Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NGSS: It's NOT about the content.

I've been learning about NGSS since 2013.  I've been wrapping my head around it and attempting to decode the complexity of this huge shift in science education.  I have attended conferences and trainings on NGSS, taught NGSS, trained NGSS, written curriculum for NGSS and basically lived NGSS nonstop for a few years.  It took me awhile to accept that engineering was different than science.  It took me even longer to grasp the idea of what crosscutting concepts look like in the classroom.  I'm still learning but there is one thing I am confident about when it comes to teaching: NGSS is NOT about the content.  The BIGGEST shift with NGSS (for teachers) is pedagogy.

Pedagogy is the art of teaching.  It's how teachers deliver the instruction and assess the learning.  Pedagogy, in my opinion, is what differentiates great teachers from bleh teachers.  Some of the smartest people in the world could absolutely suck at teaching in their area of expertise because they lack pedagogical skills.  It's not that this person doesn't clearly KNOW their content, but instructing others to grasp concepts associated with a topic then assess their knowledge of content and skills is not easy.  That is why not everyone can be an educator.  Others might think they can be an educator, but as teachers know, pedagogy takes time and practice and not everyone is good at it.

So why is NGSS all about pedagogy?  What a great question!  NGSS asks that students take the KNOWLEDGE (DCI) associated with scientists and engineers to THINK (CCC) like them and DO (SEP) what they do.  Traditionally, science teachers (not all of them, but let's honest, most of them) have lectured to students.  They have kids take notes on a chapter, read the chapters, answer questions from the chapter, do a lab from the chapter, then test at the end of the chapter.  I was taught this way and for a decent amount of time, I taught this way.  I'm not calling this bad teaching.  I learned.  Heck, I even went into research, but maybe, just maybe learning like this is NOT thinking or acting like scientists/engineers.  Truth be told, I didn't learn to think and act like a scientist until graduate school and that is simply a damn shame.  So, NGSS is asking us teachers to allow this to happen at a younger age...like starting in kindergarten!  

DISCOVERY and INQUIRY are KEY.  Students need to experience something that gets them wondering.  This wondering leads to questioning, experimenting and seeking out answers.   But true scientific discovery doesn't happen through the front loading of information.  That doesn't mean that researchers don't have knowledge about a topic.  They do.  But experimentation evolves because there are gaps in their knowledge, content that is not fully understood.  Thus, teachers need to dangle just enough content in front of students to get them curious.  Then, through exploration the students arrive to a better understanding of the concept.  Sure, we can lecture to the students, but that prevents them the opportunity to think and problem solve like a scientist/engineer.  We need them getting creative, working in groups, using their resources, making decisions in order to make meaning of what they are experiencing.

Our students are evolving as are the worldly needs and demands.  If you haven't seen the graphic below, take a look at it.  It is listing the skills of the future and is quite eye opening.  Notice it doesn't say anything about knowing vocabulary words.

Source: Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum

When it comes to experimentation, researchers don't follow a recipe knowing what the answer is going to be.  They often times take procedures/tools that are known and design experiments around those procedures/tools.  Sometimes they create new procedures/tools all together.  So if teachers are simply giving students the steps to an experiment, they are robbing the students of a rich opportunity to THINK.  So what if the experiment doesn't work?  The student didn't fail.  They simply found one way NOT to test the hypothesis.

Multiple choice.  I love/hate multiple choice.  As a teacher it is super easy to grade, but as a learner I could narrow it down to two then argue why both are possible answers.  However, if I guessed the wrong one, it was marked incorrect, regardless of my argument.  In science, sometimes there is more than one right answer and by not allowing students the opportunity to argue why their answer is the best answer, we are not permitting the skill of argumentation with evidence.
Seeing how students think!

Students should be able to look at data and interpret it.  They should be able to make predictions from graphs and models.  Teachers should not be telling students how to think about numbers and images, rather we should be challenging them to look for patterns and draw conclusions.  

