Academic journal article Science Scope

Reading and Writing Alignment across Content Areas

Academic journal article Science Scope

Reading and Writing Alignment across Content Areas

Article excerpt

All middle school teachers are affected by limited class minutes due to school schedules, the emphasis on integrating new standards into the curriculum, and planned or unforeseen interruptions during the day. As a result, there never seems to be sufficient time during the school year to develop students into the strong expository writers that science and social studies teachers long for. To address this problem, a team of science and social studies teachers at our school collaborated with the English language arts (ELA) teacher to align the literacy requirements of our science and social studies instruction with the reading and writing curriculum for students in our upper middle school (uMS) seventh- and eighth-grade classes.

In recent years, incorporating the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into ELA and other content areas has been an ongoing focus at our school, as well as in many other school systems. Our team of teachers selected expository writing as our key focus for CCSS integration into science and social studies during this academic year. Expository writing is the genre of "writing to inform" or explain (NGAC and CCSSO 2010). On the basis of student content-writing evidence from previous years, content-area teachers noticed students did not easily transfer ELA writing skills into their content-area writing. Students had difficulty using appropriate organization, evidence, style/voice, and standard English conventions expected in content writing.

If science teachers without ELA support are interested in incorporating CCSS for reading or writing into their curriculum, they can begin by reviewing the CCSS website to access links dedicated to science and technical reading and writing (see Resources). Teachers should select a limited number of standards that can be logically incorporated into the science curriculum and assessed.

Content-focused topics for expository writing can be harvested from several sources. One resource may be the essential question or coaching questions developed within units. Essential questions are overlying unit questions, such as "How can one explain the structure, properties, and interactions of matter?" (in a Structure and Properties of Matter unit). Coaching questions are those that may lead a mini-lesson within a unit. For example, within a Structure and Properties of Matter unit, the coaching question "What characteristics distinguish one substance from another?" was used as a prompt for students describing matter in a short essay. The essay required a definition of matter, a description of the physical properties of matter, and a list of chemical properties that incorporated evidence from a lab investigation.

FIGURE 1 "Reading & Annotating Informational Text" guideline

Name______
Strategies for Reading Informational Texts
                   Before Reading
1 Examine text features
   a. title, heading(s), subheading(s), pictures, captions, bold-faced
   words, charts, sidebars, political cartoons, maps, graphs
2. Make predictions
   a. I think I will read about.... because ....
3 Number paragraphs & chunk text
4. Reading Focus Questions based on title & headings
   a. Who? ... What? ... When? ... Where? ... Why? ... How?
                   During Reading
1. Annotate (mark up) text
   a. underline details that answer Reading Focus Questions
   b. ! = interesting details
   c. ? = confusing sections
   d. record connections (This reminds me of...)
   e. write down your questions (I wonder ... ?)
   f. circle words that show text structure & identify text structure
      i. chronological order, main idea, cause & effect,
      problem - solution, compare & contrast
2. Use vocab. strategies to attack difficult words
   a. break word into parts: prefix, root, suffix
   b. use context clues
   c. determine part of speech
                   ***After*** Reading
1. Revisit & answer the Reading Focus Questions
2. Follow up on (? … 
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