Did you know the VDOE is required to review the SOLs every seven years? Some years, the review process doesn’t lead to big changes. Other years, the SOLs can undergo significant changes during the review process. In 2018, the science SOLs were reviewed, and the revised standards look quite different from the ones Virginia teachers have become accustomed to.

As a curriculum developer, I have been working with the 2018 science SOLs for over a year. When I first started working with the revised SOLs, I felt completely overwhelmed with the changes. But, over the past few months, I have come to appreciate the revised science SOLs as I believe they are better for both teachers and students. In this post, I am breaking down exactly what you need to know about the 2018 science SOLs so that you can go into the school year feeling confident and ready to teach science to your students.


For an even closer look at the 2018 science SOLs for fourth and fifth grade, be sure to download my FREE guide. It includes an overview of the biggest changes made to these grade levels and a detailed analysis of each science SOL so that you can clearly understand exactly how the standards have changed. With this guide, you’ll know exactly what has changed for fourth and fifth grade and how it will impact your science instruction.

When Do I Have to Teach the 2018 Science SOLs?

Like with the recent revisions to the math, ELA, and social studies SOLs, the revised 2018 science SOLs do not take effect straight away. The VDOE has developed a timeline for when the 2018 science SOLs will be taught and tested.

  • 2019-2021: Both the 2010 and 2018 science SOLs should be taught. The 2020 and 2021 science SOL tests will measure the 2010 standards and include field test items to measure the 2018 standards. Field test items will not be calculated into students’ final scores.
  • 2021-2022: Only the 2018 science SOLs should be taught. The 2022 SOL test will measure the 2018 standards.

What Are the Biggest Changes to the 2018 Science SOLs?

The 2018 science SOLs look very different from what we have become accustomed to. You will find that some topics have moved to different grade levels or have been entirely removed from the standards. Many of the topics that have remained a part of the Virginia standards have been revised and include new information for students to learn.

Upon first looking at the big changes, it can feel stressful. But, these changes are some of the best changes I have seen the VDOE make to any SOL revisions. I believe that after a transition period, teachers and students will come to appreciate the revised SOLs.

When you first examine the 2018 science SOLs, here are some of the most important things to keep in mind.


Grade Levels Are Arranged By Theme

With the revised standards, each grade level in K-6 has been assigned a theme. The units in each grade are related to the grade’s overall theme. The grade-level themes are:

  • Kindergarten: Using Senses to Understand My World
  • 1st Grade: How I Interact with My World
  • 2nd Grade: Change Occurs All Around Us
  • 3rd Grade: Interactions in Our World
  • 4th Grade: Our Place in the Universe
  • 5th Grade: Transforming Matter and Energy
  • 6th Grade: Our World, Our Responsibility

Standards Are Organized By Interrelated Content

With the introduction of grade-level themes, the units for each grade level are connected. Previously, the fifth-grade SOLs included unrelated topics such as the ocean, cells, and light. Now, all of the topics have to do with matter and energy. Therefore, it will be easier for students to make connections between topics and for teachers to incorporate science review into their daily instruction.

Standards Are Meant to Be Cross-Curricular

The topics in certain grade levels are intended to connect with topics from other subjects. Specifically, the VDOE says the fourth-grade science SOLs are meant to be taught with the Virginia Studies standards. There are many connections between Virginia’s resources (part of the science SOLs) and Virginia geography (part of the Virginia Studies SOLs). For a closer look at the fourth-grade science SOLs, download my free guide all about the 2018 science SOLs.

SEP and Engineering Design Processes

If you are familiar with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), you are likely also familiar with scientific and engineering practices and the engineering design process. These things have been a huge part of NGSS for years. Now, they are also a huge part of the SOLs.

Scientific and engineering practices describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate the natural world and the practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems. In other words, these are the behaviors and practices scientists and engineers use daily. These practices also take into account that scientists and engineers use different processes and skills. While scientists rely on the scientific method, engineers rely on the engineering design process. It is important for students to be able to distinguish between scientific and engineering investigations and employ the correct practices and processes.

How Does the VDOE Recommend Virginia Teachers Prepare?

So, how can you prepare for teaching the 2018 science SOLs? The VDOE has made the following recommendations:

  1. Districts should review and align curriculum to the revised SOLs.
  2. Review current resources and correlate them with the revised SOLs.
  3. Develop new teaching materials where needed.
  4. Provide staff development for teachers.

Overall, the VDOE recommends that teachers are trained and have resources prepared to teach the revised standards. If you are looking for curriculum and resources aligned to the revised standards, all of the science units and task cards in my store have been updated and are aligned with the 2018 science SOLs. I have units and task cards for every third, fourth, and fifth-grade science standard.


The 2018 science SOLs present some big changes for the upcoming school year in Virginia. These changes will present an initial learning curve, but implementing the revised standards will get easier with time and by having the right resources to teach the standards. I hope this information provides you with some clarity on what to expect when teaching science this school year.

In this post, I provided an overview of some of the biggest changes made throughout the 2018 science SOLs. If you would like a detailed overview of the fourth and fifth grade standards, download my free guide all about the revised SOLs. This guide provides a detailed breakdown of each SOL so that you can see exactly what has changed and how it will impact your science instruction.


You can also sign up for my exclusive Virginia teacher newsletter. Each month, you’ll receive the latest news related to teaching in Virginia and resources aligned to the Virginia SOLs.

Pin for later.

The Virginia Teacher Club® is a one-of-a-kind program for upper elementary teachers in Virginia. Members receive instant access to a curriculum library of SOL-aligned math, science, social studies, and ELA resources. There are lesson plans, games, assessments, passages, digital activities, and more for EVERY SOL. By using the Virginia Teacher Club®, our members save hours of planning time every month and have access to high-quality, SOL-aligned resources that students love.

CLICK HERE to join the waitlist and be the first to know when the Virginia Teacher Club® reopens for new members.