March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Integrating the Common Core Literacy Skills in Science Classes

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Heather Wygant

Student_Writing

By now, all of you should know that Common Core-ELA is not just for English teachers; all teachers need to integrate writing into their classrooms: especially the sciences! We’re in luck though, because in science we commonly use two main types of writing that align well with Common Core-ELA: informational and argumentative. So how do I make sure my students are actually using Common Core writing strategies?  

Here are some tips for making easy connections to the Common Core-ELA Standards for your science classroom.

1. Add more writing to your science class

You may already be integrating the writing of research papers, formal lab reports and science articles (or even short blogs!) into your classroom activities, but if you’re not – get on it! This is a simple way to get your students writing about science in several different ways. While research papers may be more formal, science articles can take more of an argumentative approach, allowing students to understand the difference and develop their writing skills in both areas. Also, don’t forget about the value of peer review and feedback for greater clarity. This can be intimidating for some students, but also bring greater thought to the activity – they are under pressure to make sure that not only you understand their work, but their classmates do too!

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Click here for a science lab write-up guide to get you started.

2. Integrating close reading strategies

Don’t just read textbooks in your classroom. Teaching students about the wealth of materials available (from newspapers to journal articles) to find out information about scientific topics is one of the greatest lifelong skills you can teach them! I use a host of different sources from the Smithsonian to the National Geographic to physorg.com. Of course you need to be cautious about this as well; for every wonderful science news site there are 10 terrible ones. Teaching your students how to identify the difference is a great skill that will stay with them long into their adulthood. I recommend having a weekly science article assignment in which students need to annotate and summarize the materials.

Click here for an example lesson to get you started.

3. How do I grade all this writing?!?!

Now, that I’ve told you what I think you should do, you may be thinking: I’m not an English teacher, how am I supposed to grade all this writing?!

Don’t panic! Just because you don’t teach writing, doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to evaluate good writing. For help, seek out the English department for rubrics on informational and argumentative writing, or use this online rubric maker. If you are doing lab reports, break up the sections throughout the year (Introduction in September, Methods in December, Results in March etc.). This can help the students develop their skills as well without getting overwhelmed.

But don’t just listen to me – as many people are starting to dive into how to bring greater literacy to the science classroom through Common Core and otherwise. Here are some additional links that should help you get going!

Written by Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill, CA and is a member of CSTA.

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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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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.