Some of the most authentic learning that happens in my classroom comes from integrating the different subjects. Young children are not designed to learn in silos, in separate subject areas. They learn best when these subject areas can be combined when learning about different topics. This is why I love integrating science and literacy whenever I can. Integrating science and literacy is easier than you might think and offers a lot of valuable learning for the students.
Science and Literacy: Reading
Whenever you read your students a book about the topic they are learning about in science, you are integrating science and literacy! Reading is literacy! You can teach valuable skills about reading non-fiction books, like why we read non-fiction books (to learn information!). When reading non-fiction books, you can model the important thinking that goes on to learn about the different topics. The non-fiction books, of course, offer valuable information to the science unit you are studying. You can check out my favorite science read alouds in my Amazon storefront.
I love using emergent readers to help reinforce the science learning we are doing! The science emergent readers always has a focus high frequency word to practice and then the books follow a familiar pattern so that students can independently read them and remember the important science learning from each unit.
Organizing your science books
I like to keep my best unit books in my science area or on my book display so that students have access to look at them whenever they feel inspired. You can see these examples in my pumpkin unit, plant unit, and more! I like having them in my science area, because when they are observing objects, questions always come up. When they ask me these questions, this is the perfect opportunity to point them to the book and encourage them to use the book to look up their answer.
Authentic science and literacy learning
One of the best moments I have had with integrating science and literacy came from this moment in our ladybug unit. I found my students during one play time observing the ladybugs. They were holding the life cycle miniatures and using one of the books to retell and act out the ladybug life cycle. I mean… how much better can authentic learning get?! I absolutely loved it. So, I definitely recommend having books nearby your science learning areas.
Science and Literacy: Writing
The second part to integrating science and literacy is all about writing. Scientists are writing all the time, so this is a very natural place to integrate science and literacy. I do talk to my students about how the work they are doing is work that real scientists do – scientists observe, and scientists write reports.
One of the very first things I teach my students is about how to observe and how to write and draw what they are observing. An important lesson to launch the year is how scientists draw exactly what they want to see – not what they think they should see or what they want to see. I always use an example of observing a tree outside. I model for them thinking about this tree and then drawing it and then I say, “I like rainbows! I’m going to add a rainbow in my background!” and hope that someone stops me! If no one stops me, I pause and say, “wait a minute – is there really a rainbow there? No? Then I can’t draw that!”.
When kindergarteners are first starting out with observational writing we focus mainly on the drawing. Drawing is a key foundational skill for early literacy. Then we work on adding some labels for the different parts of the object, like trunk, leaf, etc. I always encourage kindergarten spelling, but if we have learned the different parts of the object previously, I remind students where in their science journals they can find the spelling.
Just like I like to keep books out in our science area, I like to have blank observation papers available to my students. As they are observing whatever I have in the science area, I encourage them to draw and write what they see. I am always so impressed with the details and thinking they come up with an observing, like in this “mystery object” I put out for them!
Scientists write reports – they write about what they are learning and discovering. So should kindergarteners. One of our writing genres we teach every year is informational writing. Students learn to write All About a topic they know and love. When children get stuck on ideas, I always remind them of the great science learning we did together this year. Students learn to write All About’s based on the many non-fiction books we have read throughout the year. A perfect way to integrate science and literacy.
Additionally, in all of my science journals, I always leave space for students to write what they have learned (as well as reflection pages before the unit begins). This is a great opportunity to integrate science and writing and encourage the more informational writing style. Students will write the important facts they have learned from the unit.
Integrating science and literacy is a lot easier than it sounds – you might already be doing it and not even know! Students get immense learning and valuable practice when you integrate science and literacy throughout your units and throughout your day. Which way will you try this year? Let me know in the comments!
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