Vocabulary for Experiments in NGSS

Science Fair

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had several questions about the vocabulary used in NGSS that is comparable to our previous Washington State Standards (2009).  You know what I mean…manipulated variable, responding variable, field study etc…  Where is the comparable vocabulary in the NGSS?

If you’ve been looking, you probably couldn’t find what you were looking for in the standards because this vocabulary is articulated in the Science & Engineering Practices.    You may remember that each standard (or performance expectation) connects a practice with content.  They are 3-dimensional on purpose, intentionally connecting practice, content and cross-cutting concepts.  None of these is meant to be taught in isolation. Considering the specific vocabulary then, of the MSP or Biology EOC, may sell us short in planning a comprehensive interpretation of the NGSS.  I caution you, as I point out the vocabulary, not to fall in the trap of isolating the Science & Engineering practices to the detriment of the other dimensions.

In this document, I have highlighted the comparable vocabulary you’re looking for in the context of the Science & Engineering practices.  Variables are called out as dependent and independent.  They also differentiate between qualitative and quantitative observations and relationships between variables.  There isn’t a specific hypothesis protocol called out, and usually use the refer to prediction instead.  There also isn’t a specific protocol for writing because the practices are trying to broaden the work of science rather than narrow it to only controlled investigations (as we have been in the past).   Students understanding from an investigation or activity is summarized typically in an “explanation” and the format referenced is claim-evidence-reasoning.  Students are also prompted to articulate arguments and refine / revise explanations.


Elementary Curriculum


Why can’t I have my GVC and supporting documents printed in a binder?

In all of our content areas we are moving away from printing GVC binders and towards sharing our curriculum resources via the Google Drive.  There are a couple of reasons for this shift:

  • We are able to hyperlink the GVC documents to give you greater access to lesson plans, background information, student pages and multi-media
  • We are able to devise a GVC document with more choices following a formative assessment or options for differentiation. Again, using hyperlinks, this allows a teacher to focus on the lesson pieces that are most relevant for his or her students.
  • We are able to make quick revisions or add resources more easily. Once a document is printed it becomes static, with a digital GVC we can add additional resources, Teacher Notes or fix broken hyperlinks easily.


Isn’t this just stuff from the internet?  Why isn’t it formatted similar to Science Anytime?

The curriculum team has been working to curate science lessons with strong alignment to the NGSS to supplement our Science Anytime curriculum and support a strong standards alignment within the GVC.  Rather than creating curriculum, we are using an adaptation protocol to select Open Educational Resources from credible sites.  You will see resources from NSTA, Better Lesson, Teach Engineering, NASA, the American Chemical Association and other sites with a vetting process to ensure alignment to NGSS.

Our curated lessons aren’t formatted to match Science Anytime for a couple of reasons.  In many cases the student worksheets and lab sheets are already a part of the lesson and to reformat them would be redundant.  Also, Science Anytime was specifically formatted to match the format of the 5th grade MSP, a test which will not be given after spring 2017.


Why aren’t there more rubrics and better assessments?

In this draft of the NGSS Adapted GVC, we are focusing on curating lessons that are aligned with NGSS and fill in gaps in Science Anytime. We are identifying Performance Expectations for summative assessments and, where they exist, we are including specific assessments and rubrics.  In the review process next year, we will be adding additional lessons for differentiation, additional assessments, and rubrics based on student work samples.


Can we use more of the state assessment language in worksheets and prompts for students?

This was a strength of the Science Anytime curriculum, that it was well-aligned to the MSP.  Washington State has not yet released items from the NGSS-based state assessment, which will be given across the state for the first time in spring 2018.  When we have released items we can use or on which we can base additional assessment items, those will be included in the GVC.



Why isn’t there professional development to support the new GVC?

In third – fifth grade, the biggest shift when considering NGSS is in instructional practices.  With that in mind, most of the available PD has been focused on instructional practices.  There are six online classes available:

  • Science Notebooks
  • Constructing Explanations in Science
  • Formative Assessment in Science
  • STEM Online
  • Science A to Z
  • NGSS 101

There are also two afterschool options available for professional development; iTeach STEM and Science-after-School workshops.  Prior to each of these events, a survey is sent out to registered participants and the content of the workshop is based on the needs assessment.  Please visit the Science Website for additional information.

