March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Integrating Common Core into Everyday Teaching

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Joanne Michael

If your school is anything like mine, math and language arts have recently been overhauled to meet with the Common Core Standards. Just as everyone seems to be getting their heads slightly above water with the changes, in comes NGSS, flipping the standards around and creating more panic. What?! We need to somehow integrate more science into our lessons? With the new curriculum that I am barely understanding in the first place? How am I supposed to do that?!

With practice, Common Core and NGSS can be easily integrated. Under each NGSS standard is a list of the language arts and math standards that can be aligned with relative ease.

Common Core Connection Box - from NGSS Grade 4. Structure, Function, and Information Processing

Common Core Connection Box – from NGSS Grade 4. Structure, Function, and Information Processing

However, many other standards in language arts can also be incorporated into science (and vice versa). Below are just a few ideas that I have used in my own classroom, or helped colleagues use in theirs.

Even though it is not mandated for another couple years, I have begun introducing science vocabulary with my students. As a science specialist I teach grades K-5, so my hope is that by the time NGSS is fully operational even my youngest students will be fluent in the science vernacular. For classroom teachers, this can easily be done as well, and will definitely help them (and you!) out as the year progresses.

Especially with the younger ones, the more complex the vocabulary, the more intimidated they are. Once they understand what it means and how to use it, though, they are excited to practice! For example, instead of asking 3rd graders “what happened when baking soda and vinegar were mixed?” changing the prompt to, “state your observations when the baking soda and vinegar were combined” gives the students a chance to practice reading advanced terminology and subconsciously encourages them to use higher-level terms, themselves.

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Once the students start using higher-level terminology (while still appropriate for their grade level), they can start to write lab reports for their experiments. One of the language arts standards for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade is to “write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly” (Text Types and Purposes-2), as well as “Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences (Text Types and Purposes- 3). Using the baking soda and vinegar experiment, the students can write a story about an imaginary student doing the experiment – complete with pictures, if desired, to make it a children’s book for younger grades. Particularly for the 4th and 5th grade – why not have the student write up the purpose, procedure, results, and the effect this information can have on future experiments, or how can knowing that baking soda and vinegar produces carbon dioxide bubbles help the general public?!

Many of my students like science, but claim that they don’t like math and don’t understand why we have to do math when it is clearly science time! If only it were that easy to completely isolate one subject from another – fortunately, it can be fun to do both… and integrate the new Common Core standards at the same time! Every grade level has the same basic eight mathematical practices:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them;
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively;
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others;
  4. Model with mathematics;
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically;
  6. Attend to precision;
  7. Look for and make use of structure; and
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

While some lend themselves to elementary science more easily than others do, all eight can be done. For example, is your class discussing weather patterns? If you build a working (rudimentary) thermometer, you have used practice #5. Tracking the weather at your school and at a few other schools in different parts of the country, and charting the data to analyze for patterns, incorporates practices #3, #4, and #8, and depending on how you present the material you may also be meeting other practice standards as well. If your school has a “sister school” in another city, exchanging postcards with them can help bridge language arts standards as well as help form relationships between the students, to hopefully make them WANT to learn more about the sister school’s location.

Bridging between Common Core and the science can go the opposite direction as well. If studying fractions, have students measure ½ a cup of baking soda, and add ¼ cup of cornstarch to it. How much is there now? Theorize what would happen if ¼ cup of vinegar was added to this baking soda/cornstarch mixture. They know baking soda and vinegar, but does cornstarch and vinegar have any kind of chemical reaction? After combining them, the students can write a math equation, work on a lab write-up, and theorize as to why they observed the reaction that they did. Math, language arts AND science, all disguised as a messy time? Sounds like combining Common Core and NGSS to me!

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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California Science Teachers Association

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Marian Murphy-Shaw

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.