I am so excited about inquiry-based teaching these days! Eventually I’d like to learn how to incorporate it in all subjects, but for now I am starting with science. For the next 7 weeks, I’ll be posting a summary and relevant resources from each chapter of the book Starting with Science: Strategies for Introducing Young Children to Inquiry by Marcia Talhelm Edson. I’ll also add a few of my thoughts in there as well!
Chapter 3: Science as a Context for Literacy: Reading, Writing and Speaking
I am a huge fan of integrating across the curriculum, and I’m always looking for more efficient and effective ways to do it. I was especially looking forward to this chapter, because I want science to be integrated throughout my day. I also would like reading and writing to be integrated throughout other subjects, both because that will boost literacy learning, and because it represents real life. In real life, we don’t say “Okay, now I will stop to think about science” or “Now I move on to doing math.” Instead, these subjects are integrated throughout our day. Ultimately I would like the school day to reflect this idea of integration across subject matter. But I need to take baby steps to get there.
So that’s where this chapter comes in! It was all about how to incorporate literacy into science. In fact, they said that science is impossible without reading, writing, speaking and listening! So for those of us that need to keep the Common Core in the back of our minds at all times, this is encouraging.
Here were some of the tips for incorporating literacy into your science block (or science into your literacy block).
Use science notebooks.
I use science notebooks in my classroom sporadically, but I would like to figure out how to make them more a part of our daily science routine. I use a regular spiral notebook, but the book suggests using anything from a composition notebook to paper stapled together. What it looks like is less important than what goes into it.
Their biggest emphasis was on using science notebooks authentically – the way a real scientist would use them. Science notebooks should be for recording observations, predictions, conclusions, and interesting facts. Diagrams with labels are a great thing to record in a science notebook, as are observational drawings, tables, graphs, and questions that come up throughout the unit.
A note on observational drawings – the author of the book suggested giving students explicit lessons on how to do observational drawings – how to look for shapes in what you see, and record details such as shading and texture. I could see asking our school’s art teacher to do some lessons on nature drawing. But the book also suggests that teachers go out and try it themselves! Scientific drawings are a great way to encourage close observation.
The book goes on to note that science word banks or word walls can be used to encourage more writing in the younger grades. They also noted that science notebooks can be a way for reluctant writers to learn that writing has a purpose – and can be fun!
Incorporate non-fiction read alouds.
This is an easy one, since most teachers have a unit on non-fiction that they need to cover. But the book gave a few helpful pointers when reading non-fiction books – the entire book doesn’t need to be read from cover to cover. Instead, look for parts of the book that are most relevant to what students are wondering. Paraphrase if necessary, and use the book as a way to model curiosity and wonder about the topic.
Have science discussions.
I am so excited to try this in my classroom! Science discussions are a perfect way to incorporate speaking and listening into your curriculum – and they will help kids solidify their scientific understandings. The author suggests having a predictable routine to your science discussions, and to remember to explicitly teach skills like turn-taking, listening and asking questions beforehand (and during)! Science meetings could have many purposes, including sharing research done by a small group, commenting on friends’ scientific drawings, or making a list of facts you’ve learned. I think science discussions could be similar to morning meeting, or even done during morning meeting! There is a book called Doing Science in Morning Meeting that I really want to get!
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