Bundling considerations for a MS team

For a year now I have been working with a school in the Middle East.  We have been building understanding and capacity, and their MS team is gearing up for next year when they will shift their content as well as their philosophical approach to align with the NGSS.  Basically, they are officially starting their transition to the NGSS. They are hoping to begin next year with all of their standards bundled and having identified some anchoring phenomena for a few of the bundles.

They chose to first go through all of the MS PEs and identify where in their current program they were partially or kind of teaching something similar, and include those PEs in that unit. Any PEs that did not really align to anything in their 6-8 program, they found a logical home for. While this process makes sense, it is a little dangerous. Keeping existing units in place can make transitioning a lot more challenging, simply because there will be much more of a temptation to revert to previous 1 dimensional lessons, resources and assessments. If you are going to take this approach, be aware of the risks and determine in advance how you are going to put checks in place to avoid reverting to traditional and more comfortable practices.

They had sent me the PEs that they planned to teach each year, divided by domains (ESS, PS and LS). In each grade – 6, 7 and 8 – they were addressing all three domains.  They were looking for some guidance to work through the bundling process. We had a Skype call, and I thought it made sense for me to share some of the ideas we discussed during the call in case other schools might benefit from the information. The following is a collection of thoughts on the process. At the end of the post is an email I received from them with some excellent questions from their team, and my reply to their query.

  • Consider creating bundles of two to five PEs. Bundles presented in NGSS models will often have more than this, but it’s challenging to ID phenomena and create units for larger bundles.
  • Keep bundles relatively even across the grades (6,7 and 8). Bundling models will often place more PEs in grade 6 than in grade 7, and more in grade 7 than grade 8. Often, more cognitively challenging PEs are addressed as students move through the grades, so this makes sense.
  • Look to the NGSS bundles from nextgenscience for guidance and pay attention to when / where they create bundles with multiple domains. Also look for the Driving Questions for each bundle. These might help you ID/generate anchoring phenomena.
  • There are excellent, free units available at both nextgenstorylines.org and other places. You can be completely confident that units and lessons that have received the official Achieve stamp of approval are NGSS designed and of very high quality. Identify a few of these to pilot, and include their bundles in your course map. Having every teacher work through 1 of these the first year of your school’s transition will really facilitate change.
  • Order the PEs / bundles so that the content build on previously learned information. This seems obvious, and some of this will be taken care of if you loosely base your bundles on your current content structure across the years and grades (as this team did), but it is also something you should keep your eye on as you work through your bundles the first few times. Working with the DCI elements from the PEs can be helpful in thinking this through. Creating laminated cards that you can manipulate to create bundles is extremely helpful. Paul Anderson has PE cards here that can be manipulated to create bundles as well. They are great – and useful in many ways, but sometimes it’s easier to see the learning progression with just the DCI elements.
  • It is very appropriate to partially address a PE as long as it is revisited later in the year or the grade band, but be very explicit about which aspects are being addressed at what points.
  • There is a very thorough treatment of the process of bundling in the Example Bundles Guide.

As I know more will occur to me over time, I will continue to update this list. 

The email I referenced earlier from the team :

Hi Chris

I hope all is well on your side. We are in the process of working on the distribution and bundling of the PE’s based on your feedback. You mentioned that it is recommended to have 18 PEs per grade level and to bundle PEs by 3s maximum 5.

You also referred us to the NGSS bundling and told us to check them out. However, they are bundled in sets of 7 or 8 at times with a minimum of 5. Grade 6 course has around 31 PEs, grade 7 around 21 and grade 8 around 29.

Can you please clarify?

Thank you for your help.

My reply:

Excellent questions and apologies for the confusion.

I quickly checked the Phenomenon Model Course Bundling on the Nextgen site – and while the numbers were not exactly the same as yours, the trends you identified were the same (I imagine you were looking at the Topics Model Bundles ?). Here is where I am coming from and why I believe we see these discrepancies.

We know the total number of PEs in MS and you have mapped all of them into 3 courses for a total of 55? (if I remember correctly) + 4 ETS PEs. I’m pretty sure they have more total because they revisit within grades and across grades (so they don’t really have more : ).  If you look carefully at the summary/flowchart it should tell you somewhere which PEs are being revisited. You can (and should) repeat / revisit PEs if it makes sense, but it might confuse things at the onset of your planning work. That step might come a little later as you trial your bundles.  To clarify, it is completely appropriate to partially address a PE at any point in time as long as it is addressed again later.

Personally, I think trying to identify phenomena and develop a unit around seven PEs is overwhelming. You are absolutely more than welcome to create bundles that large, but I would advise against it. I had forgotten that a fair number, if not most, of the bundles on the Nextgen site were 5 and larger, otherwise I would have given you a “heads up.” I still think three – five PEs is appropriate, but if they feel very natural together, feel free to expand that. FYI – I just reviewed a 26 day high school unit from the state of New York for Achieve that targeted 2 PEs. Their bundle for that unit was two performance expectations and their phenomena was a marathon runner who died after completing the New York Marathon.

I think I did mention in our conversation that most models will have a larger number of PEs at the grade 6 level. I think that’s because they tend to partially address several PEs that are seen again in the later grades (as I mentioned before) when students are more ready/able to tackle more complex ideas encompassed in those PEs. I also think that the PEs addressed at grade 6 are less cognitively challenging in those models, so they can work through more of them across the year. As a team, just make sure that the burden upon each grade level is reasonable.

I had to write this quickly, so apologies if I failed to address any of your questions/concerns. Please reach out again for clarification need be.

As always, take care, keep up the great work and send my “hello” to the rest of the team.



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