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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Integrating Literacy Into Science & Social Studies

Literacy in the 45-60 Minute Science & Social Studies Block

PowerPoint from Professional Development Session at Hillside ES
That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. Steve Jobs
Anyone that knows me well would probably laugh at the idea that I'm promoting simplicity.  Give me a project and I can always come up with one more idea, the pièce de résistance, that usually results in someone's to-do list (usually my husband's or girl scout co-leader's list) getting a little longer. But, when it comes to integrating literacy throughout the elementary day, I'm finding that simplicity, clear focus, and consistency quickly zero in on the literacy gaps that our students are experiencing in non-fiction reading.

So, to keep this simple, I've begun using a consistent sequence of events in my Science and Social Studies lessons, and each lesson begins and ends with an over-arching reading essential question.  Here's the plan:

Part 1: The Big Idea
Develop a "big idea" reading focus that you will use for several weeks. My team is referring to Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Harvey and Goudvis. With this resource, there's no reason for us to reinvent the wheel.  This book has developed research-based reading strategies into quality lessons that can be used throughout the elementary curriculum.  Get the book and hug it!  It's your new best friend.

My 3rd grade team is currently working from Chapter 6: Monitoring Your Inner Reading Conversation, and we are constantly tying our content lesson back to this essential question: How do I monitor my inner reading conversation? 

Part 2: Daily Teaching Sequence

All of my Science or Social Studies lesson follow a sequence of modeled reading, shared reading with building of content anchor charts and note-taking, Active Engagement link (experiments or content center rotations), and a closing that checks for understanding.  Below you'll find a sample lesson that I took pictures of that demonstrate the sequence.

Reading Mini-Lesson/Review Strategy
With each new reading strategy, I take the first 10-15 minutes of the content block to build an anchor chart with the students. We will refer back to the chart throughout the next 5-10 days that the "big idea" will be incorporated into the lessons.  After the first day, though, I simply do a quick "check for understanding" of the essential question and anchor chart.
(Time for Review of Strategy: 1 minute).

Modeled Reading
This is the time that I read aloud to the whole class from a purposefully selected text that supports our Science or Social Studies curriculum.  I always use an authentic text, such as picture book, informational book, or novel related to the content. My 3rd grade class was studying our Rocks and Minerals unit, so I choose the book below.  You can see that it's not an award winner, but it served its purpose for the strategy, CCGPS standard (using text evidence) and anchor chart.  It had funny, surprising, important, and confusing parts, AND it directly reinforced my content standards on rocks.

As I read, I stopped on each page and did the following think-aloud that matched my reading strategy anchor chart:
What was the most important part of the text?
I’m confused about…
The surprising part is…
I wonder…
This is my favorite part because…

I then had the students turn and talk to each other using the same language.  The turn and talk immediately gave me feedback that my students could NOT pick out the most important parts of the text.  This quick informal assessment told me what reading gap I needed to fill: understanding that text features such as titles, subheadings, sidebars and bolded words often highlight the most important parts of the text. It also told me that I needed to de-emphasize the LOL parts and generalized text connections.  Every child wanted to tell me that they had found a rock at some point in his/her life, but very few were prepared to do the mental work of connecting the prime information in the text to rocks in their world. Oh my goodness!

(Time for Modeled Reading: 10 minutes ~ I only read a few pages a day.  Picture books usually last me 3-5 days, and novels last 2-3 weeks).

Shared Reading
Following the modeled reading, students move into Shared Reading. It’s time for the students to apply the strategy modeled in the read aloud onto an unleveled authentic text.  This is a time of High Teacher support in the Gradual Release model. I coordinate buddy reading, cooperative group work, and side-by-side teacher support to scaffold the text.  Students should not be working independently during this time.  They should be talking to each other A LOT!  On topic…of course!

In the case of my sample lesson, students were paired in buddies and given post it notes.  Two pages from the science text book were assigned to the buddy readers.  The pair took turns reading the text together.  (I taught my expectations for Buddy Reading before this lesson, but I referred back to may anchor chart).

Then, they worked together to code the text using post-its identifying important, confusing, and surprising parts of the text.  

Once students had enough time to work with the text, we returned to our seats (my students buddy read in nooks throughout the room).  We used the post-its to drive our content conversation and reinforced what important information looked and sounded like. Again, it was an easy way to check for understanding of both the reading strategy and content standards.  It quickly identified many misconceptions of both!

Then, the students and I built an anchor chart of the science content information together.  We used the language of the strategy ("an important part we should add... a surprising part we should include") and our CCGPS standard on using text evidence to answer questions ("according to the text...")  The students recorded the chart in their science journals.

(Time for shared reading: 15-20 minutes)

Link: Active Engagement with the Science Content
In the case of the sample lesson I've presented, my class then moved into a hands-on lab.  The students worked in cooperative groups to identify characteristics of each of the 3 types of rocks.  Students recorded their findings on a graphic organizer that was pasted into the science journals.

(Time for Lab: 20 minutes)

As the year progresses, I will be introducing my own adapted version of the Science/SS Weekly 5 during this time.  I found the idea from another blogging teacher, Ariane Huddleston, who runs the Science Penguin blog.  Check it out here.  I will use this time for science or social studies rotations related to experiments, content vocabulary, research projects, performance tasks, and content-related task card review.  As my students work, I'll be available to pull small groups of students that need additional work with the Science or Social Studies content and literacy strategy. 

Lesson Closing
I always save 5 minutes for my class to return to a whole-group setting so that we can close out the lesson.  We return to both our content standard essential question and our literacy over-arching question.  We first answer how the reading strategy helped us understand the text, and then we do a final short response to the content EQ.  Sometimes, students respond through journal writing or a turn and talk to an elbow partner.  Other times students respond by showing me five fingers if they are confident in their understanding, four fingers if they feel ok but need more time with the material, and three fingers if we need to meet the next day to review. My favorite way for students to respond is through my Twitter board.  It's a "Ticket Out the Door" model where students write a response on a post-it and tweet it on the class Twitter board.  My goal is that ultimately we will tweet our responses on the real Twitter!

Time for Closing (5 minutes)


I think as Steve Jobs said, "You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."  Making the shift towards seeing your elementary school day as driven by literacy requires hard work and some periods of trial and error.  But, in the end, the work is transformative. I read recently that modern scientists spend 80% of their day reading and writing research. If we're going to prepare our students to be 21st century leaders and learners, we have to recognize that shifts in our teaching must happen.  

P.S.  Check out the PowerPoint for more Shared Reading ideas!