January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Integrating Science & ELA: Discoveries from the Early Implementer Evaluators

Posted: Thursday, January 4th, 2018

by Ashley Iveland and Tyler Burr

Student writing in Science Notebook on results from testing their design next to the finished design of their pollinator.

A second-grade classroom is “a-buzz” with students drawing designs and researching pollinators. They are learning about animals that pollinate plants by watching videos and reading a variety of print and online sources. Their research reinforces the observations they made while in the school garden and will help them as they engineer their own pollinators. In their notebooks, students continually revise their drawings as they get ideas from their research and feedback from their peers. The excitement grows as they finalize plans for the pollinators that they will build and test the next day.

Benefits of Integrating Science and ELA

These second-grade students are working through the engineering design process, applying science concepts and practices as well as a range of English Language Arts (ELA) skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Their teacher, a 20-year veteran and a participant in the CA K-8 NGSS Early Implementer Initiative, finds it “critically important to integrate throughout the different subjects.” She knows that there are many benefits to integrating science with other subjects, especially ELA.

NGSS science taps into the natural curiosity and energy of young people and provides content for meaningful application of ELA skills. Challenging tasks—such as reading complex texts, formulating arguments, constructing explanations, and defending claims—come more easily when students are in pursuit of their own wonderings.

As evaluators of the Early Implementers Initiative, we have observed many NGSS lessons and talked to teachers and administrators about the impact of NGSS instruction. This article is based on a recently released report from the evaluation team. The full report, “The Synergy of Science and English Language Arts,” contains eight examples of K-8 classroom instruction integrating science and ELA. (Find these and other resources here: http://k12alliance.org/ca-ngss.php )

We chose to focus on the integration of science and ELA to highlight the important potential benefits of such instruction. They include:

  • Reinforcing skills and content in both subjects
  • Supporting English Language Learners and ensuring all students are engaged
  • Making more time for science in the classroom (particularly in elementary school) without taking time away from other subjects

Surveyed Early Implementer teachers reported that integrating ELA and science instruction allowed them to address a wide range of Common Core State Standards for ELA (CCSS-ELA). Five standards, in particular, emerged as especially conducive to integration (see Table 1). Our findings indicate that most, if not all, of the CCSS-ELA standards can be addressed using science as content.

Table 1: Common Core State Standards for ELA that teachers addressed while integrating science with ELA during the 2016-17 school year.

A majority of teachers indicated teaching more science overall in 2016-17 compared to the previous year, and 35% of K-8 teachers chose “understanding how to integrate science with… CCSS-ELA standards” or “ELD standards” as the strongest influences for that increase. Each year, Early Implementer teachers report spending more time teaching science integrated with ELA (see Figure 1). During the 2016-17 school year, K-5 teachers reported that 31% of their time spent on science was integrated with ELA.

Figure 1: Percentage of teachers teaching over 60 minutes of science integrated with ELA per week, 2014-15 to 2016-17

While these benefits are most evident in elementary school, middle school science and ELA teachers should also consider the importance of integrated instruction. CCSS-ELA includes reading and writing standards for literacy in other subject areas (including science) in grades 6-12, which are reinforced in the NGSS practices. These standards help to make science accessible to all students, especially ELLs, by developing their reading, writing, and language skills. Teachers also benefit, because the practices help to make students’ thinking apparent for formative and summative assessments of scientific understanding. One 8th grade teacher noted that when he provided his students with structures for academic language (such as sentence stems), they were better able to express their thinking and understanding:

They have thoughts in their head but have a hard time expressing them because they have low Lexile scores or they are ELLs. Many times students like these don’t have the resources to be able to share, but they need to be able to share all those wonderful things in their head. (8th-grade teacher, San Diego)

He emphasized that having ELA “reinforced in science is going to help students get more exposure with language, literacy, and writing,” in addition to engaging them in science practices (like engaging in argument from evidence). One of his—and many teachers’—favorite strategy to integrate ELA with science is “Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning” (CER). With CER, a student evaluates the relevance and reliability of evidence and then uses scientific reasoning to explain how that evidence logically supports a claim. Arguing from the evidence is a practice explicitly called for in the NGSS and the CCSS (see Figure 2). Evaluators for the Early Implementers Initiative found that over two-thirds of teachers (67%) reported using CER at least twice per month, and 18% used it two to five times each week.

Figure 2. Commonalities Among the Practices in Science, Mathematics, and ELA

Additional information on CER can be found in “The Synergy of Science and English Language Arts” and in an upcoming evaluation report, “Guide to Tools and Strategies for NGSS Implementation” (to be released in February 2018).

Getting Administrators on Board

There are many reasons to integrate science and ELA, and the Early Implementers work has made it clear that administrators at both the school and district level play a critical role. In elementary school especially, teachers who were told by their administrators that math and ELA were priorities were reluctant to significantly address science. However, if administrators allow them to integrate, teachers can address both subjects more meaningfully. In year 3 of the Initiative, almost two-thirds of teachers (65%) reported that their school principals were “very” or “somewhat” supportive of them teaching science integrated with ELA, even during the time allotted specifically for ELA (for elementary teachers). Administrators should keep in mind the positive effects this kind of instruction can have on students: improvement for all students not just in science, but in ELA as well.

More information on what administrators can do to support NGSS science and integrated instruction can be found in the report, “Administrators Matter in NGSS Implementation.”

Ashley Iveland, Research Associate: Early Implementer’s Initiative Evaluation, WestEd. Email: aivelan@wested.org

Tyler Burr, Project Director, Early Implementer’s Initiative Evaluation, WestEd. Email: btyler@wested.org

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

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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.