Resource 2: Promoting Cross-curricular links and literacy skills

Teacher resource to support teaching approaches

Promoting cross-curricular links and literacy skills

Cross-curricular links

Why promote cross-curricular links?

  • It is important that students integrate learning across subjects, rather than seeing knowledge and skills as compartmentalised. Sometimes achievement in one subject can be limited because students don’t realise that skills they learnt in another subject could be helpful.
  • When you refer to what students learn in other subject areas, you are demonstrating that you are interested in their broader learning and that you value learning in general, not just science.
  • By using a range of approaches, you can draw on strengths which students may not show in the course of a ‘normal’ science lesson. Opportunities to show creative and imaginative ability can motivate students who find science hard and prefer arts subjects.
  • This is a two-way process: science provides support for learning in other subjects and beyond the school curriculum; science learning can benefit from skills and knowledge acquired and practised in other subjects.

Some examples of topics which might have a link with other subject areas

  • the water cycle, erosion, pollution, mining, energy resources, climate
  • growth and development, drugs
  • food and nutrition
  • famous scientists and inventors, important inventions and discoveries.

Some examples of approaches which may be more commonly used in other subjects:

  • role play
  • creative writing
  • discussion
  • producing a poster
  • carrying out a survey or using a questionnaire
  • practical problem solving
  • designing and constructing an artefact
  • using an internet search or searching reference books.

Some examples related to teaching forces:

  • Bungee jumping – creative writing about sensations at different times in a jump.
  • Surface tension – insects that walk on the water surface, creative writing or poster on life from an insect’s point of view (effect of scale – like the raindrops in A bug’s life).
  • Floating and sinking – freshness and floating/sinking test for fruit; how do people check whether different foods are fresh? Opportunities for surveys, and for links to work in food technology/cookery.
  • Floating and sinking – used as a way of sorting different types of plastic for recycling (pieces of plastic are put into a series of sorting tanks containing liquids of different densities e.g. water, salt water, glycerol), this might link to work in geography on resources, or work in technology on different materials.

Working with colleagues in other subjects

If you want to try a new approach, it is a good idea to work with a colleague who uses this approach in teaching their subject so you can learn how to use the approach effectively. For example, English teachers will be more used to organising a debate than science teachers; maths teachers often use peer marking; and humanities teachers often get students to do their own research, or tell stories in order to convey information. Discuss your plans for your own lesson with a colleague from another subject. For example, you might ask:

  • What things do you need to have prepared before the lesson for this kind of activity? (e.g. does it work better if you have some photos, or something to listen to at the start?)
  • Does the activity work better with a particular room arrangement (e.g. clear a space for role play, or everyone in a big circle to start a discussion)?
  • Are there any routines or rules that you establish before this kind of activity?
  • Do you have some standard phrases or instructions that students will recognise (like ‘freeze!’ or ‘statues!’ when you want students to pause in the middle of a role play)?
  • What size of group works best for this activity? How do you choose who is in each group? (e.g. Before a group discussion, do you give everyone a role card?)

Promoting literacy skills in science

Why promote literacy skills through science?

  • Literacy skills need to be developed through every subject and practised regularly.
  • Language is often a problem in African countries because students are learning in English, which is not their first language.
  • Improving literacy skills helps students to access materials more effectively, and helps to make them more confident learners.

What kinds of literacy skills are particularly useful in science?

  • Students need to understand the key scientific words.
  • Locating information from the internet, in newspapers and magazines, or in reference books or non-fiction books.
  • Locating information quickly in a piece of text.
  • Identifying key words and phrases in a piece of text.
  • Producing a summary.
  • Following a set of written instructions.
  • Knowing the meaning of technical terms.
  • Being able to work out what a new technical term might mean (by recognising related terms).
  • Being able to spell technical terms correctly.

Below are some examples of how you can promote literacy skills:

1. Identifying key words and phrases in a piece of text

Possible ways of promoting this: Recognition ­– Search for identified key words (list provided by teacher); identification – write down a list of key words in a text (student identifies key words to make their own list).

2. Locating information in a piece of text

Possible ways of promoting this: DARTs activities – circle/highlight/underline the words (or phrases) that, for example, name a piece of equipment, are the parts that move, are stages in a process, tell you what to do, are units of measurement, tell you how it moves. (Note, if you have see-through plastic pockets you can put a photocopied sheet in, get students to use felts pens for this activity then wipe the plastic clean with a sponge when you’ve discussed the answers).

3. Creating a summary

Possible ways of promoting this: Selecting phrases or sentences that describe key information in the text (e.g. sorting sentence strips into two groups – correct/incorrect, true/false, text says this/text doesn’t say this); sequencing sentences (on strips of paper) to create a summary; provide a writing frame to help students include the key elements in a sensible sequence.

4. Understanding technical terms; recognising families of words/ recognising word roots

Possible ways of promoting this: Make lists of ‘related words’ (words with a common root such as ‘geo-’ or ‘chloro-’) for the wall for each topic; students create their own glossaries for each topic; sorting activities – from a list of words or bag of words on pieces of paper, find all the words that are about…; matching activities – match term to meaning (‘snap’ card game); word searches – will help with spelling.

Resource 1: Problem Solving and Creativity

Resource 3: Force Diagrams