I went to a session at NSTA in 2017 and the lead presenter was from San Francisco Unified (SFUSD is ROCKING NGSS).  He said we should be teaching ACTIVITY BEFORE CONCEPT - CONCEPT BEFORE VOCABULARY

A-B-C  C-B-V

This, in my opinion, is the HEART of NGSS.  Teachers, this is our charge.  It's not that lectures go away.  They are simply strategically placed and HOW we deliver the lectures must be considered/revamped. Scientific content has not disappeared.  It's always been there.  But NGSS is NOT about the content.  For teachers, NGSS is all about the pedagogy.   We must embrace the pedagogy that reflects the type of learning that is expected with NGSS.  Students THINK (CCC) and DO (SEP) science and engineering all the while acquiring KNOWLEDGE (DCI)and deeper understanding of concepts.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

NGSS Rollout: The First Month

This year our district is test driving our brand new NGSS Biology and Chemistry courses. (Physics was last year)  And WOW, has a lot happened in just one month.  I'm not gonna lie,  it has been exciting to watch this shift take place.

I LOVE the new courses, but they take work.  The curriculum that the teachers designed is full of hands-on, minds-on performance tasks with engaging phenomena. However, it is up to the classroom teacher to create the sequence of learning that leads to the performance tasks and facilitate the learning experience in a way that allows students to explain a phenomena.  (see image below)   This is quite different for many reasons (some listed below).  
  • Traditionally, educators have front loaded information to students, then the students practiced what they just learned.  (sit-and-get) Now, students are trying explain a phenomena through learning experiences.  (discover-and-explain)
  • Traditionally, the class textbook set the pace and flow for learning.  For those who don't know, many textbooks come with worksheets, activities, PowerPoints and test banks for teachers to use.  Bold curriculum like our new courses, requires that learning be quite intentional through hand picked activities based off specific learning objectives for each unit of study.  In other words, not everything in Chapter 3.
  • Traditionally, student learning was assessed through a summative test and that learning was usually about content.  Now, students are assessed on what they know and can DO, hence the performance task.

I have been amazed at the willingness of my colleagues to approach NGSS with such a huge growth mindset. Sure, there is some frustration.  Yes, there are some things that are not perfectly smooth.  But these wrinkles in the fabric of learning will get ironed out and these new courses will be beyond robust.

Professional learning community teams (PLC) are working diligently to wrap their minds around the curriculum and create meaningful learning experiences.  Teachers are trying out new the ACTIVITY FIRST approach (Activity Before Concept, Concept Before Vocabulary), instead of front loading with content.   Many of them are choosing to seriously rethink grading and how to assess students through the lens of three dimensional learning.  It is an EXCITING time in science!!!!

  • Time. Innovation takes time. 
  • Practice.  Pedagogical shifts take practice.
  • Examples.  Many teachers want to "see" what this looks like in the classroom.

Some of the phrases I have heard from teachers:
  • "I feel like a first year teacher again."
  • "Letting them (students) figure out the information without just giving it to them first is hard."
  • "If they design a bad experiment, how will I know if they learned the right thing?"
  • "That lesson was incredible."
  • "The students LOVED the activity.  It was a hit."
  • "What are other teachers doing?"
  • "It went well.  Just need to change a few things for next year."
  • "The students are really engaged."
Some of the phrases I have heard from students include:
  • "Oh, this makes me think."
  • "This is cool."
  • "Wow.  Check this out."
This a move in the right direction for science education and I feel so lucky to get to witness this change firsthand.  I look forward to continually supporting my coworkers as we  blaze the trail for science AWESOMENESS!

My biggest takeaway after the first month?  Change takes time, willingness and patience. Every teacher is at a different place on this change cycle, and that is perfectly okay.  But not a single one of my coworkers is at stage 1 or 2.  WIN!!!!!!  My coworkers ROCK!

Friday, September 1, 2017

The 10,000 Step Challenge

"I didn't get as many steps in as I was hoping."

