Beyond Choosing An Anchor: USING An Anchor

anchor phenomenonWhat do you do after you choose an anchor?

Anchoring phenomena are a huge part of NGSS units.  They tie your standards together, frame your instruction, and create a rationale for students. (Now you have an answer to that ever present, “Why do we have to learn this!?”) While determining an anchor for a unit is a challenge, your work doesn’t end once you choose your anchor. You actually have to use it, too! So how do you do that?

(Quick Side Note: If you’re looking for some “anchor basics,” check out these oldies on the blog: Finding A Good Anchor  and Three Common Mistakes.)

Launch Your Unit

Well first, your anchor was literally chosen to launch your unit, so you obviously want to do that. Present your phenomenon to students in whatever way you’ve identified and allow it to spark curiosity, questions, and ultimately inquiry.


Revisit and Revise

But the anchor doesn’t just stop its work there. Nope. You also chose that anchor because it was a big “thing” that couldn’t be easily explained. You chose it because to explain it, students would need to develop an understanding of a myriad of science ideas and concepts over time. Well, now you have to give students the chance to do that.

As students gain an understanding of whatever science concepts you’re teaching, return their attention to the anchoring phenomenon. How does what they have learned shed light on the phenomenon? How are they better able to explain it, knowing what they now know?

Your anchor provides a rationale for learning. It leads students through your unit. Return to it again and again, putting an explanation together puzzle piece by puzzle piece.


Consider The Assessment

Finally, consider whether you might incorporate your anchor into your final assessment. For some units, you may be able to use your anchor on your assessment while in others you may choose something “similar but different.” This decision hinges on both the anchor you choose and the standard itself, so I can’t give you much clearer advice here. But it’s something to consider. It’s possible you may both begin and end your unit with the same phenomenon.


Resources for Finding Anchors


The Wonder of Science

NGSS Phenomena

Where can I learn more about anchor phenomena?

Choosing an anchor is hard.  That’s why we devote an entire module in the Science Teacher Tribe Course + Community professional development program to understanding what anchors are and aren’t and figuring out how to identify and use them.  That said, it’s only one piece of the puzzle, and a whole lot more happens there!  If you’re lookin for support as you implement the NGSS, check out our program.  Let us walk you through creating cohesive units that tie your standards together, assessments that evaluate students on all three dimensions, and carefully crafted instruction that fosters student discovery of the content. End the course with a completely self-designed NGSS-aligned unit while earning a certificate of completion from iExploreScience!

If you’re not ready to enroll in our full professional development program, check out the free mini-course – Intro To The NGSS – to get a handle on the basics.  Discover what the NGSS REALLY looks like in the classroom – from changes to your content and instruction all the way down to your assessments. 

Science Teacher Tribe: Convenient and Comprehensive NGSS Professional Development

If you are anything like me, transitioning to the NGSS can be totally overwhelming.  Teaching is hard as it is – you’re busy keeping up with the “normal” lessons day to day and week to week, plus grading, meetings, IEPs, behavior management, so on and so forth. I get it. Who has the time or energy to figure out all that goes into these new standards and their impact on your curriculum, let alone what it means for your teaching!

Well, I’m happy to say there IS an easier way. You don’t HAVE to muddle through everything, and you definitely don’t have to do it alone!

Imagine feeling confident that the curriculum you designed is actually aligned to the standards, that your units incorporate the three dimensions and engage your students in Science and Engineering Practices that matter. Imagine classes full of students who take ownership of their learning, who thrive on “figuring it out” and “puzzling through it” and come to learn the content through discovery.  Imagine days where you DON’T have to stand in front of the class, battling for their attention, delivering boring lectures and notes, printing worksheet after worksheet, and wasting tons of time on review and reteaching — only to have your students fail to perform anyway. Imagine learning that sticks, and engaging activities (that you may already be doing!) but that lead to true understanding.  It’s not magic, and it doesn’t necessarily come easy, but it IS possible.  

Learn more at the Science Teacher Tribe Course and Community.

anchor phenomenon