A Missed Teaching Opportunity
As a science peer review panel member for Achieve, we have been trained to look for explicit evidence of each dimension found within lessons and units. The word explicit has new meaning to me after now completing the EQuIP rubric several times while reviewing NGSS lessons. I have found the most commonly missed learning opportunity among the lessons are the Cross Cutting Concepts. Which seems strange since the CCCs are concepts that we have used for ages in education. However, many teachers are assuming that the students are building skills in CCC such as Cause and Effect or Matter and Energy because they are doing a lesson that contains both of these concepts. An exemplary 3D lesson not only explicitly calls out the CCCs by name, but contains expectations that students will use these CCC within their student products.
Explicitly Teaching the CCCs
One way teachers can be explicit about the CCCs is to provide a mini-lesson that allows students to practice identifying and using the CCCs in another context. This provides a focus on the dimension before the upcoming lesson and lets students know that the CCCs are a valuable part of 3D learning. As I have been revising the first two learning progressions for 6th grade, I have included mini-lessons on each CCC before they appear in the lesson and the rubric. Below is a compiled list of all of the mini-lessons.
Below are seven mini-lessons that can be found in the 1.1 and 1.2 learning progressions in the 6th Grade curriculum. The links to the videos and lesson are underlined below. Notice that several of the mini-lessons support the DCIs of Cells and Body Systems that are found in unit 1 of 6th grade.
1. Patterns: Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Patterns
Mini-Lesson for Students: Patterns
Video for Students: Patterns in Nature
2. Cause and Effect: Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. Deciphering causal relationships, and the mechanisms by which they are mediated, is a major activity of science and engineering.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Cause and Effect
Mini-Lesson for Students: Your Senses
3. Scale Proportion, and Quantity: In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different size, time, and energy scales, and to recognize proportional relationships between different quantities as scales change.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
Mini-Lesson for Students from Nano-Sense: Scale of Objects
Mini-Lesson for Students form OUSD: Organization of "Living Things"
4. Systems and System Models: A system is an organized group of related objects or components; models can be used for understanding and predicting the behavior of systems.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Systems and System Models
Mini-Lesson for Students: Modeling Your School System
5. Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation – Tracking energy and matter flows, into, out of, and within systems helps one understand their system’s behavior.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Energy and Matter
Mini-Lesson on Matter and Energy: Eating a Strawberry
6. Structure and Function – The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions.
Bozeman Science Video on Structure and Function
Mini-Lesson for Students: Bicycle Structure and Function
7. Stability and Change – For both designed and natural systems, conditions that affect stability and factors that control rates of change are critical elements to consider and understand.
Bozeman Science Video for Teachers on Stability and Change
Mini-Lesson for Students: Human Body Responses
Read Appendix G!
I realize that the appendices to the NGSS framework can be daunting, but they are important to understand. If you scroll down to page 15 of Appendix G, you will see the Crosscutting Concepts Matrix that maps out the how deeply each CCC should be taught at each grade level band. Please understand that you only need to teach one of the bullet points in your grade band to have fulfilled the CCC part of the 3D within a lesson. See which bullet point best fits your lesson and then explicitly find a way to fit it in!
Cari Williams is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Tustin Unified School District in Southern California. She holds a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton and works on the side as a consultant writing science and STEAM curriculum and training teachers. After working for 12 years in the classroom as a middle school science and STEAM teacher, she transitioned into the role of Digital Learning Coach in 2013. In this role, Cari helped teachers innovate curriculum and shift pedagogies through the integration of educational technologies. Her most current work as a TOSA is focused on engineering design in robotics, computer science, and Makerspaces. She is an official VEX Robotics event partner hosting tournaments for teams from around Southern California as well as leading 28 robotics programs servicing over 100 teams in the Tustin Unified School District. Although her expertise has taken her deep into STEAM education, she remains passionate and engaged in helping teachers transition to the NGSS through participating as a Science Peer Review Panelist for Achieve and as a Professional Learning Facilitator for NSTA.