Last year after completing my full year biology curriculum, I decided to write a blog post to give context for why I chose the particular scope and sequence that I use in biology. I loved hearing from so many of you, so after a little break from product creation, I ended up spending this past summer writing up my full year physical science curriculum. Now that it is finished, I can finally get back to writing, as I know I have severely neglected this little blog and I have so much I want to share with you AND hear your thoughts on it too! So I decided to start off a year of intentionally blogging with the rationale for my physical science scope and sequence.
Like I mentioned in my biology scope and sequence blog post, when I taught at a public school I didn’t even think twice about my scope and sequence. This was all provided for me and standardized across the district. This was great as a first year teacher – one less thing for me to have to worry about! But as time went on, I realized I really didn’t like the sequence in which I was told to teach the content and wished I had an opportunity to change it.
Then my husband’s job moved us to a different part of the state and I found myself in a private school, where I have now taught for 4 years. I went from being one of 5 teachers who taught my subject matter, which was dictated entirely by my school district, to be the only teacher who taught my subjects, given complete autonomy over my curriculum. My only guidelines were that my unit plans be guided by the *Next Generation Science Standards. (If you are unfamiliar with these, I’ve written a blog post about them here.)
I was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the idea of being able to completely rearrange my curriculum (isn’t teaching such a mixed bag of emotions?) Over the past few years, I’ve tried a few different strategies for my physical science classes, just like I did with my biology ones, and I’ve landed on this being my absolute favorite scope and sequence of all.
Want to see a more detailed pacing guide for each unit that includes a list of the instructional resources used for every concept? Click here to access for free!
Rationale behind my scope and sequence
I decided to maintain a consistent set-up and strategy for my biology and physical science classes, as at my current school I have all of the students two years in a row. I divide each unit into smaller concepts, as you can see above. In terms of long-term sequence, my students traditionally take physical science with me in the 8th grade, then I have them again for biology in 9th grade before they take chemistry as a 10th grader with a different teacher. This is a serious blessing in that I am able to REALLY challenge them in physical science to build up their skills at a time when their grades don’t really affect their future getting into college, since they are still in middle school. They can learn it is okay to struggle and through the struggles, they come out stronger and better equipped for their futures in high school. This is why I start with the introduction to physics.
I know this may seem CRAZY, especially since so many of my students are concurrently taking Algebra 1, and this curriculum is heavily math-based. But, I think it is really important for several reasons.
One, physics is much easier for the students to visualize and “get” than chemistry. Chemistry is really abstract. Of course, we can model and show them things, but physics is such a cool subject that they can really experience. Even though the math is challenging for them, they really understand the context through labs, inquiry-based explorative stations, and demonstrations, which makes them appreciate the math components.
Two, it is so fun to hear students talk about how this is the best year they have ever had in math because of what they are doing in my science class. The numbers have meaning to them when they learn how to manipulate them within the context of real-life situations!
Third, it has created AMAZING connections with my Algebra 1 teacher, where everything I am teaching is being reinforced by him and vice versa.
Lastly, there are so many cool things to do with teaching physics (no offense to any chemistry teachers – y’all are awesome!) that I really love starting with it because students become super engaged really early on in the school year. If you’ve purchased any of my physical science units, you’ll see how many amazing real-world connections can be made with this content (I especially LOVE the activity in the Motion and Force unit where students investigate the physics behind the long-term effects of concussions.) The students become so incredibly drawn in that they don’t get as overwhelmed by the complexity of what they are learning.
I also think it is really important to start with a STRONG scientific method unit. I spend a lot more time on these foundational skills in physical science than I do in biology. This allows me to move quickly through these topics as a review in my biology course. I spend a decent bit of time on safety, equipment, and foundational math skills in physical science. By teaching them metric conversions and dimensional analysis, they are acquiring skills they will use in math and science courses for years to come – and they are getting it within the context of real-world situations, like making fudge.
I also spend a good amount of energy on the scientific method with them. I know that there isn’t an official step-by-step “scientific method”, but I also know from experience that students really benefit from learning about experimental design and the general process scientists use to investigate questions. I don’t have them work through a full inquiry investigation and a formal lab report in this first unit, by any means. We just set the foundation of skills and build upon them in each subsequent unit. Every unit has at least one lab investigation, and we slowly exercise our skills throughout the first half of the course until they are ready to write a full report by the time we get to our Matter unit. In some labs, we focus more on graphing, in others the focus is on the analysis or conclusion. But by subdividing the skills they need, it scaffolds it so that by the time we do get to Unit 6 and I have them write a full report, they’ve acquired all of the skills to do the writing and to do it well.
A note on NGSS:
I do a lot more math than the NGSS requires for middle school physical science. This is because I think it is so important for helping them appreciate the content and because I have taught this same curriculum to 10th-grade students who weren’t ready to jump from biology to chemistry just yet, and I want them to be prepared mathematically. This is why you will see that I do some integration of the high school physical science standards alongside the middle school ones in the curriculum I have written up. It does make it take longer to get through the intro. to physics content (and I often end up having to move my waves unit to the beginning of January) but I truly think it is worth it in the long run.
Finally, I end the year with the introduction to chemistry units. I like to do this since ALL of my students go on to take chemistry (and most just 1.5 years later!) and not all students take physics, so I want the chemistry content to be the freshest in their minds as they move forward. Also, they have already built up a solid foundation of skills, resiliency, and study habits throughout my intro. to the physics portion of the course that they are now more capable of handling the beautifully abstract complexities of chemistry. I continually try, even in chemistry, to make real-world connections within all of the content so that my students can see the relevance of everything they are learning.
Details specific to my curriculum
As with all of my curricula, I wrote this one for teachers who teach in settings like I have – essentially with no science budget and very little equipment. Because of this, nearly all of my labs and activities rely on materials that can be reused or are consumables easily (and cheaply) purchased at your grocery store or on Amazon. Additionally, I provide ways for students to gather information from multiple sources using technology in case you don’t have a solid textbook available to use (I have yet to be provided a textbook that was less than 15 years old that I actually found students would read.) Because of this, my curriculum can be used alongside any textbook.
Lastly, I include differentiated resources for CP (College Prep, or “on grade level”) and Honors (advanced) students. My hope is that I have put in all the hours for you by creating engaging, creative, student-led, and assessment-aligned resources so that you don’t have to. This frees up time for you to do what you do best – TEACH! Of course, every group of students is different, so with all of the groundwork done for you, you are now free to differentiate and accommodate to best meet the needs of your specific students.
Interested in checking out my physical science curriculum? You can find it here on TpT. I always recommend that teachers purchase one unit first to make sure that you like my style. Then if you go on to invest in the curriculum for the full year, please reach out to me and I can get you a refund for the initial unit purchased to test out, as long as it has been purchased within the same calendar year.
Questions behind my rationale or anything related to the physical science curriculum? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email as that is the best way to get in touch with me.
How do you determine your scope and sequence? Is it determined by the district or school you are in or did you pick it out yourself? If you could teach in your ideal order, how would you do it? How have you integrated math skills into your physical science curriculum? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
*Note: NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this blog post, and do not endorse it.