That's what my fitbit wearing, high energy, amazing coworker told me the other day.  He explained that his students were taking a test therefore he wasn't on his feet as much.  I think I responded with something cheesy like, "Run laps around the classroom."

But it did make me ponder the following:  How many steps does the average teacher get in a day?  

When I was in the classroom I was on my feet all day long.  I was working with students, lecturing, facilitating labs, traveling to the office/copy room/coworkers classrooms, mad dashes to the bathroom, mad dashes back to the classroom...  I was probably doing 100,000,000,000 steps.  That's TOTALLY possible.

I did some homework.  Apparently, the average American does about 6,000 steps per day, according to this article.  That would be approximately 3 miles.  I was doing a lot more than that, I think.  But do ALL teachers do more than 6,000 steps? 

I pondered this for awhile, super bummed that I never truly logged my step count while at work (I do love data).  I reflected on how often I was at my desk versus on my feet.  I can honestly say that sometimes I was behind my desk more than I should have been: taking roll, grading papers, creating assessments/assignments, updating the website, responding to emails....and the list goes on.  But deep down I know for a fact that every time I was sitting down, I was missing out.  When I failed to not be there next to the students because I chose to do something that could have waited for my prep period or at home, I created a divide between them and me.  My giant teacher desk became a barrier, my fortress of paper walls that boasted, "You SHALL NOT PASS!"  Not literally, just metaphorically, or possibly physically.

Pedagogically speaking, we know that it is best for students when the teacher is actively participating with them, listening, guiding, reflecting, directing, laughing with them, getting to know them.  Being physically present is an amazing classroom management strategy that works.  When teachers are sitting at their desks, SO much learning opportunities slip by.  A teacher cannot adequately facilitate an engaging experience from behind a computer monitor, disengaged from the learners.  A teacher cannot quickly address frustration or feel the pulse of the class if the teacher is not within the learning.  A mobile teacher is hearing those conversations, earning student trust, connecting with the students, making the magic happen.

So, how many teachers are sitting at their desks?  Putting on movies and calling that a learning experience?  Hiding behind their computer?  How often are teachers sitting at their desks?  Half the class?  1/3?  All of it?

We know that walking is good for us.  We know that being among the students is good for them AND us.  THUS, I offer (drum roll please) The 10,000 Step Challenge.  I challenge you to take 10,000 steps during your WORK day.  Yes, that is a lot of steps.  It is about 5 miles.  However, imagine how this could transform your teaching and classroom!  There are LOTS of free pedometer apps for your phone.  You can find pedometers for less than $10.  You can even get a bulk discount!

TURN IT INTO A COMPETITION:  You could host this challenge at your school.  It could be within your department, between departments, or just with teachers who want to participate. You could host it for a week, a month, a semester.  Have a check in place in the morning to zero out the pedometers, then check out on the board at the end of the day.  Or, give everyone a log sheet and hope for honesty.  Maybe, like the classic weight loss challenges, everyone pitches in $10 dollars.  The top 3 step earners divide up the pot.  Maybe admin could find some fun incentives.  Maybe admin could purchase pedometers in bulk and pass them out to staff to support the challenge.  But, in my opinion, the biggest reward will be student engagement and performance.  If you don't believe me, then take the challenge. What's the worst that could happen?  You get more physically fit and get to know your students better?

Now, hold up. You might be saying, "Hey, Becky, we have a coworker who is on crutches or a wheelchair.  Not fair."  To that I say, no worries!  That amazing coworker can take the average of his/her department as their steps.  You don't need functioning legs to be participate. Just the will to get 'er done.

COMPETITION part 2:  Now that we've got the teachers up and moving, consider getting the students up and moving.  I know.  Scary thought...but increasing the blood flow aids in learning, creativity and memory.

  • This study finds that walking increases creativity.
  • This study shows how different physical activities make your brain work better.
If you are looking for something simple to add to your teaching tool belt this year, then add a pedometer.  I am challenging every teacher out there to get 10,000 steps during the school day without cheating.  (Do not hand over your pedometer to the track team).

