Messy with NGSS

I am not doing things perfectly in my classroom this year. I am doing what we want our science students to be doing–I am experimenting, and revising as I go along. I am taking chances (wasting precious test prep time!) to figure out what works for my students–what are they most interested in, what engages them the most, and how I need to change my process with them. It’s been uncomfortable at times, but it is sparking teaching ideas that I would never had thought of before.

Over my 17 years of teaching chemistry, I have seen many changes in education and the standards. In my state, we have had Quality Core Chemistry Standards, which were content only and very traditional, for the past few years. While that is still in place, we are (should be) working on implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The 3D learning inherent in the NGSS is hard to tackle. I have spent the whole past year reading publications, watching videos/webinars, and attending sessions on the NGSS. I have worked on developing a chemistry storyline, curriculum maps, and sample units for my district. After all of that, I still have to work at insuring I am meeting the standards.

When discussing the NGSS with other teachers, I find that their knowledge and understanding of it are minimal.In fact, in my state, testing in K-8 was suspended so that those teachers could focus on the NGSS this year. I have a child in 4th grade, and two children in the 6th grade (different science teachers). Two of those teachers are involved in district level work with the NGSS as I am, and are working on it. The other one is just throwing worksheets out to the students all the time, and I’m sure he’s not the only one.

I strongly believe every science teacher should be reading all of these documents (see below). It takes time to wrap your mind around these new standards. IT IS A CHANGE FROM WHAT IS BEING DONE NOW. It is a change in the instructional process more than anything.

K-12 Science Framework(where the standards came from): Framework

The Standards:

Guide to Implementing the Science Standards: Guide to Implementing NGSS

Developing Assessments for NGSS: Developing Assessments for NGSS

Other Important Documents:

I have tried to infuse others with my enthusiasm for NGSS, but no one’s biting! I want others to collaborate with me close to home, not just online.

How can I persuade teachers to get messy with the NGSS?

NGSS Implementation: Unit 1

Originally written in Aug. 2014:

As mentioned in a previous post,  I had devised  my own UbD/NGSS/5E planning template: Battaglia%27s%20UbD%3a5E%3aNGSS%20Planning%20Template-2. As I was starting to plan my  day-to-day learning experiences, I really started to look at things differently. I flipped through my binder o’ stuff for Unit 1: Classification of Matter, and realized that some activities were just that, activities. They related to the topic, but didn’t necessarily contribute to the overarching “Big Ideas”. It was not that they were bad activities, but the format, intent, and framing of them had to be adjusted. I do want to stress that although I am digging into NGSS, I also still have to worry about Quality Core Chemistry Standards, as my students currently have to take an end-of-course exam from Quality Core as their final exam, and it is weighted as 10% of their final grade. So both are inherent in my thinking, but NGSS is prevalent. The overall focus of the unit plan is to start building on the eight science and engineering practices of the NGSS.

Here are some parts of my planning:

Unit 1: Classification of Matter

Essential Questions:

How can different forms of matter be classified?

How does matter change and how is energy involved?

How are properties of substances used to separate and identify types of matter?


  • Distinguish between homogeneous and heterogeneous substances.
  • Distinguish between element, compound, homogeneous mixture and heterogeneous mixture.
  • Use several techniques to separate mixtures.
  • Distinguish between physical and chemical changes and properties.
  • Describe state changes and the energy involved in them.
  • Illustrate the arrangement of particles in a solid, liquid, or gas.
  • Interpret a heating/cooling curve.
  • Design a water purification process.
  • Critique peer designs.

Typically in Unit 1, I do the following (typical) activities: Classification of Matter activity (1 or 2), Physical & Chemical Changes Lab, Chromatography Lab, Density/Specific Heat Lab, and finally a “Foul Water” Lab, where the students separate a mixture, a sample of “foul water”, given to them (it is a modification of an old ChemCom lab from the American Chemical Society). The way the unit was previously designed consisted of discrete lessons with no underlying coherence. So, in re-designing this unit, I started with my “Foul Water” lab and turned it into a scenario based learning situation (Battaglia Water Solutions), where the other labs/lessons will scaffold into solving the problem of the scenario.

