7 Reasons to Add the EQuIP Rubric to your NGSS Lesson Planning Toolbox

Not sure if that lesson is really NGSS aligned? Enter the EQuIP Rubric. A MUST for creating effective, efficient, and engaging NGSS lesson plans. Below I list 7 reasons why.

I’ll admit it.
When I first started teaching science, my basic lesson planning formula was:
  1. Front load vocabulary.
  2. Teach content from the textbook (usually in an outline form).
  3. Find some fun hands-on activities that confirmed what we just read (or even just slightly connected).
It's true. My “hands on” activities were more fluff than substance.
Let me give you an example: Volcanoes
We made beautiful model volcanoes that all looked the same (cone-shaped and brown) with a small PVC pipe in the middle to fit a test tube. Something like this:
"All models are wrong, but some are useful" (Spoiler alert: This is not one of them)
Then, we I poured pre-made mixtures into the tubes to model three different types of eruptions--low viscosity; medium viscosity, and explosive. I can’t remember the exact content of the mixtures but it included Kool-Aid powder, and some kind of chocolate powder, and of course, vinegar and baking soda. I think alka seltzer was involved too. The activity was fun, messy, and the kids loved it. 
But, sadly, even alka seltzer couldn't rescue this activity : 
Not worth the trouble

What Changed?

Fortunately, a few opportunities transformed my science teaching from ineffective fluff to powerful learning experiences for my students. I enrolled (and completed) in an amazing Masters of Science in Science Education program. Soon after, I became a National Board Certified Teacher in early adolescence science with the help of an incredible mentor. The NBCT process immersed me in analyzing and critiquing the lessons I chose for a unit. This analysis helped me begin to create more cohesive units.
Then the Next Generation Science Standards were released. I filtered my unit plans through the lens of NGSS' 5 innovations and made the necessary changes. This process completely transformed my teaching into a truly effective and engaging practice. Some activities I scrapped completely and started over, but some just needed a little bit of tweaking.
But how did I know which lessons needed tweaking or chucking?

Enter the EQuIP Rubric: An Essential Tool in Deciding which Lessons to Tweak or Chuck.

 Warning: Looks intimidating at first glance. Breathe. Skim it. And come back to this post for a cheat sheet.
Click over and check it out and then come back here to read more (and download a cheat sheet).
Ok. Ok. Ok. Yes. It looks overwhelming. I, too, shouted into the void, “Who has time to go over every lesson or unit using that rubric?”
But it is really, really, really helpful.

7 Reasons You NEED the EQuIP Rubric For NGSS Lesson Planning

1. Saves you time

  • Yes, it will take time in the beginning to review your lessons using this guide, but it saves you time in the long run. Once you have a strong NGSS unit created, you now have weeks of effective instruction ready to go (and use again next year).
    When you divide your school year into units taught--there really isn’t that many! More reason to cull the fluff.
  • Recognizing (or creating your own NGSS lessons) becomes intuitive the more familiar you become with the rubric,  You'll be an NGSS lesson planning machine.
    (Click the image below to download the EQuIP Rubric CheatSheet Checklist to save even more time. Also, there are two more tools from Achieve at the end of this blog post.)

2. Makes your science class the one every student loves!

  • How could they not? One of NGSS' 5 innovations is that all the standards are for all our students. The EQuIP rubric guides teachers to prepare lessons that provide supports for students who are English language learners, have special needs, or are struggling to meet the target expectations as well as for students who have already met the performance expectations. Students taught in NGSS classrooms are engaged and empowered because NGSS lessons make learning accessible to all students.
  • Students' questions and related experiences are highly encouraged. Instruction is connected to students' homes, neighborhoods, communities and/or cultures. When our students feel a personal connection to what they are learning, they are more engaged. The EQuIP rubric guides teachers to select or create these types of lessons.

3. Saves you Money

  • Science teachers spend a lot of money (most from our own pockets)each year to provide hands-on experiences for their students. When you evaluate your current lesson plans using the EQuIP rubric and then eliminate the fluff--I guarantee you will save money. I know I did. In fact evaluate your most expensive hands on activities first. If they can't pass the EQuIP rubric Cheat Sheet Checklist-->chuck 'em.

4. Positively Affects your Evaluation

  • My district's teacher evaluations are based on Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching. Planning and teaching NGSS aligned lessons meets almost every element in Danielson's 4 domains. Take a look for yourself.
 NGSS supports teaching excellence. You can't help but shine.

5. Increases Your Teaching Confidence

  • The Next Generation Standards were written using research based strategies so you know that all your hard work designing NGSS aligned lessons will pay off. You will see a positive feedback loop.
Research on how students learn science effectively has been a long-term interest of the National Research Council, which published How People Learn, How Students Learn, Taking Science to Schooland Education for Life and Work.  Findings in cognitive science permeate the Framework for K-12 Science Education and were central to the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). http://www.nextgenscience.org/faqs##2.%20Contents

6. Lowers Classroom Management Issues

  • When students are fully engaged and empowered--> a positive classroom culture is established. A positive classroom culture helps to lower chances of students being off task. The instructional supports that are mandatory in a truly aligned NGSS lesson plan provide the accommodations and modifications that make learning science accessible to all our students.

7. Lowers Stress Levels

  • Saving time, saving money, positive feedback, personal and professional satisfaction -->lower stress. Everyone wins!!
Still feeling a bit intimidated by the EQuIP rubric? Download the EQuIP Rubric Cheat Sheet Checklist to get a quicker idea if your lesson or unit is NGSS aligned. If you are NOT checking off criteria more than you are checking. It's time to  Dump. The. Lesson. However, if there are only a few not checked off items, the lesson may be still salvageable and dive into the rubric for a closer look for what needs to be changed.)
Read how one teacher used the EquiP rubric to tweak the classic “Egg Drop” lesson.

Two More NGSS Lesson Planning Tools

 Achieve, the creators of the EQuIP Rubric, recently released two new tools to assist educators in evaluating science assessment tasks and determine whether tasks are designed for three-dimensional science standards. I would also add these tools to your NGSS Lesson Planning Toolbox. 
The Science Task Prescreen can be used to conduct a quick review of assessment tasks to identify any “red flags” – challenges commonly found in science assessment tasks – and determine whether a task is worth diving into more deeply.

The Science Task Screener is used to take a deeper dive into evaluating science assessment tasks.

 If you're looking for lesson plan templates that embed all the EQuIP NGSS criteria so that you can't help but create NGSS aligned lesson plans check out this blog post to download your grade level's template.
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