Reading-Science Integration Goals

General goal: CORI students increase the integration of reading and science as they: (a) use cognitive strategies common to both domains more effectively, (b) develop motivational goals that link learning in reading and science, (c) combine knowledge or experience gained in the two disciplines of reading and science, and (d) coordinate their reading and science activities.

Background: Reading is basically a set of processes that individuals apply to text for the purpose of gaining meaning, knowledge, or experience. Similarly, inquiry science is a set of processes for operating directly on the physical environment to gain understanding and knowledge of it. In both reading and inquiry science, there are cognitive strategies essential to the endeavor. In reading, these include activating background knowledge, questioning, searching, summarizing, and organizing knowledge. In inquiry science, these basic processes include asking questions, designing experiments, collecting data, representing information quantitatively, interpreting findings, and communicating the finding to an audience. Integrating reading and science consists of aligning these processes for learning. When processes for reading and science are aligned, students learn them most readily.

Basic processes of reading and science depend on the motivation of the learner. In both domains, this motivation includes students' interests, self-efficacy, and intrinsic motivation (e.g., curiosity, involvement, preference for challenge). Integrating reading and inquiry science consists of partially merging the motivational processes, goals, and needs of students that can occur in each domain separately.

Gaining conceptual knowledge is a main purpose for both reading and inquiry science. When the knowledge domain is richly elaborated and learned in depth, the cognitive processes for reading and science are most fully acquired. Consequently, linking the content of learning for reading and science will accelerate the development of basic cognitive and motivational processes for both. Integrating reading and science entails coordinating aspects of both into a unified structure for learning and understanding the topic or domain. In sum, integrating reading and inquiry science occurs when the cognitive processes are aligned, motivations for undertaking the processes are merged, the content learned is complementary, and the systems of reading and science are coordinated with each other.

Specific Reading-Science Integration Goals

  1. Relating. Students will improve their ability to relate their observations of the physical environment that occur in an inquiry science project, such as a hands-on activity or a field trip, with their observations of a character in literature.
  2. Compare and Contrast. Students will integrate reading and science by recognizing that their personal questions about a topic they have observed in the physical world can be related to their personal questions about a topic that can be learned from books. The bridging between science questions and reading questions will enable students to see texts as an expression of physical realities.
  3. Connecting Interests. Students will integrate reading and inquiry science by perceiving that their interests in the two domains of learning support each other. Students will realize that their data collecting informs them about topics that are treated in texts. Both student self-efficacy about learning and their desire for conceptual understanding increase, as they are successful in pursuing their interests in reading and science simultaneously.
  4. Contrasting domain learning. Students will gain deeper perceptions of the relationships between reading and inquiry science as they contrast their learning in both domains. As specific information gained from experiments they conduct is distinguished from specific information in texts they read, they understand that general topics and domains of understanding can be learned through different avenues.
  5. Combining conceptual learning. Students will combine their learning from reading and science inquiry. They will unify their conceptual understanding gained from experiments in science with their conceptual understanding gained from reading texts on a similar topic. Students' knowledge of phenomena, content, and explanatory concepts will be organized in a unified structure.
  6. Integrating reading and science. Students will increase the integration of their learning from reading and science. Students will chronicle their initial observations, personal questions, situated interests, and conceptual learning that occurred in reading and science. They will display how the merger of cognitive processes, motivation, and knowledge in the two disciplines represents an interrelated network that is both explanatory and valuable.

Instructional Practices for Reading – Science Integration

Teachers foster reading-science integration by providing the following sequence of activities summarized in the CORI Framework. During week 1, the focus is on relating science observations to reading. For example, students integrate reading and science as they perform comparisons and contrasts of objects in the physical environment, such as birds and literary characters from a mythical bird legend. This enables students to understand continuities and distinctions in the physical world and the text-represented world. In week 2, students compare and contrast questions that can be answered by scientific observation, by reading, or both. In week 3, students connect their interests in reading and science by noticing and describing differences between plants and animals they have seen and plants and animals they have read about. During week 4 students contrast domain learning by comparing the results from their scientific investigations of plants and animals with information they have obtained from books about the same plants and animals. In week 5 students combine conceptual learning by merging the information they obtained from their observations and experiments with the knowledge they have gained from books. In week 6 integrating reading and science reaches its culmination, as students write a group report that includes information from their scientific inquiry activities and the content they have learned from texts. Weeks 7 through 12 follow this same sequence, using a different set of science activities and books to learn about another conceptual theme.

During the 12 weeks teachers provide direct instruction in both reading and science, as discussed earlier. They also provide explanation, modeling, and scaffolding to help students integrate the two areas. They monitor students' recording of information into their portfolios, and provide many opportunities for students to work in teams to conduct scientific inquiry activities and integrate knowledge gained from both areas.