Literacy Matters Vol 24 Winter 2024

How Pre-Service Teachers Incorporate Science and Literacy in the Early Grades with a STEMTwist

by Dr. Kimberly Tisi

Introduction Effective science instructional practices provide opportunities for students to engage with discipline-specific texts that provide a range of scientific knowledge. Incorporating literacy into science and engineering practices can strengthen scientific content while building authentic literacy skills (Friedrich et al., 2020). An emphasis on Science and Engineering practices in the classroom has recently been prioritized with the new 2021 science standards. The South Carolina College and Career Ready (SCCCR; 2021) science standards have been designed to increase college readiness and originated from foundational research that promotes authentic exploration of the world as scientists and engineers. The academic standards are three-dimensional and include Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs; South Carolina Department of Education, 2021). Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) foster scientific skills (e.g., investigating) and engineering skills (e.g., designing and building) that will be embedded throughout each science unit in grades K-12. This allows students to learn about SEPs firsthand throughout various science units (South Carolina Department of Education, 2021). When adults purposefully nurture curiosity and support learning, children can be meaningfully engaged in activities that involve inquiry and design, laying the foundations for science skills and processes (NGSS, 2023). STEM is the interdisciplinary approach to learning where content is coupled with real world science lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in a context that makes connections between various aspects of their lives (Tippet & Milford, 2017). STEM education allows students to see the world as a whole by integrating a combined learning and teaching approach (Cinar et al., 2016). STEM encompasses jobs that both require and do not require higher education degrees. Jobs such as coders, nurses, electricians, scientists, laboratory technicians, machinists, doctors, pharmacy technicians, and web developers are part of the STEM field. According to Noonan (2017), regardless of educational attainment, U.S. STEM workers earn higher wages than their non-STEM peers and broadly impact the economy. According to STEM and the American Workforce Report (2020), “In total, STEM supports two-thirds of U.S. jobs and $2.3 trillion in annual federal tax revenue” (p. 2). In South Carolina, tech jobs in the STEM field have an 89-billion-dollar economic impact on the state (South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, 2020). Although there is an obvious economic argument for integrating STEM into the classroom, STEM is not just for students pursuing higher education or careers in STEM-related fields.

Pre-Service Teachers Science Instructional Methods With a state-wide emphasis on SEPs, teacher educators must prepare pre-service educators to teach science effectively at all grade levels. This article explores how I, an undergraduate instructor, prepare pre-service teachers to incorporate literacy and SEPs through targeted instruction and active participation. Early childhood and elementary pre-service teachers often enjoy using children’s literature during instruction. Utilizing children’s books within science methods courses can help pre-service teachers improve their experiences within science methods and see how their strengths in literature can connect to science instruction (Akerson & Erumit, 2019). I embedded children’s books and other literacy practices to best prepare pre-service teachers at the early childhood and elementary levels. Language and literacy are key to developing students’ 21st-century scientific knowledge (Friedrich et al., 2020). Therefore, pre-service teachers should learn strategies supporting the integration of science and literacy content into their pedagogical practices. the course, pre-service teachers were taught how to provide opportunities at the beginning of the unit to build schema and make meaningful connections to the content. Throughout the lesson, students develop rich science vocabulary that is put into practice while writing and completing a STEM project. The steps below focus on one activity spanning content areas integrating science and literacy. Step One: Start with the End in Mind To start with the end in mind, I taught pre-service teachers to identify the target science standard or standards that align with the grade level. Language and literacy are key to developing students’ 21st-century scientific knowledge. Therefore, pre-service teachers should be taught how to integrate content effectively (Friedrich et al.). Since the 2021 SCCCR standards incorporate SEPs into each indicator, each science lesson can include a STEM twist. Based on the science standards, teachers can choose fiction or non-fiction texts to integrate a literacy connection. Incorporating reading within science instruction involves students engaging in multiple forms of text to support scientific exploration (Friedrich et al., 2020). Choosing both fiction and non-fiction texts is one of the strategies I introduced to pre-service educators during the course. We discussed using developmentally appropriate books that diversely represent genders, abilities, and cultures. The steps below outline a science and literacy lesson focus with a STEM twist taught to pre-service early childhood educators. In

Literacy Matters General Articles

Literacy Matters | Volume 24 • Winter 2024 | 35 |


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