What is the first step when creating an NGSS-aligned curriculum? Bundling!
Bundling is the practice of creating groups (or “bundles”) of standards that are arranged together as a focus for an instructional sequence. Basically, instead of taking one standard at a. time, you are weaving together several standards within a single unit. These standards may be all from one discipline — all Life Science, all Physical Science — or they may be integrated. A unit may incorporate several Life Science and Earth and Space Science standards, several Earth and Space Science and Physical Science, really any combination or even all three! These units may also include the Engineering and Technology Standards for the grade band as well.
Why should we bundle the standards?
Bundling makes lesson planning a little trickier, so why should we do it? Why make life more difficult? (Most of us teachers are already struggling to stay ahead of the game as it is!) Well, the NGSS standards were not devised to be taught as stand-alone units. In the past, curriculum has been developed and presented in this manner, and this approach inadvertently encouraged teachers to rush through topics — and often entirely miss entire standards due to a simple lack of time. The focus was on cramming all the content in – whether students really understood it or not. That has benefited no one — a sacrifice of breadth for depth, and we all know what students remember when we take that “breadth” approach. (Very little!)
Additionally, by teaching standards in isolation, curriculum often lacked a cohesive storyline. Students were unable to see the connections between one concept and the next. They (maybe) could list the organelles but they couldn’t really tell you how understanding what happened in the cell related to the role of plant photosynthesis in the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
Granted, maybe your bundle wouldn’t connect those ideas — but the point is, it COULD! Your bundle is going to connect the work of those organelles to SOMETHING bigger than just the structure of the cell… thereby enhancing student understanding of the cell as a whole.
So you can see how bundling the standards helps students see the connections between ideas and concepts. It also saves instructional time as students learn related concepts together. Teaching with an NGSS-style of instruction takes more time — students are led to discovery, and that process really shouldn’t be rushed. (That said, I do realize we all have time constraints! The goal will always be to balance the two — time for exploration and operating on a school’s timetable. Because there are ways you can support student meaning-making during exploration to move the process forward, don’t stress too much about that now!). All in. all, though, bundling saves time because students are covering several standards within one unit, are being assessed on several standards at one time, and are focusing only on the content relevant to carrying out the Performance Expectations. Oftentimes, one Performance Expectation can support another — analyzing data on populations to construct an explanation about changes in ecosystems, for example. One unit, one assessment, two standards.
Lastly, framing instruction to build toward a group of Performance Expectations simultaneously supports the use of anchoring phenomena to help students build cohesive explanations and understandings.They’re going to understand where the content fits into the BIG PICTURE – which is the goal of the NGSS as a whole. A BIG PICTURE kind of understanding of science that provides a framework for integrating new science learning over a lifetime.