Are you willing to step up and take the challenge?  Get it?  "Step up?"  HA!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Add Some “WAM” to Your NGSS Models!

***I am so spoiled to get to share this AMAZING guest blog post from two incredibly brilliant instructional coaches.  ENJOY!***

Add Some “WAM” to Your NGSS Models!
Explaining Visual Representations in Writing

Amy Booth and Michelle Peace

Students are spread out in groups across the classroom, gathered around whiteboards, Expo markers in hand. Lively conversations about how to explain represent water moving up a tube echo throughout the room.  Your students are developing a model.  Yah, your instruction hits Science and Engineering Practice #2. Your classroom is so NGSS.   But hold  up...you’re not going to let students stop there.  It’s time to take modeling to the next level-- It’s time to “WAM”.  

Writing About Models, affectionately dubbed WAM, allows students to describe in words what their model visually explain about science phenomena. Students can write about their own model or what they see in other models. Models and their written explanations challenge students to communicate thinking multiple ways. By explaining a model, students summarize and synthesize what they visually explain, deepening their understanding of a phenomenon.  

Creating models is a fundamental component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as students in all grade levels are expected to frequently construct models to predict or explain phenomena through diagrams, 3-D objects, mathematical representations, analogies or computer simulations.  As teachers shift to this deeper and richer view of science, they will be challenged to construct learning experiences for students to model and grapple with how to assess those models.  Teachers also need to consider when and how to have students explain their model in writing.  

Origins of WAM
The inspiration for writing about models was born from shared office space, which is the homebase for seven district instructional coaches.  Although we are typically out at school sites working with teachers and students, creativity and collaboration flourish when four English teachers, two science teachers and one social science teacher share a space roughly the size of a classroom. The science coaches verbalized a need for a writing tool to accompany all of the student generated modeling now featured in our science curriculum.  This need was particularly high for digital badge based assessments in Competency X at Del Lago Academy.  The Literacy coaches from English and social science ran with the idea. Writing About Models (WAM) was conceived, refined and shared with district science teachers to implement in the 2017-18 school year.  

How to WAM
Students need to tailor their writing to the task, audience and purpose of the assignment.  An explanation of a model is different than other writings in science or an essay a student might write in another class.  Not every model will require a written explanation, but when the model is accompanied by a written explanation, consider this criteria:
  • Main Idea - What does the model predict or explain? Clearly identify this to begin the summary.
  • Descriptions - Concisely describe the components (steps, series, pieces. parts) in the model.  Explain why they are important to the model and any relationships between the steps.  Make sure your descriptions follow the same order has the model.  
  • Concluding statement - State the model’s significance or connection to other concepts including any real world applications.
  • Writing Conventions - Write in complete sentences using precise academic language. Use transitional phrases (first, then, finally) when appropriate.

Assessing WAM
Rubrics help students identify the expectations of the writing task and grow their skills with peer and teacher feedback.  Consider adding a writing category to your rubric for assessing the model like this sample:  
Writing About Models
Main idea of model is clearly stated.  Descriptions are detailed and complete.  Concluding thoughts explain the model and/or its significance.
Writing is clear and well-organized with appropriate transitions.  No grammar or spelling errors.
Main idea of the model is clear. Descriptions may be incomplete.  Concluding statement somewhat communicates model significance. Writing is mostly clear, transitions contribute to flow or ideas. Few errors.  
Main idea is somewhat unclear.  Descriptions are incomplete.  Concluding statement may be inaccurate.  Writing is not well organized, no transitional phrases. Grammar and spelling errors detract from clarity.  
Main idea is unclear.  Descriptions are inaccurate or incomplete.  Concluding statement is missing or inaccurate. Grammar and spelling errors detract from clarity.

Don’t Forget to WAM
The demands of NGSS are new and exciting, and perhaps a little overwhelming.  As you plan for students to analyze and create models, don’t forget to WAM.  Make sure students can describe and explain their model in writing.  It will improve their communication skills and deepen their understanding of science.

