CSTA Classroom Science

Kindergarten Teachers Take On the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

By Karal S. Blankenship and Claudia Mitchell

Science in Kindergarten is no different than teaching science in other grades. Students come to us full of wonder, resulting in endless questions. We strive to provide opportunities for our students to become active listeners, use critical thinking skills, to observe, and to make sense of the work around them. This provides our students the chance to develop a deep appreciation for science. This is nuts and bolts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Our journey with the NGSS began with the California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Grant. Teachers were brought together to deepen their understanding of science, at an adult level, using the same strategies we would then take on with our students. At the same time we were learning more about the NGSS and learning to think about more than just the science ideas we used to think of as our content. We were learning how to include the Crosscutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Practices along with the Disciplinary Core Ideas to make our lesson plans three-dimensional.

After that first summer institute, we went to work in small grade level groups. We came together twice during the school year, planning a lesson that would then be taught in one of our classrooms by the group and then be taken back to all our classrooms to try on our own. When planning, our goal was to include the three dimensions of the NGSS. As with any good lesson, we learned that not everything can be included in that “one perfect lesson,” but we learned that as we thought of the flow of lessons, the three dimensions helped to guide our long range planning.

This is the lesson that we created in the spring of 2016. Try it out. There are some important shifts we were thoughtful about in the lesson, but because they are so natural for students, they make sense and will come naturally to the teacher after a while. There are just a few more components to think about when planning. For example, we want the students to engage more, to talk, and to question.

5E Lesson Plan: Kindergarten Pushes and Pulls

Students discovering how gentle and hard pushes affect the speed of a ball.

This lesson was planned to introduce the learning sequence. When we came together to plan we realized that in kindergarten, “pushes and pulls” are not easily identified. So we discussed how our learning sequence should include multiple opportunities to observe “pushes and pulls.” We also realized that the Science and Engineering Practice of “Analyzing and Interpreting Data” would be the most useful to help students discover ideas around the concept of push and pulls. While the Performance Expectation K-PS2-1 called for “Planning and Carrying out Investigations”, we chose to focus on getting students to really look at what was happening with the balls and learning how to interpret what they were seeing. Since we planned this lesson as an introduction to the learning sequence, we knew we could include “Planning and Carrying out Investigations”, later in the sequence. Future lesson included taking the students outside to focus on “really” hard pushes, and what happens to the direction the ball takes. After several opportunities to explore and explain pushes, we moved to pulls, and finally, collisions. This is where we chose to include “Planning and Carrying Out Investigations.”

One of our big “aha’s” was centering the lesson around a phenomenon the students would try to explain. As we wrestled with the use of phenomenon in the lesson, we discovered the students let us know if we had found something that really triggered their thinking. When we did, students talked about and referred to the phenomenon throughout (and that even carried over into other lessons). That was when we knew we had found a quality phenomenon. If students only talked about it during the one lesson, we knew it didn’t encourage their connections deeply enough.

We have also realized that because groups of children are different each year, we have to be prepared, always be looking for quality ideas to introduce new information. Don’t worry if things don’t go the way you intended. Student-centered instruction means that you have to build from your students’ understanding. This last year we had to be ready to adapt, to provide students experiences to answer the questions they still had, and we had to keep reading resources that support the NGSS. We found that when we thought our students were taking us off topic, they were really just needing another step to build their understanding and that we had not provided experiences to bridge their learning. This helped us be more careful planners of instruction.

Useful NGSS Resources:
National Research Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (2013).
•    Appendix E: Disciplinary Core Idea Progressions
•    Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices
•    Appendix G: Crosscutting Concepts
•    K-PS2-1 Evidence Statements

Walt Disney Animation Studios. (2011, November 16). The Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Stuck at Rabbit's House. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDm3NlSSJyg&feature=youtu.be

Karal S. Blankenship is a kindergarten teacher at SDUSD, and a Core Leadership Team Leader of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Claudia Mitchell is a kindergarten teacher at Cherokee Point Elementary, SDUSD, a Lead Teacher in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.



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