Teaching NGSS in Elementary School—Fourth Grade

National Science Teachers Association
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Professional Development
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This web seminar provides an introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards, including the Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. The presenters chose lessons in an energy unit to show NGSS in action in a classroom. The lessons focus on how energy is transferred to produce light and sound using Energy Balls (http://www.teachersource.com/product/energy-ball/electricity-magnetism). The viewer is guided through the thinking of the fourth grade teacher as she plans lessons to help students explain the phenomenon of an electric circuit. Two guiding questions drive the investigations: How and why does the energy ball light up when you touch the sensors? How does the energy ball demonstrate energy transfer? After the Energy Balls have been introduced, students create initial models to explain how they work, then develop their explanations through a series of investigations. Teachers will find helpful ideas for eliciting student’s initial ideas, guiding discussions and investigations, and fostering curiosity. Although energy is the focus of the lessons in this presentation, the ideas are applicable to any area of science.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This unit was built around the transfer of electrical energy. The teacher may want to extend the lessons continuing to follow the path of the energy when it leaves the Energy Ball. Students may observe that electrical energy is transformed into sound and light in the Energy Ball. This could lead to additional investigations about how sound and light are transferred.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students record their observations in science notebooks as they plan investigations and test their circuits. These data provide the basis for their explanations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The Energy Balls provide an intriguing way to demonstrate the transfer of electricity which then produces sound, heat, and light. Students may not notice the heat, because it is not a significant increase in temperature when the bulb is lit, but the bulb does provide heat as well as light.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The main idea of the lessons highlighted in this web seminar is that energy can be transferred through an electric circuit. Students should engage in additional investigations to further explore energy transfer. The resources collection for this web seminar provides many lesson ideas. http://learningcenter.nsta.org/mylibrary/collection.aspx?id=NOX3!plus!Btb/g0_E

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lessons highlighted in this web seminar were designed with all three dimensions of NGSS in mind. Students have the opportunity to make meaning of the phenomenon of energy transfer in electric circuits by engaging in the Scientific Practices throughout the lesson.

  • Instructional Supports: These lessons introduce the phenomenon of energy transfer with an engaging hook (the Energy Ball). The guiding questions and investigations motivate students to engage in three dimensional learning with multiple opportunities for students to share and revise their thinking. The discussions are scaffolded with "talk moves" and sentence frames, such as "I disagree because _________." Further support, such as pictures or graphic organizers may be needed for some students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher monitors student progress through class discussions (scientists meetings) and through notebook entries. Student progress is evident as they revise and explain their model drawings.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The web seminar archive does not include an interactive component. During the seminar, if the link for the classroom video does not work, go to the resource collection. http://learningcenter.nsta.org/mylibrary/collection.aspx?id=NOX3!plus!Btb/g0_E