What's the Story with Storylines?

ngss storylines Jul 09, 2019

What’s the Story with Storylines?

If you’ve been in the NGSS world for even just a little bit, chances are you’ve heard the term storylines floating around. 

So, what are storylines? 

To start: Storylines are a tool, not a rule of NGSS. And once you understand the purpose of this tool--you can decide how to best use storylines in your classroom.

The official NGSS definition of Storylines is: Storylines are statements that describe the context and rationale for the Performance Expectations (PEs) in each grade band and section. And that definition is not really all that helpful. However, when you click on the examples you will find examples of narratives that give a useful general idea of the purpose of the PE. I have included the links in the shownotes. This would be a good starting point to get the overall impression of what your sequence of lessons should be about to help students be able to meet the PE.

At NextGenStoryline.org: which is a storyline design team consisting of learning scientists and teacher leaders have defined storylines into a more applicable definition. 

A storyline is a coherent sequence of lessons, in which each step is driven by students' questions that arise from their interactions with phenomena. A student's goal should always be to explain a phenomenon or solve a problem. At each step, students make progress on the classroom's questions through science and engineering practices, to figure out a piece of a science idea. Each piece they figure out adds to the developing explanation, model, or designed solution. Each step may also generate questions that lead to the next step in the storyline. Together, what students figure out helps explain the unit's phenomena or solve the problems they have identified. A storyline provides a coherent path toward building disciplinary core idea and crosscutting concepts, piece by piece, anchored in students' own questions.” http://www.nextgenstorylines.org/what-are-storylines

They also answer another important question: 


Often the importance of a particular problem or idea is clear to the teacher, but not to the students. For example, the teacher knows how learning about the cell will help with important biological questions; but for students, they are learning about cells because that's the title of the current chapter in the textbook. The teacher may know how a particular chemistry experiment will teach students something about conservation of matter; but to the students, they are doing the experiment because they are following the directions. In a storyline, students should be involved in co-constructing the question we are working on, and should see the activity as helping make progress on that question. In a storyline, the coherence is from the students' perspective, not just the teacher's.” http://www.nextgenstorylines.org/what-are-storylines

Their website provides tools in designing a unit using an anchor phenomenon and investigative phenomena to create a coherent set of lessons that will guide (but emphasize student led investigations) students to make sense of the phenomenon or solve a problem.

Paul Anderson’s website, Wonder of Science, provides tools to designing a storyline unit that’s influenced by Understanding by Design’s backward design planning.  I’ve included a link to those resources in the shownotes including an interview with author of Understanding by Design: Jay McTighe and Neuroscientist, Dr. Judy Willis.

Illinois has storyline units that have been field tested as well. Again, it follows the same idea of creating a coherent set of lessons that guide students to making sense of the phenomenon using science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and the disciplinary core ideas. Hear more from Jason Crean, EdD at www.ngsnavigators.com/blog/029

To conclude, when designing your NGSS units, storylines is one tool to help create a coherent set of lessons that will help your students develop NGSS 3 dimensions while making sense of phenomena or solving a problem related to phenomena. 

A useful tool that I encourage you to add to your teaching toolbox. 

Our professional development membership, NGSS by Design dives more deeply into using storylines in developing NGSS units. Find out more at www.ngsnavigators.com/ngssbydesign


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