Amy Booth and Michelle Peace are Instructional Coaches for Literacy in the Escondido Union High School District.  They are inspired by NGSS, and enjoy collaborating with district science teachers to strengthen student communication skills.   
Amy Booth: abooth@euhsd.org @1AmyBooth

Michelle Peace: mpeace@euhsd.org @1peacemichelle

Sunday, June 11, 2017

NGSS Science Summer Institute

My forward thinking district was willing to support a Science Summer Institute to provide training for the science teachers on the Next Generation Science Standards and the new curriculum.  Instead of hiring an outside company, they entrusted myself and my coworker to design and implement the 3 day extravaganza.

After much contemplation, we decided on an approach comparable to what we experienced at the amazing teacher institute at the Exploratorium.  Essentially, each morning we would begin the day by diving into hands-on inquiry activities.  We would follow that with minimal direct instruction on specific topics (a bit of sit-and-get) then in the afternoon PLC teams would get unit planning time.  

I have come to realize that because NGSS has huge pedagogical shifts, teachers need to experience them first hand as if they were the student.  So we used the Exploratorium's Sound CUP activity for discourse and modeling and their colored shadows for discourse and experimentation.  If you have not discovered the Exploratorium's Science Snacks, I would strongly encourage checking them out.  AMAZING resources from an AMAZING organization.  LOVE THE EXPLORATORIUM!!!!

We had teachers designing and performing experiments using this template.  Bio teachers had to determine which hand responds the fastest using this siteWe had them white board their data and followed it up with a white board meeting.

Physical science teachers had to manipulate variables associated with cheese making. 

Bio teachers had to draw and refine models to explain why something bubbles when hydrogen peroxide is added to it.  Physical science teachers had to draw and refine a model to explain why water is becoming acidic.  (another Exploratorium Snack)

After lunch each day, professional learning community (PLC) teams came together to develop their first unit.  We used a modified version of the Oakland Unified's unit design picture to provide a visual for HOW a unit should look. (OUSD has some AMAZING material.  They are definitely leaders in rolling out NGSS.  Thank you for making them available).  We gave teachers this template to help them develop their unit plan.

Every night we gave teachers a bit of reading homework from the STEM Teaching Tools.  These tools are irreplaceable for professional development.  They have countless useful links and provide excellent followup questions for teachers to discuss purpose, practice, and implementation.

We spent a bit of time going over the ends-and-outs of engineering (a new standard in NGSS).  Teachers experienced the V-model of systems engineering and HOW that can be easily implemented in the classroom.  We provided everyone with this handout then gave them some time to see where in the curriculum engineering was explicitly called out.  One of my favorite exit tickets from the day can be seen to the right.

The literacy TOSAs in our district were there to support the science teachers in how to implement reading and writing within an NGSS course.  They provided countless strategies from Claim/Evidence/Reasoning to writing about a model, preview statements, reading with a purpose, interactive notebooks.....AMAZING!  

Each day had a fun theme (crazy science t-shirt, dress like an element, mad scientist) and we made sure to have cheesy prizes to hand out as well.  

I was overwhelmed with the high energy and collaborative vibe that pulsated throughout the three days.  These amazing science educators were willing to dive straight into the deep end of educational reform.  Sure, there was some anxiety and concern, but I can honestly say that the team of science educators in my district are the BEST!  The students of this district are so lucky to have such an incredible group of teachers willing to provide a science and engineering experience like none other.  I can't wait to see NGSS being implemented next year.

I would strongly encourage all districts to consider doing a similar summer institute with their science teachers.  We are in the learning process and there is a lot of new learning for teachers with NGSS.    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

When Students Fail (NGSS Style)

I've been in education for over 14 years.  Over that time, I have reflected a lot on my grading practices.  I have analyzed the purpose of homework, tests, projects, gradebook...  I have pondered standards based grading and competency based grading.  I have wondered if the grade in the gradebook truly reflects what students can know and do or is it an artificial number created by a mathematical system that doesn't look at the growth of a students, but rather the summation of events.

