thinking products in my classroom has a foundation in constructing a claim and supporting that claim with multiple pieces of evidence. In the old model, my students were asked to communicate knowledge about separate class experiences through writing, quizzes and summative assessments.  In the new model, students communicate thinking after “meaning making” around multiple class experiences. This thinking requires students to make connections across different areas of a discipline and across other disciplines as well, resulting in an in-depth understanding of content while practicing critical thinking skills.  The multiple vehicles of Thinking Products: Video, Speaking,Writing, and Social Media enable students to prepare for effective communication and sharing of ideas in a 21st Century World.

Claim Evidence Coaching Rubric

A2- Using videos to show a concept makes it much more easier to learn something instead of just book learning .

11:12 AM – 28 Feb 2014

Impact of Video in the Classroom

In our classroom, the goal is to “act and think like a scientist.” We communicate our scientific reasoning with Thinking Products. Students can choose between the multiple vehicles to communicate thinking, so the learning becomes personalized to the students needs and interests; I can meet them where they are on the thinking scaffold since all products have a common foundation.  Throughout the semester, the Shelton Class will be sharing our story of using video in the classroom to access, refine, extend and communicate learning and thinking through this blog, Twitter @tdishelton and @BCHSstory, as well as on the web at www.benchfly.com/shelton.  We will be posting our scaffold of skills and activities for students to build proficiency in thinking and the ART of video as well as sharing student products and the student story.

A2 I have used video in the class to create investigations and help explain my thinking.

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The ART of Video

Even though I was convinced of the power of video to not only enhance the “meaning making” experience, but also provide an effective and essential communication vehicle in our global society, I am aware of the anxieties felt by many students around video participation.  Together, the students, Dr. Marnett (BenchFly) and I have developed a scaffold for communication through video.  The ART (Audience, Role, Technique) of video as well as lesson plan samples will follow in separate entries for this blog.  In addition, I will post ideas that the students have found effective in creating a class culture to support video in the classroom.

If we’re going to teach students to act and think like scientists, we should lead by example. So like any good experiment, the ART of Video will be a work in progress. With the help of teachers, students, and scientists, we will continue to generate hypotheses, gather data, and make conclusions in order to improve the curriculum and better serve the next generation of scientists.             –Alan Marnett

We would love to hear your feedback about how you are using video in your classroom so we can continue learning in our classroom while learning, reflecting and sharing with our PLN through technology.

Tricia and Alan