Deconstructing the NGSS Part 2: Bundling PEs


In my last post, I briefly described how to deconstruct a high school life science NGSS standard in order to make clear learning targets (objectives) for students.  Deconstructing a standard is a necessary process to unravel all of the stuff students have to know, understand, and should be able to do out of a standard, since those standards are often stuffed to the gills with skills and content.  They are also written for adults, not students, so we need to kidify them to the point that students can actually see what they are supposed to master.  Let’s look at another example from the NGSS, this time from the 4th grade Earth & Space Science standards:

4-ESS2-2. Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. [Clarification Statement: Maps can include topographic maps of Earth’s land and ocean floor, as well as maps of the locations of mountains, continental boundaries, volcanoes, and earthquakes.]

What I can do when I have mastered the standard:

  • I can use a physical, topographic, or other given map to describe what patterns I see in the features of Earth’s surface.
  • After describing patterns that I see in the features of Earth’s surface, I can explain why those patterns are there using what I know about tectonic plates.

What I need to know, understand, and be able to do before I can master the standard:

  • I can identify the following parts of the Earth from a diagram: crust, mantle, core.
  • I can create an analogy for each part of the Earth that I identify on a diagram that shows I understand what it is.
  • I can describe a tectonic plate using my own words.
  • I can draw how tectonic plates can move against each other.
  • I can summarize how tectonic plates are arranged after looking at a map of Earth’s tectonic plates.
  • I can read physical and topographic maps by summarizing what they are showing.

Just a reminder: notice that the PE was first deconstructed and then the associated DCI was examined in order to figure out what they would need to know to master the standard. Common sense was also used – it just makes sense that students can’t analyze a map if they don’t know how to read it first…hence the last objective.

So now you’ve deconstructed a standard…now what?  I know I said in my last post we would be talking about writing assessments from your kidified objectives, but I realized that we first need to talk about something else – bundling PEs to make units, and that’s the next step after deconstruction of PEs.  Deconstruction must come first so you can more readily see connections between concepts and skills, picking the right PEs to bundle together into a unit because the concepts and skills make a natural fit.

Just because you’ve deconstructed one performance expectation does not a unit make.  PEs were never designed to be assessed one at a time; they were meant to be bundled together into coherent units.  From my work with them in the classroom, I found that bundling 2-3 deconstructed PEs together made for a manageable unit, depending on the complexity of the content.  Also, be warned – just because two PES are together on the same page in the same box doesn’t mean it always makes sense to bundle them together.  For example, the PE below is in the same “Earth Systems” box as the PE we deconstructed above:

4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

While this PE definitely belongs in the category of Earth’s systems and how they interact, I’m not sure it make sense to teach it alongside plate tectonics concepts.  I would rather pair the PE above with the engineering PE below:

4-ESS3-2. Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.]

This PE could be deconstructed to have students look more closely at what earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are, how they are tied to plate tectonics, and the impact they have on humans when they occur.  Then students would be ready to generate and compare multiple solutions to the problems these natural Earth processes cause humans.

By the way, remember the PE 4-ESS2-1?  I would pair that PE regarding weathering and erosion with the PE below:

4-ESS1-1. Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

The connection between ESS1-1 and 4-ESS2-1 is all about changing landscapes, so those (to me, anyway), would make a much better fit for a unit.

Deconstructing the PEs to really see what students will have to know, understand, and be able to do better reveals what PEs are truly connected, so you can make better bundles for units.  While I don’t think there’s a “right” way or even one way to bundle PEs, I do believe that there are better ways than others – and unpacking standards first to reveal connections just makes sense.

Now that we know how to bundle PEs, now the next step after making our units is to create the assessment for that unit using our deconstructed standards.  Stay tuned for assessment creation goodness.


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