In our effort to ensure that no child is left behind in reading, mathematics, and writing, we often leave science behind in the elementary classroom. However, science is a naturally high interest area for students. All I have to do is say “science” and my students are instantly engaged. Because of this I strongly believe that science provides a perfect lens for reading and writing. Again and again, I have seen that my most reluctant readers and writers are actually enthusiastic about their work when it is centered on science. With a new emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to integrate English Language Arts, I take every opportunity I can to integrate my teaching across subject areas.
I recently led my class through their first full engineering design process of the year. We had recently learned in Social Studies that our region is prone to earthquakes and I used this as the motivation to learn about waves (NGSS PS4.A: Wave Properties) and give students the opportunity to engage in engineering practices. Below is a look at how I integrated ELA Common Core State Standards throughout the engineering process after the problem was defined.
- Conduct Research (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.7)
- I gave students a copy of a section of text about earthquakes and waves. We did a close read of this text identifying vocabulary, annotating
- The next step of research was to watch a portion of a Bill Nye video on waves. I modeled how to take notes from an auditory source and we recorded important ideas and details. (ELA-LITERACY.W.4.8)
- We read one more piece of text about seismic waves from the U.S. Geological Survey. This was written for an adult audience, but it provided us with a great opportunity to use our phonics skills to read unknown words and to analyze scientific words looking at prefixes, suffixes, and roots. (ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.3.A, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.4.4.B)
- Finally, I pulled together photos of structures that had been destroyed and structures that had survived earthquakes. Students analyzed these primary sources looking for patterns in how structures were built. Students discussed their thoughts with their project partner. We then took this a step further by writing a compare and contrast paragraph about our findings. (ELA-LITERACY.W.4.10)
- Generate Ideas
- Students used their new understandings from their research to individually sketch at least three ideas to share with their partner. Their ideas had to be based on evidence they had found in their research that would lead to an effective design.
- Develop a Solution
- After individuals sketched their ideas, they discussed with their partner their plan. Students had to explain why they think their design would be effective, and then work together to formulate one design. (ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1.D)
- Construct and Test
- Evaluate the Solution and Redesign
- To finish the process students had to evaluate their design. This was a new task for my students so I used sentence frames to help structure their writing. Using their observations as evidence students had to write a conclusion explaining how their structure did, and why they think it was successful, or why the design wasn’t effective. They also had to propose changes to their design. (ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.B, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.C, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.D, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.E, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.10)
I used my school’s pacing guide to determine which standards to highlight with my class. However, I could have tailored my instruction to meet a variety of other standards. By tying instruction into our pacing guide, I was able to extend science into our reading and writing block guilt free. Students need to experience hands-on science, but they also need to see that reading and writing are integral to scientists’ work, and that these skills are part of doing science! As you plan your next science unit, I encourage you to find ways – even one way – to integrate reading and writing into your unit. Let me know how it goes!
Latest posts by Hallie Mills (see all)
- Surviving the Holidays with Science - December 17, 2015
- Giving Thanks for Next Generation Science Standards - December 1, 2015
- A Treat for Science Teachers – Evidence Statements! - October 31, 2015