Integrating The Three Dimensions – Engage

Crafting A 3D Activity

Once you have identified the type of activity you will use to present your phenomenon, you will need to consider how you will carry that activity out in your classroom.  It is important that you remember the trifold purpose of the Engage phase: to spark curiosity, to assess prior knowledge, and to generate questions.

Consider the prompts, questions, or tasks you will present students alongside the phenomenon.  For example, you may want to prompt students to record observations. You may want to ask them to explain what they know about the topic. You may want to task them with generating questions.  All of these prompts are opportunities to incorporate the three dimensions of the NGSS. 

By now, you should have realized Asking Questions and Defining Problems is an important part of this stage.  While at its surface this practice is about asking questions and defining problems, there are a number of skills that fall within that practice.  For example, identifying which questions could be investigated is a part of the practice. Outlining the constraints that limit possible solutions to a problem is a part of the practice.  As you are asking students to generate questions, you may want to assign them an additional task related to this practice. For a full breakdown of this practice, visit the NSTA’s Science and Engineering Practices Matrix. 

That said, there are other potential SEPs you can be addressing during this stage, depending on how you decided to present your phenomenon.  If you are doing a demo or lab experience, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations includes many skills that students would be practicing. (Again, see the NSTA’s Matrix for the full breakdown).  If you are using models, graphs, or data, you may draw skills from Developing and Using Models or Analyzing and Interpreting Data. If you are watching videos or examining images, you may be able to tie in Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information.  Engage activities can lend themselves to a number of Science and Engineering Practices, and you should take the time to consider how you will incorporate these practices into your learning experience and prompt students to use these skills.

As for Crosscutting Concepts, these can be applied as “lenses” through which students examine or consider the phenomenon.  For example, you may frame your questioning or student observations around the idea of patterns. Instead of, “What do you notice?”, you may ask, “What patterns do you notice?” Instead of, “How warm does it feel?”, you could task students with actually measuring the temperature (which could tie to Scale, Proportion, and Quantity).  When students observe a change during a demo or lab experience, you can focus the discussion on what might be causing the change. Consider your Crosscutting Concepts as lenses through which students can understand phenomena and help them focus their observations, ideas, and questions on those concepts.