In the revised unit plan, I present the students with the scenario, and have them brainstorm what they would need to know to be able to accomplish the task.  They will then proceed to learn the various bits of knowledge and laboratory skills needed to complete the task. I consider this their initial “training” for investigations. I am still using some of the same activities/materials, but changing them to be more inquiry based, and coordinating them to the problem. The work done by the students in regards to the problem is embedded throughout the unit.

As a follow-up to Battaglia Water Solutions, I developed Battaglia Water Solutions 2, which covers the following objectives:

  • Calculate density.
  • Calculate % error.
  • Correctly use SI units in measurements.
  • Correctly use significant digits.
  • Define specific heat, and use specific heat values to compare the ability of substances to retain heat.
  • Measure temperature changes during heat transfer between a metal and water.
  • Calculate the heat lost or gained in a process.
  • Compare and contrast the properties of metals,nonmetals, and metalloids.
  • Use properties to identify substances.


The students will also be involved in evaluating all of the designs, and determining the efficiency of their designs.

Here are the rubrics I will use in assessing the students on these tasks: Battaglia Water Solutions Rubric

During the course of this unit, the students will have:

  • developed criteria for good models and used those criteria to develop their own
  • designed solutions to problems
  • planned and carried out their own investigations
  • collected, organized,  and analyzed data
  • used mathematics to support claims
  • engaged in writing and use of technology to communicate their processes, results, conclusions, and reasoning

I, by no means, have included all of the details of the unit, but I wanted to give an overview of my process, and share. If you would like more details, tweet me @Weezywalker1 or e-mail me at Feedback and comments are welcome.




I just discovered Kahoot! today. Kahoot! is an interactive, online quiz/discussion/survey app that is super easy to use. Some features include:

  • the ability to upload YouTube videos and pictures from your computer to insert into your quizzes,etc.
  • it requires a different code to play each time–this eliminates the problem of a student in first period giving the code to a quiz to another in 3rd period, as some apps provide one code attached to one quiz, for example
  • the ability to share via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or e-mail
  • it also has background music for your quiz game, and it’s just plain fun!

Here is a quiz I made on physical and chemical changes:

Check it out!


NGSS & The 6 Facets of Understanding

As I was preparing for a Twitter chat tonight pertaining to Chapters 3 &4 of the Understanding by Design book by Wiggins and McTighe, something occurred to me. I had recently been thinking about how the NGSS lends itself to “backwards” planning. The focus is on the “Big Ideas” and the scientific process. The K-12 Framework for Science Education lays out those big ideas, and overarching essential questions.

As I was reviewing the six facets of understanding-explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge -for tonight,  I stopped and thought, hmmm, this sounds a lot like the eight science and engineering practices of the NGSS.

Explanation correlates to the Constructing Explanations and Engaging in Argument from Evidence practices.

Interpretation correlates to the Analyzing and Interpreting Data practice.

Application correlates to Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, and Engineering practices.

Perspective correlates to the Asking Questions, Developing and Using Models, and Engaging in Argument from Evidence practices.

Empathy correlates to the Asking Questions and Engaging in Argument from Evidence practices, but also to the collaborative nature of the inquiry process students will be engaged in with the NGSS standards.

Self-Knowledge correlates to all of the practices. Self-assessment is key in the inquiry process as a means of determining the path (thought process, procedural steps, etc.) a student must collaboratively pursue and to aid students in determining for themselves if they are meeting the learning goals. They must understand what they know, and what aid they may need from others.

My opinion–In regards to the NGSS, putting the focus on the science and engineering practices in addition to the cross-cutting concepts is where real student learning will occur. They represent the transferable knowledge and skills for the students.

My final thought is just that NGSS & UbD are very closely related. I can envision many teachers this next year saying “Oh, I’ve got new standards to worry about, and now this “backwards” planning!”. Sometimes teachers get bogged down in “gotta do this, gotta do that”, that there’s no time to work on anything, or they simply don’t see the worth in it. The point is to find the commonalities to mesh everything together. Simplify it. Get a start in the right direction. It will be worth it.