Strategy: Use Common Core Standards (CCS) to Incorporate Reading, Writing, and Speaking in STEM activities.
Did you just want to stop reading? What is it about CCS that makes teachers want to shut down? Perhaps it is because we hear, “Everyone is supposed to teach reading, writing, and speaking.” The implication is that science teachers must “help” teach reading, writing, and speaking.
When CCS was first introduced at my school, the presenter demanded that Science teachers chose a topic, teach a lesson and bring a student sample of an argumentative five-paragraph essay. Dutifully, my department thought about an essay entitled, “How the Moon was Formed.” The plan included teachers presenting the different theories with references. Students would use the references to write and support an argument. When all the essays were turned in, the teachers would present the latest theory about what scientists know about how the moon was formed. Our presenter, an ELA teacher, loved the idea. Hmm, so what is wrong?
Some of the students will have spent time supporting a theory and then find their ideas were incorrect. What do you think they will remember? Gratuitously writing an essay for the sake of writing an essay is foolish and a great way to build life long misconceptions.
Teachers can authentically practice the skills of reading, writing, and speaking when they develop STEM lesson plans. In the next couple of blogs, I’m going to examine the Common Core Strategies as they relate to practical strategies for teaching STEM.
DESIGN PROCESS was the theme today. We discussed scienfic inquiry and the steps to the scientific method as a way to connect to the process of design. Kids made up their “dream” inventions. It was hilarious. We had homework machines, cell lasers, Final Four Aps, and some very serious ideas like a cure for cancer. The students read about the design process and explained what they would brainstorm, research, test, and ways they would develop ideas. Most kids worked individually but others worked in groups of two and four. They wrote out their design profile and shared. There was laughter all around.
I especially like the creative energy. Kids were sharing, laughing, and suggesting funny ways to improve ideas. It was fun to be creative.
Teaching a process of design is what my colleague called her “Ah Ha!” moment for understanding engineering. The science teachers are familar with the process because it was part of the ’97 Illinois Science Standards, called Technological Design. There are many ways to teach the process and the vocabulary is different but the ideas are the same.
I always say to districts just starting STEM, just design ANYTHING! Some have said that teaching a specific process of steps is too constricting and I agree completely, but my experience tells me 8th graders need the structure of a predictable method of design. In my district we use Project Lead the Way materials and the Engineering is Elementary materials to teach about design. Although we have been integrated STEM into lessons for only two years, we have some promising data about math growth.