CSTA Classroom Science

Grading NGSS in the K-2 Classroom

By Michelle Baker, CSTA Primary Director

Grading can be an indecisive process, to begin with.  Add in new standards, new curriculum and science notebooks, and it becomes a whole new ballgame.  

NGSS Background

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was written with evidence statements, which give teachers a detailed breakdown of the Performance Expectations.  This provides teachers with a better understanding of what students should know and be able to do to meet the performance expectations.  You can find the evidence statements here: https://www.nextgenscience.org/evidence-statements

Evidence statements provide teachers with a “bottom line” in a sense.  What should my students be able to do and how is it broken down? Creating a rubric that was built using the evidence statements, ensures that backward planning is intentional and driven by the standards.

Rubrics or Teacher Judgement

Beginning the grading process for NGSS can be a daunting task in the beginning.  Each grading period, choose a new area to focus on. Much of what goes on in the K-2 classroom is based on teacher observation.  Teachers can create checklists to have a quick and easy way to record students’ progress towards the performance expectations. Using a checklist will also give teachers a good idea of the next steps and questions that can be used to guide student sense-making.

At the beginning of a unit, teachers can create a final assessment.  I have created something as simple as an image of a man playing guitar, for the physical science performance expectations in 1st grade.  Students are expected to circle where the sound is coming from and then write a sentence about why the sound comes from the area they circled.  During instruction, students should be asking questions as they try to figure out the phenomenon, and teachers should be asking questions to ensure that students are able to identify where the sound is coming from, and how they know that.  Their answers can also be recorded in a checklist during the unit.

Another idea is for teachers to identify the phenomenon and then can create a rubric that will list the skills the teacher is specifically looking for.  The rubric can be designed to breakdown the learning expectations for the unit and lessons. Students should be able to demonstrate the skills listed in the rubric, using at least 2 of the 3 dimensions,  if not, the rubric should be revised. Working with other teachers in the same grade level can give multiple ideas and perspectives about how students should be demonstrating their learning of the content.  

By having the end in mind, teachers are able to create a rubric that is well thought out and meaningful for assessment purposes.  Creating the rubric, also helps teachers to focus on what they will be assessing, and helps for lesson planning.  

Cross-Curricular Learning

In the K-2 classroom, not every activity is used for a formal grade but gives the teacher an understanding of how well students are learning and applying the content.  The same with science. Notebooks should not be graded but looked at and used to plan for the next steps in the science lessons. However, when an assignment is used for grading purposes, it can be used to fill grades in two or more subjects by teaching standards through an integrated approach.

For example, at this year’s CSTA conference in San Jose, I attended a session where e talked about how most assignments can be and should be given more than one grade.  If the students in my 1st-grade class are writing in their science notebooks, I may take a grade for science content and a writing grade. The writing grade might be for the details students included or the format they chose to display the content.  If my students are reading a graph and using it to answer questions, I will add a math grade. I use a checklist during science because there is so much academic language being used, I want to make sure that I record it. This information is used for speaking and listening to grades in my grade book.

By creating checklists and rubrics, teachers can take the guesswork out of grading.  This also gives a quick and easy way to enter grades, as well as providing great conversations to have with administrators and parents about your students’ successes in science!



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Michelle Baker

Written by Michelle Baker

Michelle Baker is a 1st-grade teacher at Onaga Elementary in the Morongo Unified School District, a former teacher leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative and the Primary Director for the CSTA Board of Directors. Her email is mcbaker626@gmail.com