Mi-STAR Instructional Model: Off-the-Shelf Lessons

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Michigan K-12 Science Standards (MSS) require students to use disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), science and engineering practices (SEPs) and crosscutting concepts (CCCs). Off-the-Shelf Lessons are short, “grab and go” lessons that target specific SEPs, CCCs, or DCIs and can help students to meet the demands of the new science standards.  

In the Classroom

When Mi-STAR teachers identify a shortfall in their students’ understanding of a concept or practice, they can grab a lesson “off the shelf” from the Mi-STAR curriculum portal and teach it at any time—before, during, or after a unit. The lessons can be used anywhere in the curriculum to reinforce student understanding of a specific SEP, CCC, or DCI.

For example, the engineering practice of making an argument for a design solution is introduced in 6th grade in the Mi-STAR curriculum. Subsequent 7th and 8th grade units  are designed for students who have prior experience with the practice. If teachers detect that their 7th or 8th students have never used this practice or are deficient in using it, they can use the Off-the-Shelf lesson “Comparing Solutions Using a Decision Matrix” to get their students up to speed. This short, fun lesson has students first use a decision matrix to choose a snack and then, in the role of a resource manager, to choose the best management solution for an invasive species in a wetland. These introductory activities are designed to fit before any unit in the Mi-STAR curriculum that uses decision matrices and will help students to confidently apply decision matrices to the real-world problems presented in the curriculum.    

Sample UCCC Lesson: Systems and System Models

Link to Lesson Plan
This lesson plan is designed to introduce students to the first Unifying Crosscutting Concept of Systems and Systems Models.

This lesson is being shared as an Open Educational Resource (OER) under the creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/).

A Deeper Look

As curricula and assessments designed for NGSS are implemented across the country, many students will be expected to jump right into the rigors of three-dimensional learning. Michigan’s new M-STEP standardized tests are designed for NGSS and the MSS, requiring that students be able to use SEPs and CCCs together to make sense of phenomena. Yet students may not have the skills or knowledge for a number of reasons. Many cohorts will begin an NGSS curriculum in the middle of their school careers, rather than building their science knowledge and skills from kindergarten up. Students may transfer into a district in the middle of the gradeband. Or, a district may have modified a scope and sequence to suit its specific needs and might need to introduce certain practices or concepts out of order.

To address these gaps quickly and help improve student performance, Mi-STAR created Off-the-Shelf lessons. Several lessons are currently available, and more are under development. Like the standard Mi-STAR curriculum, these lessons are designed by teams of Mi-STAR Professional Learning Facilitators, classroom teachers, and other members of the Mi-STAR community.
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Mi-STAR was founded in 2015 through generous support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. Mi-STAR has also received substantial support from the National Science Foundation, the MiSTEM Advisory Council through the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Technological University.