Integrating ELA, math, and science

In this post, I continue a thought experiment. Can a lesson really integrate ELA, math, and science in a meaningful way?

In my previous post, I showed how to choose standards in science, ELA, and mathematics for an integrated lesson. Here is the lesson objective I wrote: Students will be able to write an argument about the effect of gravity on a falling object that uses real-world data as a source of evidence.

I base this lesson on an Exploratorium activity. I am only using the idea for how to gather evidence for the argument in this lesson.

Gathering evidence using mathematics skills

The data sources that we have to use to gather evidence for this argument are the data table and the video of the falling object.

Exploratorium

What evidence can students gather? We have visual evidence and numeric evidence. In the video, students should notice that the object moves down. In the data table, students should notice that the object moves down 0.51 meters in 0.330 seconds.

A very simple argument could be made with that evidence. However, if students use their mathematics skills with number and operations in base ten to look at the data table a little more closely, they can notice more. What can we notice about how far the object falls between each video frame?

By using Google Sheets, we can calculate the how far the object fell from one frame to the next. We can use Google Sheets to calculate the difference. By creating a formula and copying it down the column, the spreadsheet calculates the differences for us.

Lori Andersen

Students can look for patterns in data. They notice that the time between each frame is the same (0.033 seconds is 30 frames per second), but the distance the object falls between each frame increases. Students can relate the increasing distance to how the object gets faster as it falls. The data shows that in the last two frames, the object falls about 20 times farther than it did in the first 2 frames. This kind of thinking requires students to build a solid understanding of number and operations in base ten. This brings in another mathematics standard that I did not include in my previous post. My original idea was that the most important math skills would be representing and interpreting data.

(Side note: The mathematics became a little complicated for Grade 5. In another post, I explore a different way to represent data for falling objects.)

Writing the argument using ELA skills

In the argument, we want students to make a claim that Earthʻs gravity pulls on the object. What could a studentʻs argument look like? In ELA, students learn to write opinion pieces. Four ELA standards focus are related to this task.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1.A
    Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1.B
    Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1.C
    Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., consequentlyspecifically).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1.D
    Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

So we see that there is a close link among these standards in science, ELA and mathematics. If we know what students are learning in the other content areas, we should be able to do some integration.

What do you think of this integrated approach? What integrated approaches have you used in your teaching? Tell me in the comments.

For more about this idea, see my next blog post

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