Academic journal article Childhood Education

Self-Created Children's Literature as a Teaching Strategy: Voices from the College and the Elementary Classroom

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Self-Created Children's Literature as a Teaching Strategy: Voices from the College and the Elementary Classroom

Article excerpt

Researchers have noticed a shift An education, with science and social studies taking a backseat to mathematics and literacy (Marx & Harris, 2006; Rodriguez, 2006). Some school districts are operating on a rotating basis with science instruction--one month on and one month off (Marx & Harris, 2006). A better approach would be to encourage students to make connections among subject areas through curriculum integration. Such an approach has the potential to not only share time more equitably among content areas in the classroom, but also enhance student learning. Venville, Wallace, Rennie, and Malone (2000) found that integrated teaching resulted in student learning that exceeded what would have occurred in the individual subjects. Through concepts applied in meaningful contexts, integrated projects can help students make connections, thus bridging the gap between subject disciplines that are perceived as independent (Venville et al., 2000). In addition, integrating mathematics and science positively impacts students' attitudes and motivation to learn (Stinson, Harkness, Meyer, & Stallworth, 2009).

Children's literature provides a meaningful context for learning mathematics (Whitin & Wilde, 1992). With the integration of literature in the learning process, mathematical concepts become relevant to the students' lives and their learning of mathematical content improves (Capraro & Capraro, 2006). Such organizations as the National Science Teachers Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Association for Childhood Education International, and the International Reading Association have called attention to the benefits of making interdisciplinary connections.

Reform documents, such as the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000) and the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996), invite teachers to encourage their students to explore, test, analyze, connect, evaluate, integrate, and synthesize information, concepts, and big ideas through inquiry, problem solving, reflection, and communication. However, most teacher candidates have little or no experience with such a vision of teaching mathematics and science. Some candidates, for example, lack content knowledge and thus feel ill-prepared to teach mathematics using student-centered methods (Ball, 1990). In addition, limited opportunities to observe or experience this form of instruction in the field may hinder the transformation from belief to action (Hancock & Gallard, 2004).

During science and mathematics methods courses, we were challenged by teacher candidates' unfamiliarity with and/or resistance to inquiry-based content integration. In an effort to supplement the preservice students' prior experiences and introduce them to integrated experiences in content methods classes (Cady & Rearden, 2007), our courses exposed them to student-centered instructional approaches for elementary mathematics and science, and offered rich examples and opportunities to participate in these content area connections.

This article describes a strategy for integrating math, science, and literature as it was implemented between two college methods classes, and shares the views of the college professors and the teacher candidates about using self-created children's literature as a teaching strategy.

Our Project: Integration of Science and Mathematics Through Creating Children's Literature

In an effort to help our childhood teacher candidates identify with a view of mathematics and science as inquiry, and to promote the integration of the two subject areas, we encouraged our teacher candidates to create literature for the children in their field placements, and to use their self-created book in the classroom. We implemented this course project through a series of integrated classes in which two groups of teacher candidates, both enrolled in a mathematics and a science methods course for diverse learners, participated. …

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