Supporting NGSS: The "Engage" Lesson
Lesson Objective: Activate prior knowledge and pique curiosity
Grades 6-8 / Science / NGSS

Thought starters

  1. What is the purpose of the "engage" lesson?
  2. How does this lesson introduce the phenomena students will explore?
  3. How do students learn through discourse?
Darn - my response was Q5
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Ah, yes - good old KWL; Formulaic if done that way - I find it easier (than putting them on the spot) to generally discuss the topic. Often they will refer to a HS class that related to that material. Within the session, I will prompt a response to a question that serves as a review of previous covered topics. Repetition still works when they are faced with a superabundance of material(World History survey course).
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To assess their prior knowledge and facilitate discussion, I can prompt them to ask me questions. I can see what they already know based off the questions they ask and I can also see what they are interested in. I don't have to necessarily answer the question, but lead them instead to answering the own question, and coming to the best solution. They are more likely to remember and follow the logic of a solution they themselves have mapped out from beginning to end.
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Q2C: Can assess students' prior knowledge by asking them, "when you hear the term..., what do you associate that with?" Usually, it's a great starting point b/c it helps students feel better/less intimidated by new course material. Other benefits: SA is more involved/engaged in tutoring; b/c they're part of the answer-solving process, it helps them retain the material as well.
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  • Supporting NGSS: The "Engage" Lesson Transcript

    Lauren: Gentlemen, when you're reading, use your imaginations. Picture yourself living on the farm. And you

    Supporting NGSS: The "Engage" Lesson Transcript

    Lauren: Gentlemen, when you're reading, use your imaginations. Picture yourself living on the farm. And you have to help your family with this problem. Okay. Try to put yourself in this girl's shoes.

    Speaker 2: Lauren has been teaching our ecosystems unit. The unit has five chapters. Each chapter uses the 5E instructional model to frame the sequence of lessons.

    The first phase is the engaged phase where teachers are engaging students in a new topic, presenting phenomena to them, eliciting excitement and prior understanding about that topic.

    Lauren: We're going to come up with ideas for a solution.

    In the engaged lesson, students were presented with a scenario of a girl named Tolly who was on a farm and the crop has a beetle infestation.

    Raise your hand if you've seen sugar cane before.

    The purpose is to draw out prior knowledge.

    Student 1: It looked like a bamboo stick. It's like a large bamboo stick.

    Lauren: And have the kids list what they previously know. It also is to generate curiosity.

    What questions do you have about this scenario?

    I'm not answering questions. The kids are asking questions.

    Student 2: Where were the insects damaging the crops?

    Lauren: How do they cause damage?

    Student 2: Yeah.

    Lauren: Good question.

    They're exploring a new anchor phenomena and they're just kind of getting an idea of where we're headed.

    Student 2: They could form inside.

    Student 3: Probably a bug on the inside, too.

    Lauren: You find a real world example, it hooks them right away, gets them excited about what they're going to learn. It generates curiosity but it also is just an access point that every student can join in. And you realize how valuable that time is for them to talk out their thoughts with each other.

    Student 3: Him first. Me. You. No. That one.

    Student 2: One thing I want to know-

    Lauren: So much of the learning takes place through discourse and so you really want students that are able to talk to each other.

    Student 2: [crosstalk 00:02:24]

    Lauren: The students seem very enthusiastic about sharing their ideas.

    They came up with a lot of ideas that I was surprised by.

    Student 2: I think they should use something that the princess likes as bait.

    Lauren: I also saw them tying a lot of concepts in from the previous chapters.

    Student 4: We chose D. Burn the fields. And when you grow your field back the next year, the ash has nutrients for the ground. So you can basically grow your crops quicker even than last year.

    Lauren: We learned about forest fires in Yellowstone, right? So that would be a natural choice.

    And we're very intentional to not judge responses.

    Student 2: We think that they should actually have ... that they should actually farm at night, so let's say they round up a bunch of bats, because bats like to eat insects. So while their crop, the bats come and eat the insects at night.

    Student 3: I got a question-

    Lauren: It's okay. We're just getting all our ideas out right now.

    When I was taking ideas, the kids had started themselves to be like, "Oh I see a problem with that one" or "What do you mean you're going to farm at night?"

    I said we can evaluate them later and we're going to develop criteria later and do it just like the process that engineers do. But for now, there's nothing wrong that you can say and it really helps with engagement when a kid is confident and feels empowered and that whatever they say is valued and they're not going to be told they're wrong. And that's how we start every chapter. They leave wanting to learn more, coming in the next day excited about the curriculum. That's my main goal as a teacher, to have kids leave 6th grade loving science. So this definitely helps with that.


Lauren Defino


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