Integrating science with literacy and numeracy07/11/2014
Combining curriculum areas can support the many different ways in which students learn, writes CAROL BRIESEMAN.
We hear of a cluttered curriculum or find that some curriculum areas get slipped out of the week because of lack of time. Integrating curriculum areas not only ‘kills two birds with one stone’, it also caters for the many different ways that students learn. Using science to engage students has been a great success at our school. Students who struggled to find a pencil and complete a sentence are now writing clearly and confidently. They are experiencing success and increasing in a self-worth and confidence that is contagious.
Why? Because they know what they are going to write about and can explain themselves after hands-on experiences.
I can think of one student in particular who fits the above description quite well (struggling to find his book as well). He was learning all about Argo Floats and was shown how to make a Cartesian Diver with a plastic bottle, some plasticine and a pipette.
This really hooked his interest in – so much so that he could then write up the procedure for it. Not only this, he then carried on to write an explanation about how Argo Floats use the same method to sink and float in the ocean. By having this ‘hands on’ experience, the student understood and enjoyed the process and had the confidence to write about it. In the end, this Year 4 student had produced a Level 2 standard of writing, using technical language, ordering events, adding a diagram with labels. At the same time, he was investigating, communicating and participating at Level 2 in the Science Curriculum.
This is not a one-off occurrence. Often we use science as a way to ‘hook’ students into Literacy. The exciting progress that these students are having in their writing is very evident. For one thing, they have more knowledge and therefore more content is written. This, in time, is improved on and a higher quality of writing is produced.
Here is an example of Super Dooper Looper writing:
Super Dooper Loopers!
- First we got 2 strips of card and a straw. We made a small loop and a big one out of the card and sellotaped them to the straw. The back loop drags it back and the front steers it so if it leans to the right it turns to the right. I think the air is making it faster because all the air is going through the straw. It flies just like a vortex. By Joshua (Year 3)
- If you held this piece of writing up alongside the expectations of a Year 3 student (see table below) you can see that Joshua is where he should be with his writing output. What I particularly liked about this piece was how he made a connection with how a vortex (the throwing kind) is shaped and how it flies. (Carol)
There are many ways science can be used in the literacy curriculum. Below is a table demonstrating some of these ways. This is not an exhaustive list by any means and it is my hope that more ideas can spring from these.
Numeracy is another curriculum area into which we can integrate science. Below is a table integrating these two areas, specifically looking at measurement and statistics, rather than the number strand. Again, this is not an exhaustive list but one from which fresh ideas could spring.
- Carol Brieseman is a teacher at Hampton Hill School, Tawa, Wellington. In 2012, she won a Primary Science Fellowship and spent 6 months at NIWA. Following that, she returned to the classroom with a renewed passion for teaching science, and she has recently been awarded a Primary Science Teacher Fellowship Alumni Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand.