Integrating science and literacy helps students become better scientists and better readers. Predicting, supporting with evidence, comparing and contrasting, drawing conclusions… these are all skills we use in science and reading. So, I’m thinking of ways to maximize student learning in both content areas.
Integrating Science and Literacy: Making Predictions
If you teach in a self-contained classroom, you can double-dip your reading/science minutes by referencing the terms seamlessly across content areas. During your reading block, your students may make predictions based on evidence and background knowledge as you’re reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, or another class novel. So, use that same terminology (prediction, evidence, background knowledge) to make a chart in order to predict during an investigation on force. Use your background knowledge about friction and gravity to predict how a toy car will roll down various surfaces.
Compare and Contrast
For those of us who teach departmentalized, we can collaborate with a reading teacher on campus to support skills. For example, reading teachers often teach students to compare and contrast characters in a story. As science educators, we can strengthen students’ ability to compare and contrast by using science concepts, perhaps- landforms. After reading about two or more natural landforms, like canyons and deltas, ask students to use text evidence to compare and contrast the two landforms.
I often hear my reading teacher friends discuss the difficulty students have with inferencing. Our science students are making inferences all the time through investigations, discussions, and text. By naming it (inferencing) in the science classroom and by employing common strategies that our reading peers are using, we are bolstering student learning. I like the idea of collaborating with my reading teammate, to ensure that we are using the exact same jargon or anchor charts. However, a reputable resource for quick reading comprehension strategies is Jennifer Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book. It’s not meant to be read cover to cover. You just simply turn to the skill you are reinforcing, and on one to two pages, you have easy tips and visuals to add to your students’ toolbelts.
A FREE Resource to Support Integrating Science and Literacy
If you’re looking for a way to ease into teaching reading skills, click HERE to heck out my FREE Science Lab Safety unit. The one-page informational text, “Safety Expectations for Investigation”, can be used to reinforce sequence of events. What needs to happen first, next, last? The passage can also be used to focus on main idea and supporting details. Determine the main idea of paragraph two using details found in the second paragraph. Author’s purpose is another literacy skill students can practice through this passage. Why did the author wait until paragraph three to start writing about safety during an actual investigation?
There are more reasons to utilize literacy skills in the science classroom. While state and district testing isn’t our focus as educators, we can’t deny the reading demand our students encounter on standardized tests. Teaching literacy skills alongside our science concepts certainly won’t hurt our students. In fact, literacy skills will only help our students become more critical thinkers.
A final thought… maybe that reading teacher you’re collaborating with will be so thrilled that you are using comprehension skills in your class that they will reciprocate by integrating informational text on ecosystems or weather in their classroom. You know the saying…you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!