Finally, Jen is available for small group and 1-on-1 professional development.  You can arrange for grade level support during Thursday morning collaboration, before / after school or during a prep period.


What if I need additional background knowledge or information to teach a unit or a lesson?

In talking with teachers using the NGSS adapted GVC’s and in reading the surveys embedded in each GVC, we’ve learned that we did not offer enough information or background support in the Teacher Notes column.  As you begin to teach the third trimester GVC’s, you should find more support in this area.  In addition, feel free to reach out to Jen via phone or email.  We are all called upon to be science generalists, which means we’re almost guaranteed to be asked to teach something outside our comfort zone and background knowledge.  Jen has additional resources to share and is available to meet in person to support your learning and teaching.

Jump Start 2016 Reflection


I am at the end of the Jump Start, Teachers Guide for Tech, summer online class!  This post marks my reflections and goals for future implementation.  I have really enjoyed the course and the people who’ve shared their learning and thinking along the way.  For me, this was a very effective way to think about the content, practice new tools and collaborate with others.

What was my Favorite Module? I loved learning about Thinglink because I had never played with it before and I was excited to try something so new.  There really wasn’t a module that wasn’t meaningful and relevant however.

What Module was the Most Challenging? Simultaneously the most challenging and the most rewarding was in working on this blog.  I started this Word Press blog about a year ago and I have really struggled with meaningful content, a regular posting schedule and sharing the URL with others.  Through this course, I have built a much more realistic and practical approach to using a blog and I think it will work well in my current job as a Curriculum Coordinator.

What Tools will I Start Using? I plan to continue using Word Press, as well as continue using Twitter professionally.  I also already have plans for several more Screencasts to support online courses that I offer.

What’s Next? I have been working through the tutorials to become a Google Certified Educator and I am going to finish that process before school starts in September.

3 Immediate Goals:

  1. Complete tutorials and the online test to become a Google Certified Educator by August 26.
  2. Add  video tutorials to both NGSS 101 and STEM Online courses before the new Science Online session begins in September.
  3. Add a column to my weekly plan that includes a weekly blog post.  Send a link to both curriculum teams each week to forward to teachers.

Take-Aways… This was a rich learning experience made more meaningful by having the intentional practice through a blog and a small group for collaboration.  I look forward to practicing with the tools more and  having a more confident approach to using technology.


I love going back-to-school.  I love the freshness of a new year.  I love buying school supplies and setting up stations for learning.  I love thinking about how I am going to create opportunities to shift thinking in my students.  Back-to-school is such a clean page, full of opportunity and enthusiasm.

Over the summer I read Teaching for Conceptual Understanding in Science by Richard Konicek-Moran and Page Keeley.  Let me start by saying, that if you have not yet read this book take 5 minutes, follow the link and get the book!  Go ahead…I’ll wait…  Ready?  This book is amazing.  It both reinforced good practice and science education theory I already had and taught me so many new things.  While I was reading, I kept a list of notes and ways I want to use what I was learning in my work this year.  I am so excited to add to my practice!

Think about:

“…students learn science best when content and practices are taught together so students can see how science generates new knowledge and ways of thinking about our world.” (p. 137)

” Activity is good and achieves motivation and interest in lessons, but activity itself is not sufficient….the learning comes in the discussion and argument after the activity – what many call the minds-on part.  This means that learning involves conceptual modification.  Thus the term that we advocate is hands-on, minds-on.” (p. 108)

“The purpose of teaching for conceptual change in science is not to force students to surrender their alternative concepts to the teacher’s or scientist’s conceptions but, rather, to help students both form the habit of challenging one idea with another and develop appropriate strategies for having alternative conceptions compete with one another for acceptance.” (p. 63)

Summer is great and I so appreciate the time to decompress and recharge.  However, i am so excited to be ramping up for back-to-school with the inspiration I found in my summer reading!

What exciting inspiration are your bringing from your summer into your school year?

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