- Last weekend, at the TCRWP Saturday Reunion, I attended Elizabeth Moore’s session titled “Reading, Writing, Content Area, and Common Core Connections: Using Our Best Methods to Teach Science.” One of her main points was that we can use shared demonstrations and experiences to support non-fiction reading and writing. She emphasized that by giving students concrete experiences to write from, we can develop language arts skills through our science curriculum. Incorporating science topics into read aloud selections is another important element in supporting science instruction. While primary teachers have been doing this kind of experiential writing for decades, there is a new urgency to our instruction since by the end of second grade, students are expected to “Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.” (W.2.2)
Moore suggested using shared and interactive writing to write about the procedures of science activities. Break the writing down into manageable chunks and do a little each day. Here is one possible routine:
Day 1–do experiment
Day 2–write procedures
Day 3–write findings & conclusions
Day 4–hypothesis–this could be done on day 2
Another point that Moore emphasized was that kids don’t necessarily ask good questions, so we have to teach them through modeling and practice. She shared these video clips to demonstrate asking and answering questions:
Sesame Street: Cookie Monster Questions Prairie Dawn
The Adventures of Asking Elmo
When I taught third grade, we taught a unit on the life cycle of plants. We sprouted beans, peas, and corn, then grew bean plants. As someone who came of age in the 70s, I thought sprouting an avocado would be a good addition to this unit. The kids loved checking the pit each day for signs that it would sprout, although many had doubts that anything green was going to ever come out of the very dead looking pit.
We kept track of how long it took the pit to sprout, then measured the growth of the seedling, which we eventually planted in soil. We created graphs galore to go along with this unit, but I don’t remember ever writing about it. What a missed opportunity!
During this unit there were a number of informational texts that I read aloud to the class, but I haven’t taught this unit in eight years, and I’m sure many new and wonderful books have been published in the meantime. One of my favorites was From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 1991). A favorite of mine was Gardens from Garbage. This book inspired us to branch out and try to sprout other plants:
Coincidentally, my son made guacamole last week, so I asked him to save the avocado pit. After letting it dry out for a few days, I peeled the outer skin, poked three toothpicks into the side, and suspended it in a jar of water. This kind of shared experience involves a longer time frame than Moore’s demonstration, but still accomplishes her goal of giving students a concrete experience to write about.