Recently my 8th grade son was tasked to build an egg catcher to prevent an egg from breaking.  LOVE THIS TOPIC!  So I asked my son, "Can you explain to me the science behind the egg catcher?"  His response, "I don't know."  So I asked him about forces and impulse, if these terms sounded familiar.  He said, "We've talked about forces."  After an additional twenty minutes of talking about forces and leading to the concept of impulse, it became very apparent that these were topics that they had not covered in class (or maybe my son conveniently forgot).  

Regardless, we looked at the instructions for the egg catcher.  Very typical for this type of project including requirements for the size of the catcher, what could be used to build, as well as what is defined as a broken egg.  But when I saw the grading rubric, my jaw hit the table, and as a parent and teacher I was appalled.

Scoring is based on 3 criteria

  • device built with approved materials
  • device within dimensions
  • egg survives fall
If the device only meets 2 of the 3 criteria, the best grade that can be achieved is a C+.


I just about lost my ever loving mind.  The teacher made it impossible for him to show mastery (if we assume mastery is a B or better) if his egg broke.  Ummmmmmm.

In truth...I really like this teacher.  I respect this teacher and know that this person's heart is in the right place.  This teacher truly attempts to allow kids to have fun with science. Though I don't agree with how this person is assessing my child, I still admire this teacher and am grateful that my son is in the class.  But, this (in my opinion) is a PROJECT without CONTENT.  And in looking at it, the project incorporates only 1 out of the 3 dimensions of NGSS.  

NGSS asks that we have students DOING (science and engineering practices), KNOWING (disciplinary core ideas), and THINKING (crosscutting concepts) about science.  This project is ONLY looking at the DOING of science, and as such, is missing the other two dimensions COMPLETELY.  

You could try to argue with me that there is a core idea and crosscutting concept.  But I would push back by asking, if the other two are present, how are they being assessed via the rubric?

I am going to provide a few scenarios for you to ponder:
  • You are teaching students about alternative energies and you want a student to build a solar car that moves forward. The kid successfully builds that car but it doesn't move.  Has the student failed?
  • Students are learning about forces and they are going to do the classic egg drop experiment.  The kid builds the device to protect the egg, but the egg crack.  Has the student failed?
  • Students are learning about photosynthesis.  A student designs an experiment to determine the effects of sunlight on plants.  After two weeks, they find that the absence of sunlight does not effect the growth of the plant.  Has this student failed?
If this was my class, I would argue that NONE of these kids have failed.  In fact, in all three scenarios, I believe that the students have data to support how not to be effective.  If a student can explain why their project/experiment failed I believe that this is more powerful than a student who was successful but can't explain why.  

The science and engineering practices want to students to argue with evidence, analyze data, construct an explanation...not just build a successful device.  The crosscutting concepts ensure that students are understanding the system they are working in, the energy associated with the experiment, the patterns that emerge from testing.  The disciplinary core ideas allow students to sink their understanding in scientific concepts associated with the course of study.

If a kid only builds an egg catcher, but can't explain how it works (forces, impulse), why it didn't work, linking it to energy associated with the egg as it falls, etc....then what was the purpose of the project?

I was so upset about how this project would be assessed that I wanted to talk to the teacher.  My husband had to talk me off the ledge.  But, how is it that teachers are allowed to assess like this?  I wonder, if we had the opportunity to talk about assessment, would I be considered a parent who is only looking for her kid to get an A, or a professional who is wishing to discuss the pedagogy behind the assessment practice?  I don't know, but I would encourage all science teachers to consider their assessment practices.  How do kids show what they can do and what they know?

BACK to the egg drop project:  Though I know the ends-and-outs of impulse, I merely helped my son build his egg catcher, answering questions and letting him test about 10 of the household eggs.  His device looked super cool.  He used ziploc bags partially full of air within a wooden box that he built, all of it held in place with a plastic mesh.  I was really proud of his design, prototyping and experimentation.  Was he successful on test day?  According to the teacher's rubric, no, his egg broke.  

