Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Reading Rocks to Meet New Science Standard (4th Grade)


4th grader David explains the layers of a rock.

This summer educational resource publishers, providers of curriculum and assessment management systems and, of course teachers, are scrambling to unpack, understand, and integrate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in preparation for the coming school year. Are you ready?

The NGSS are an outgrowth of the Framework for K-12 Science Education that envisions 21st century science education in light of new science knowledge, technological advances, the need for in-depth scientific literacy and for high school graduates who are prepared to pursue scientific careers.

Grade-level standards are developed around Disciplinary Core Ideas for each area of scientific study. For example, within Earth Systems Science (ESS) is this Core Idea: ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth– Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layers were formed.

If you are a 4th grade teacher, your students are expected to be able to do the following by the end of the year: 4-ESS1-1. Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers for changes in a landscape over time to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.


Before you mount a search for your college geology textbook, give yourself an hour with Earth and Space Science, session 2, “Every Rock Tells a Story.” As you watch the video, join Dr. Carol de Wet to look at rock pinnacles in southern Pennsylvania. Observe characteristics that tell the story of how the rocks were formed and what they have to say about the history of the earth.  In the process, learn about the myriad concepts that are packed into one little two-sentence standard.

In addition, observe students doing some rigorous thinking about how rocks are formed and how fossils are created. One of the best aspects of these segments is the way they illustrate how students use prior knowledge, and sometimes misconceptions, to formulate theories. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics revealed that teachers who are aware of students’ misconceptions about scientific concepts have students who perform better on measures of success. A misconception revealed creates a highly teachable moment. The children’s ideas pointed out in session 2 will inspire ideas to help your students read the rocks around them and to be ready for the next step: ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

Enhancing your scientific understanding in areas that are, um, a little rocky for you, is a sound investment in student success. Carbon into diamonds. Go for it!