NGSS and Anchoring Phenomena Post #3

First of all Anchoring Phenomena #2 was just  published on Friday by the Teaching Channel .


I was very excited to see it as I had spent part of the professional learning session I presented talking about anchoring phenomena. I used a device that lights up and buzzes as  the anchor phenomena for a few Grade 4 Energy performance expectations. After the participants explored the phenomena and talked, they used criteria to determine if my choice was a good one . The criteria  is explained in more detail below.

Sitting at home on Saturday evening , watching Devil Wears Prada for the umpteenth time, I began thinking about “anchoring phenomena ” when an image from Friday’s work  flashes by.

I do admit I have been pondering one of my own proclamations “always, always, always start with the standards, the PEs” since yesterday when a colleague suggested that maybe I haven’t gotten it exactly right.  Maybe when thinking about my science instruction and anchoring phenomena I need to first think about the student or students or maybe I can still begin with the standards or the performance expectations, find an anchoring phenomena and personalize the science instruction from that point on. I can do that by providing an opportunity for the learners to write down all the questions they can think about connected to  the anchoring phenomena. For example, let’s say the anchoring phenomena was watching the formation of clouds . The learners would write all the questions they had after watching the video of cloud formation . Then they would identify the “science” questions. From the science questions they would figure out which questions would they find the answer by observing, which questions would lead to investigations and which questions lent themselves to research . The “investigable” questions would then lead the learning investigations. Sometimes the teacher might work with the learner to make the question more explicit so the learner could collect reliable data. By using questions elicited from the learners to build instruction the learning has become much more personalized. I wish I could claim this idea as my own but I believe it came from a U-32 middle school teacher  in Vermont who did this after her students had watched a video about a tsunami . Then she used the student question as the basis for her science instruction.






I also want to make the point that anchoring phenomena is meant to be so much more than a fun, exciting , motivating event.  An anchoring phenomena in the words of one of  my #NGSS eduheroes Brian Reiser is a puzzling observable event or process that generates student interest and questions ,intersects with numerous PEs and can be explored through science and engineering practices. It makes students think, they want to know “why” , what might be the explanation for this puzzle. Beginning a unit , a bundle with an anchoring phenomenon or event provides learners with the opportunity to grapple with complex concepts. An anchoring phenomena does NOT have to be phenomenal!

A word of caution , an anchoring phenomena should be used without holding it up against some criteria.  There are some documents that can assist us in determining the quality of the anchoring phenomena. One of them comes from the STEM Teaching Tools called Qualities  of a Good Anchor Phenomenon for A Coherent Sequence of Science Instruction.  Another excellent tool comes from the National Science Teachers’ Association called Criteria for Evaluating Phenomena .

An excellent document  Using Phenomena in NGSS Designed Lessons and Units can also be used when thinking about not only the anchor phenomena but also the phenomena used in the building blocks, the learning opportunities that are constructed to help learners grapple with concepts. Each of these learning opportunities help learners make meaning , create deep understanding  of the anchoring phenomena.

I do know that I will continue to grapple with  anchoring phenomena in order for me to create quality #NGSS science instruction .

Please share your thoughts and ideas after reading. I will continue to learn and grow through the collaboration with others.


3 thoughts on “NGSS and Anchoring Phenomena Post #3

    1. I wil be checking it out Brian. My tentative thinking is that anchoring phenomena may be a pedagogical concept that can cross the disciplines , the silos we create in many of our current systems.

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