I patted my son on the back and said, "Sorry kiddo.  You're device was really cool."  

His response, "Well, mom, the air was cold that morning, so my ziploc air bags deflated because the molecules were moving slower, not spread out.  I should have checked to see if they still had enough air in them.  Oh well." 

He might have only scored a C+ on the teacher's rubric, but my son earned an A in my book.

Teachers, as we roll into this amazing 3D learning of NGSS, it is absolutely critical that we assess fairly and not hold students hostage for criteria that WE deem are most important.  If the purpose of science is to explain and understand our world through exploration, then we need to allow students to do that, even if their projects fail.

I haven't perfected the ability to design 3D assessments, but I am getting better.  I have found that the StemTeachingTools are VERY useful resources for educators.  

Maybe, if we assess students fairly, they will stop thinking that science is hard, but rather that science is FUN!

I don't blame my son's teacher.  This person is an excellent educator and my son has learned a lot.  I would even challenge that this one project is not indicative of the overall experience my son had in the class.  But it does serve as a perfect example for why 3D learning is absolutely necessary.  I am grateful that NGSS will allow all of us to grow as educators.  It will make me much more mindful of how learning is assessed in my classroom.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

NSTA 2017

NSTA 2017 was in Los Angeles and oh boy, it was a hit.  I will attempt to highlight some of my favorite sessions below.  My focus this year was primarily on assessment.  I really wanted to find good resources for how to ensure we know how to assess our students fairly  as we begin to implement NGSS in the classroom. 

This was my first session I attended this year.  Kevin Anderson (Wisconsin Science Education Consultant) @wisdpiscience  led us on a short journey to discuss what a system of NGSS assessment might look like for a school:  formative, summative, benchmark, other elements.  He stressed the need to make sure that assessment ties back to our vision.  We did a fun activity where we had to take data and generate a model from it. 

I totally love my model.  HEHEHEHEHE

He shared with us an idea of competency based grading and shared about the next generation storylines that help teachers bundle performance expectations and put them into a coherent progression for student learning.  SUPER COOL!  Kevin told us that rubrics are a learning progression and should NOT have the terms like NEVER, SOME, or ALWAYS.   I will have to go back and look at the rubrics I have created.

Kevin has a blog, which I will now be following, and he shared one in which he wrote about using students surveys as an assessment piece.  I have linked that one HERE.

Overall, Kevin's session was really awesome and was the perfect way to start NSTA 2017.

miniOne System

I have been looking for an electrophoresis system that might be useful for teachers in my district.  When I say useful I mean:  user friendly, quick, not a lot of setup, no dangerous chemicals, not dangerous to students, etc.  What I found with the miniOne system is that this system is AWESOME!  If I was teaching biology, I would want this simple set up in my class.  We poured, loaded and ran a gel in sixty minute session.  INCREDIBLE!!!!! 

Classroom Assessment and the NGSS

Heidi Schweingruber did a great job of sharing with us what assessment could look like in the NGSS classroom:  multiple components, progressive nature of learning, include an interpretive system for evaluating a range of students products.  There is a new book, Seeing Students Learn Science, published by the National Academies Press.  You can download the pdf for free at the link!!!!  I'm so gonna read this bad boy.  THANKS HEIDI!

Admittedly, crosscutting concepts are an area I struggle with.  I know what they are and I know they are important, but I've been struggling as a teacher to see HOW they can be used.  Thus, I really wanted to go to this session.  And Peter A'Hearn rocked it!!!!   He showed us how you can kinda categorize the CCC.

He gave us this quote from Henri Poincare:  Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

We know that CCC are how scientists think but Peter led us to realize that crosscutting concepts set up the CONTEXT for HOW scientists ask the right questions.  We could design questions for our students OR we could show our students and have them ask questions based on the CCC.  AWESOME!  Peter has a website where he has free handouts and posters for CCC to be used in the classroom.

