NGSS Performance Expectations

Where to Start: Mapping the NGSS Using the Performance Expectations and Bundling

By Kailey Rhodes and Aaron Parker, Rubicon International

Mapping our NGSS-aligned curriculum can seem overwhelming, but luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! For some teachers aligning to the NGSS, it may be most helpful to orchestrate a year according to the newly-released NGSS bundles.  That’s one way to approach your curriculum map using the NGSS as a skeleton of instruction. Join us as we articulate a year of first-grade curriculum built from the Next Generation Science Standards!


Familiarity with the NGSS: How much do we already know about the NGSS? What more information and professional development do we need? Some resources to investigate:

Gather Materials:  In my case, our Science department has agreed that we will be adhering to the plan laid out in the NGSS Performance Expectations. So, as a 1st grade teacher, I am responsible for the 12 Performance Expectations (PE’s) for 1st graders. I have printed out a copy of the 1st Grade NGSS Storyline to read, and I will want to have the 12 PE’s in front of me so that I can begin unpacking the standards into units. I’ve also decided to use the NGSS Bundles as a suggested order for teaching information.

Getting Started:

Step 1: Read the NGSS Storyline.

This storyline will help me understand the overall, zoomed-out vision for my first graders. Here I learn the justification for the selection of the Performance Expectations the NGSS writing team designated, and I learn the main Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts that we should focus on.

Step 2: Reorient myself to the standards.

I will take a moment to re-acquaint myself with the 1st grade NGSS standards. The Performance Expectations are at the top, and there are 12 total for 1st grade. The 3 dimensions that inspired these standards are captured below in the colored boxes.  These give me additional information regarding the behaviors, content, and recurring themes that I should be emphasizing in my science class.

Step 3: Investigate the NGSS bundles.

The NGSS has provided two options of bundling the standards together into units–these will provide the first skeleton of my curriculum map. I have to decide whether I want to begin with the Thematic Model (in which all four bundles tie together with a theme relating to light), or with the Topics Model (in which there are three bundles, discretely group according to light, sound, and organisms). I personally gravitate towards the Thematic Model, and will go ahead and create some place-holder units in Atlas according to the bundles.

Step 4: Create mini-bundles.

While the NGSS bundles range from a recommended four weeks to twelve weeks, it’s more helpful for me to break these down into smaller units.  In order to do this, I may make mini-bundles of the PE’s. To do this, I will…

Step 5: Brainstorm phenomena.

The NGSS emphasizes a more solution-oriented, inquiry-based classroom, so I may brainstorm related phenomena to theme each of my mini-units. What would really get my students engaged in the scientific theme of this unit? What question could I ask them that would really prompt them to wonder?

Things to Consider:

Can I rebundle? I may chose to use the NGSS bundles as a loose skeleton of my curriculum, and may chose to rearrange the order of the PE’s. That’s ok! The Performance Expectations are expected of my 1st graders by the end of the year, so as long as we cover it, the order is unimportant. What IS important is that I’m constantly connecting what we’re doing in class to a phenomena we’re trying to solve. Some teachers may wish to bundle their own Performance Expectations into an order that suits them or a particular event at their school. If the 1st grade annual field trip to the zoo is in the Spring, I may need to readjust the timing of our plants and animals unit.

Can I rewrite my own PE’s using the 3 dimensions? While it’s perfectly fine to supplement the current PE’s with an additional practice, or tackle another cross-cutting concept during instruction, we as a science team have decided against rewriting PE’s.  As students switch schools within our district, we want to ensure that they all have equal exposure to the standards—and that may not happen if our science teachers are all on different pages.

What else might change in my NGSS instruction? Because the NGSS encourages science teachers to work alongside the students as they begin “sense-making,” I may restructure the order of my lessons within a unit. Previously, I introduced vocabulary on day one of a new unit; now, I may introduce our phenomena, and sit back while students attempt to explain the phenomena. On day one, I may even give them tools to investigate, similar to a lab experiment, which I normally would have waited until the end of our unit to do. This will allow students to necessitate the vocabulary that I will eventually give them. This mirrors the 5-E Model of Instruction, a model well-suited to the NGSS.

Watch the video below to join us as we pace out our NGSS Performance Expectations across a year.

Want more PD on NGSS? Email us at And, see the other posts in our “Where to start” series here!

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