Achieving Success with Common Core Through Community
By Angelica E. Gunderson
As we take on the new school year and think about the shifts we are committing to make towards the Next Generation Science Standards, I have found it beneficial to read about the work that various teachers, schools, and districts are engaging in. I would like to toss my own stone in this ocean of knowledge and hopefully create my own ripples of change by sharing some of the strategies and successes happening at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.
In the last two years, one of our main common goals has been to effectively and efficiently to integrate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in all of our classrooms. NGSS and CCSS are the responsibility of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, technology and English Language Development teachers alike. Our district has also taken the approach that the best way to achieve success is through forming and effectively participating in professional learning communities.
Through this work, we have found the connections of NGSS and CCSS to be symbiotic. As a seventh grade science teacher I personally saw the need for integrating language and mathematical literacies into my instruction in order to provide well-rounded and authentic science instruction. As an example, in order to have students create investigations, my instruction had to include guidance on: data collection, how to analyze and interpret data, researching related concepts, analyzing and summarizing texts, as well as communicating findings and citing resources. Through our collaboration, we have agreed that in order to truly engage our students in rich scientific and engineering practices, we need to incorporate the literacy skills presented in the CCSS.
One of the ways we have integrated CCSS and NGSS is by looking at specific strategies and making sure they are being used similarly across different content areas. Take for example close readings. I have personally participated in professional development sessions at my school in which science and language arts teachers discussed how to carry out a close reading for informational texts. At the end, we walked away with resources and routines our students would use in their language arts and science class. So when I went back and implemented it in my science classroom, I felt like I was speaking a familiar language and was not faced by the look of confusion students often have when we ask them to apply a language arts skill in a science class. We did the same for mathematical and computational thinking strategies. Math and science teachers have collaborated on how to conduct a “Launch, Explore, Summarize” lessons. I found it to be very similar to the BSCS 5E Instructional Model because it presents students with a mathematical problem that they address through exploration, collaboration, and explanation of their thinking process. By actively participating in developing professional learning communities at our school, I have found that sharing what we do in our classes for certain topics and skills helps us avoid reinventing the wheel.
The abundance of resources out there to help guide our work has made a significant impact on our progress. The Teaching Channel has been an essential guide used by our district to showcase the implementation of NGSS and CCSS across the country. Being able to watch how real teachers are implementing these new standards in their classrooms has allowed me to get a better picture of what it should look like in my own classroom. That is how I learned more about the “Launch, Explore, Summarize” model for looking at mathematical and computational thinking in my science class.
Two resources worth mentioning are Appendix L and Appendix M in Next Generation Science Standards. For some of our collaboration sessions, these have been valuable keystones for clarifying and directing our work. Appendix L contains a well-organized and detailed outline of when certain math topics are taught. It also spells out the connections between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and NGSS with a few examples that have helped me personally get ideas on how to improve my instruction. Appendix M presents the connections of NGSS to the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects. Like Appendix L, it contains descriptions that clarify how the CCSS relate to science and engineering practices. We are currently anticipating the publication of the California Science Framework, because it will help refine our work.
At Norwalk -La Mirada Unified, we have taken the awareness phase of NGSS to heart. Our leadership and a good number of teachers across different content areas have truly dedicated themselves to creating a sense of empowerment. For me, this has been a simple and manageable way to effectively implement the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards and I look forward for what else is to come.
Angelica E. Gunderson is a seventh grade science teacher at Los Alisos Middle School and is a member of CSTA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.