THANK YOU PETER!!!!  Amazing session.
Leena Bakshi, EdD (@leena219) and Mena Parmar (@menaparmar) had an energetic session on getting gets talking in the science classroom.  They provided us with some fun strategies, having us practice them. 

Though they were all excellent ideas, I think I really enjoyed the think-pair-share with a twist.  They had think-write-pair-write-share-write.  REALLY like this! 
Thanks ladies!!!!  Very fun and great way to end the day!

David Vernot with the University of Cincinnati shared with us a searchable database of Science and Math Engineering Project.  Can't wait to go through this to find amazing projects for ours students to experience.  Woohoo!  Thanks David...you just made my search for engineering so much easier.

I led a session this year on science vs engineering, explaining how they are similar and different and how they fit into the classroom. I was super excited to see a decent amount of people show for this 8:30 am session and super pumped to be able to share this at the National conference.  WOOT!!!!  I've written this blog before for those who are interested.

Grading in a 3 Dimensional Classroom
Jim Clark (@sci_innovations) and Samantha Johnson rocked this session.  They had us evaluate the purpose of grades, digging into what is a formative vs summative assessments.  They shared this idea of a chef cooking a meal and as they cook they taste to make sure they are on the right track (formative) but once they have finished the dish they serve it for the guests to enjoy (summative).  LOVE THIS ANALOGY.  

They suggested competency based grading using the scale.  They explained that even though they grade everything on a 1-4 scale, the only grade that really counts is the summative assessment in the end.  In theory, if the formative assessments do their jobs and there is learning progression, a student will be able to show mastery of the content in the end.

In the end Jim and Samantha said that whatever grading system we use, it CANNOT cancel out hope.  I couldn't agree more.  Great stuff!!!

Jennifer Weibert did an excellent job sharing with us how to use interactive notebooks in an NGSS class.  She indicated there are three things that must be present for students to learn using their notebook:  COLOR, PICTURES, TEXT.  YES!!!!!

She showed us some student exemplars and they were really nice.  She stressed the need for students to have the same assignment on the same page in their notebook and this is for the purposes of ease of grading.  This would be the only thing I would consider doing different...because sometimes kids just need more space and if they have a table of contents then you can identify where that material is located.

She also shared that if you start your unit with a phenomena, they can do this really cool strategy of building meaning around the essential questions of the unit.  They put those questions in the center of the page in a light bulb, and as they start building knowledge to answer those questions they add it to that page citing where in their notebook they found that information (kinda like a giant concept map).  I absolutely LOVE this idea!!!!

I did another workshop with some of my amazing coworkers on HOW WE MADE our FIRST NGSS CLASS.  It was a hit and I loved sharing our work with other teachers.  I am so spoiled to work with such an incredible group of dedicated educators.

From another session I picked up  little tidbit that made my day.  It was the ACT college readiness standards.  Basically, it is the evidence I need to show teachers when they ask, "How do we know if NGSS will prepare kids for college?"  An amazing find!!!!

I went to a bunch of other amazing sessions, but to write about all of them would take me all night, and I am now officially tired.   The guys from San Francisco Unified....and your water bottle flip phenomena....LOVED IT!  SFUSD has got it together!

I got to hang out with Exploratorium Teacher Institute Team.  If you are a teacher and haven't check them out, then you are truly missing out.  I want to be like these science rock stars when I grow up!!!!!  They have figured out how to deliver phenomena in spades.  If you go the NSTA Conference site, make sure you pull up the resources from their sessions.  Lori, Zeke, Erik, Tammy and Julie....y'all are my science heroes!

I want to thank NSTA for putting on a great conference and thank all the presenters for the dedication to science education and students.  If my colleagues were unwilling to share, I would not be able to learn from them.

NSTA was amazing this year.  I got to meet a lot new people, hang out with old friends and coworkers, LEARN a bunch of new strategies, engage in amazing experiences and for the first time, present at the NATIONAL conference.  NSTA 17 will go down in history for me as AWESOME-SAUCE.