Finding Time for Science: Not as Hard as It Seems?

Integrating literacy into science

Teaching is hard. We simply do not have enough time to juggle all our roles and get everything done we need to do. And, the changes occurring in education and the classroom just in the last five years are not making the job of teaching any easier.

Shifts in key instructional areas you thought you had figured out—reading, science, and math—may have you feeling like your work load has doubled and the hours in your day have shrunk. You know what I’m talking about…

In reading and language arts, there are new guidelines on text complexity along with new emphasis on writing, nonfiction, and evidence. Math now requires coherence across the grades, conceptual understanding—not rote memorization—and perseverance in problem solving. Then there’s science. It’s not just about content, but also about planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, and engineering design.

Tired? Frustrated? No wonder! I’ll admit it does seem daunting. But, maybe—just maybe—it’s not quite as hard as it seems.

If you can adopt a cross-curriculum mindset, you can have time for it all—science AND literacy. Even simple strategies can produce big gains in terms of time and the student learning experience.

Take a moment to think about your practice…

Are you taking advantage of commonalities across the content areas? We often find ourselves thinking in content-area silos. We teach reading, then math, then science. But life is not like that. So why should our teaching be?

What you may not realize is that the standards have significant overlap and can be taught collectively for your students’ benefit—and yours. Take a look at what I’m talking about. Problem solving, modeling, critiques, technology—notice the commonalities among the Math, Science and ELA standards?

What does that mean in terms of teaching time? You achieve optimum curricular economy when one hour of instruction applies to multiple content areas!

Think about the books you and your children are reading. With a little creativity, you can use them to motivate students to think about science-related topics…

Turn the 3 Little Pigs into an opportunity to introduce an engineering challenge about “blowing the house down.”

Pair Twisted Humpty Dumpty with a project on matter and taking it apart. All you need are some screwdrivers and a few (safe) tools.

Read Carl Sandburg’s Fog as the starting place for a study of the senses, how the fog comes in, and how the brain receives information.

Can you purposely connect science and literacy? If you need more time for science and you need nonfiction content for students to write and talk about, try connecting literacy concepts to STEM trade books. Concepts such as sequencing, cause and effect, author’s purpose, and summarizing can often be applied to STEM books.

Let’s say you’re working on a science concept like molecules, heredity, or weather and the seasons. What book could you match to the topic? Or, try taking a popular book—like Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, or Stellaluna—and search the NGSS standards for a compatible topic. I’ve seen a Little House on the Prairie book morph into a fascinating study of soil. See how that works?

Are you weaving literacy and science connections into your everyday teaching? There’s lots of ways to do this. And your kids will be having so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re doing some serious standards learning.

You could …

Use the book White Owl, Barn Owl as a model and have students write expository captions to go with a narrative story on a similar topic.

Challenge your students to connect the learning to something that interests them. (You don’t have to do all the work!) Stay open-minded—some of those connections may be a stretch. But that’s okay.

Take 5 minutes a day to pose random analogy questions that get kids thinking. Like: How is a classroom like an orange? A pencil like a flower?  Expect some fun and creative explanations!

It may take you some time to get the hang of all of this. But once you do, it’ll become second nature. How about you? Can you share any other ways to save precious teaching time, engage children in new ways, deepen their understanding, and hit those science standards and requirements? Let us know!

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Also, check out these downloadable resources referenced within the webinar: