When it comes to teaching science under the NGSS, one truth stands out. Teach one thing five times, not five things one time. In terms of content, less is more. In terms of depth, more is more.
Here is an example. Back in the old days, I would teach symbiosis in about 20 minutes. Four definitions- symbiosis, mutualism, parasitism, commensalism – and give an example of each. Done and done. Now, we introduce the concepts of interactions with examples and allow students to draw connections between the different examples. Then, we introduce the vocabulary and have students connect each term to the group of organisms that demonstrates each type of symbiosis. Then we have them research other species with each type of symbiosis. A few vocabulary activities – sentence stems,
crossword puzzles, games, etc. – and a writing activity. The whole thing takes at least 5 class periods.
Teaching for depth rather than breadth sacrifices content. We won’t be able to teach every scientific concept every year. There just isn’t time.
But that sacrifice gives us the freedom to explore each concept deeply. Exploring deeply doesn’t mean repeating the same activity or the same lecture. Allow your students to live in an environment that explores the concept for a long period of time. This increases understanding and retention, but also allows us to build in skill development. Exploring the same content every day allows for the practice of many science and engineering practices – asking questions, defining problems, developing models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations, engaging in argument from evidence.
The key to designing a unit that has depth is to provide lots of varied activities, each focusing on a different science and engineering practice.
Another example. Teaching the rock cycle by exploring how rocks change, reading informational text, writing about rock changes, and examining samples of rocks for similarities and differences. Practice with vocab activities interspersed throughout.
I just rewrote my geologic time unit to incorporate more practice and to make it accessible during hybrid learning. I included multiple practice activities to review and reinforce as well as an escape activity.
Another unit that is better for having been expanded in my Newton’s laws unit. I added a problem based assessment as well as daily practice activities for digital and hybrid learning.
What units have you expanded to include more depth?