Welcome to the NGSS Storylines Bootcamp! Are you excited yet? If not, you should be!
By the end of this short training series, you are going to not only know what a storyline really looks like but you’re going to have crafted one yourself and used it to truly engage your students in three dimensional learning.
Before you begin, please complete the following tasks (if you haven’t already!):
- Watch the following video below: Phenome-What!?
- Choose your Bootcamp topic. What learning objectives are you going to build your storyline to address? (If you are wondering how learning objectives might look different in an NGSS classroom, check out this Teaching Science In 3D podcast episode: How To Write Objectives, Or NOT!?) One key piece here — BE SPECIFIC. Imagine what concept you could “cover” in one or two classes.
- And lastly, if you haven’t done it already, request access to our private Facebook community. Once you’re in, please introduce yourself!
What Are Storylines?
Storylines are kind of what they sound like… stories… that follow a line. They are a pathway to learning. They are Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs — all of your content dropped along a cohesive sequence that makes sense to students, that provides a clear connection from one topic to the next, and that all builds toward a single phenomenon.
So many times I hear or see, “I’m looking for activities for XYZ-Standard.” And honestly, I cringe a little. This statement says so clearly, “I am not engaging my students in units aligned to the NGSS.”
(Side Note: Been there! 🙋🏼♀️🤷🏼♀️)
But why not? Because this teacher will essentially end up throwing a mashup of unrelated activities into their unit bowl and call it a day. And again, let me say, I can empathize. I used to teach this way. I used to find fun, engaging activities that addressed a single topic or idea, and then bounce on over to another one the next day. I get it – I did it. But then I learned better. I realized I was shortchanging my students. I wasn’t helping them connect content, and I wasn’t supporting an understanding of how it all connects to the real world.
I wasn’t using storylines.
A storyline will carry your students from the beginning of the unit to the end, and their knowledge will build and build all along the way. And even more importantly, a storyline will connect all of the ideas back to a real world phenomenon — adding that engagement, authenticity, and accessibility.
If you’ve been following a “activity mashup” or a textbook approach to your curriculum, you may have been teaching your unit something like, “Ok, today we are learning about Earth’s climate, and we’re going to map climate zones…” And the next day you move on, “Today we are learning about convection in the atmosphere, and we’re going to do a lab…” and again, you move on. While your students’ knowledge of climate is (hopefully) growing, you haven’t linked one idea to the next.
In an NGSS storyline, you’re going to focus on connecting those ideas more explicitly. Perhaps students first discover what climate really is by analyzing data from a variety of cities. Then, they use those data sets to draw conclusions about the impact of latitude on climate. The activities and concepts are connected, because students are expanding their initial analysis to understand another component. After identifying patterns in how latitude affects climate, they investigate why that happens using a simulation. They tie their learning back to the initial cities they studied — explaining why these northern cities are typically colder than these southern cities. They continue this process to address the many factors that affect climate, with each task building forward and connecting backward.
To put simply: the gist is that each piece of content (each idea or understanding) connects to and builds on the next piece of content… and that all of those pieces of content lead toward explaining or understanding a specific phenomenon.