Integrating Science and Social Studies into Your Language Arts Lessons

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We have all been there at some point – a giant clock ticking away behind us as we stare at our lesson plans and standards, wondering how we will fit everything in! Meanwhile, instruction time continues to decrease for science and social studies. As a result, integrating science and social studies into other areas is needed to provide meaningful opportunities for our students to explore the world within these subjects.

With a little planning you can easily integrate science and social studies into your language arts lessons to create amazing cross-curricular learning opportunities for your students.

Integrating science and social studies into your language arts instruction allows your students to experience authentic learning while cashing in on language arts time. Multi-tasking at its finest by the people who do it the best – teachers! Below, we have six engaging ways to help you integrate science and social studies into your language arts instruction!

1. Would You Rather Writing Prompts

“Would You Rather” writing prompts are familiar to students from playing the game with peers. They can be creative after learning about the science or social studies topic by writing about what they learned and taking a stance based on their preference.

These Would You Rather Writing Prompts create a low-pressure way of integrating science and social studies into language arts instruction. Some included topics are types of animals, locations in the United States, weather, and different kinds of activities.

This image shows a student working on a writing prompt that says, "Would You rather hibernate for the winter or migrate for the winter?" Writing prompts like these are a great way to integrate science and social studies concepts into your writing block.

One way I use Would You Rather in my science or social studies class is starting off by asking my students a couple of questions. This allows me to present the lesson topic we will be studying in a way that will hook the students. Here are Colonial America examples:

  • Would You Rather do chores at home all day or go on a hunting trip?
  • Would You Rather meet King George III or Benjamin Franklin?
  • Would you rather protest by dumping tea into the water or refuse to buy your favorite items?

Students can turn and talk with a partner, or with their table group. I typically give about a minute for them to chat, otherwise, distractions take over! However, you know your group best so you can adjust timing accordingly. Then, have students share their choices and why! It’s always interesting to hear their reasoning! A whole class discussion would work great as well!

To extend the writing experience, students can practice public speaking by presenting and explaining their choice. Depending on grade level and time, students can debate and attempt to persuade more students to join them in their perspective.

If you’re looking for a low-prep activity to incorporate science or social studies into your language arts instruction, check out these helpful Would You Rather writing resources!

2. Integrating Science and Social Studies through Researching

Research can be a time-consuming, sometimes even dreaded task. However, it is a necessary skill that all students should develop while they grow as writers. Research allows the integration of science and social studies into language arts by having students choose a topic and create a research question to help them discover the world around them.

Research projects are a perfect activity to use when integrating science and social studies into your language arts lessons. This photo shows students sitting at a computer in a classroom.

Research topics can flow seamlessly with your units. And, with topics like Colonial America, the Civil War, space, or ecosystems, there is no shortage of things students could research. While students are practicing their research skills, they are learning about the science or social studies topic of focus.

A way I am integrating science or social studies research into my classroom is through Find it Out Fridays. During the last period of the day, students write out a wonder question about a topic they have a question about from science or social studies. For example, a question regarding producers and consumers in science would be “If an animal produces their milk, would they be considered a producer?” Questions could even be inspired by those wonderfully timed questions that pop up during your teaching when you’re trying to get everything in!

After their wonder question is approved, the students have about 30 minutes to research using the computer, or any helpful books from our classroom library. A graphic organizer can be made, but I have found that with the wide range of types of questions, looseleaf works the best! Then, we finish class with a share of their findings!

3. Nonfiction Text for Incorporating Science and Social Studies

What book are you currently reading? What types of books are your students presently reading? Your answer for one or both questions most likely included a fiction book, which is excellent! Fictional texts teach meaningful life lessons, transport us to new/old/imaginative places, and offer us entertainment or an escape.

Nonfiction texts are the perfect companion to integrating science and social studies in the classroom. This image shows nonfiction read alouds that can be found on Scholastic including "The Boy Who Loved Math" and "Sacagawea".

Equally as important are nonfiction books. But, many readers stray away from them. Nonfiction texts and their text features play essential roles during the research process. Take time to model, point out, and explain the different text features found within a nonfiction text.

There are different ways to incorporate text features in nonfiction reading. If your school can access Scholastic News, students can interact with various features to discover additional information about the topic. Another way is to print off kid-friendly articles to read together and explore the information provided by the text features.

At the beginning of the school year, while we are modeling all the routines and expectations, I also try to lay the groundwork for reading. We practice writing responses with evidence from the text to explain our thinking. We discuss the importance, especially with nonfiction texts, to read and looking at each of the different text features. After modeling and practicing activities on identifying text features, I scan a couple of the Scholastic News articles and insert boxes next to the text features. Students can demonstrate their understanding by correctly identifying the different types of text features.

The Scholastic bookstore has many current nonfiction titles that could easily connect to your units!

4. Build-A-Scene Interactive Writing Prompts

We jump on board at any opportunity to engage our students in creativity while taking ownership! A fourth activity that helps integrate science or social studies into our language arts instruction is providing students with creative outlets to design their gathered knowledge.

This image shows an example of a resource that you can use when integrating science and social studies in your lesson plans. Students can build an ocean scene using the digital activity and then write about the animals that they included.

Students are given a digital background scene where they can build their own stories based on the digital stickers they add. Each setting allows students to create the story they want based on their knowledge of the studied topic.

For example, the underwater landscape would connect well with an ocean life lesson. To build on this scene example, you can add expectations based on what you exactly covered in class with your students. The beauty of this resource is that it is flexible to your instruction and the needs of your students. I have given the following guidelines to my students for underwater landscape build-a-scene:

  • Use five vocabulary words from our Ocean unit in your story.
  • Include 3 examples of animals/organisms that live in the ocean in your scene.
  • Include 2 examples of plant life that live in the ocean in your scene.
  • Explain in the story how the animals/organisms interact with the plant life.

The Build-A-Scene sets are an interactive way to meet all students where they currently are in writing while promoting ownership of their work.

Check out these ten interactive Build-A-Scene Writing Activities to engage and promote creativity among all your learners!

And, if you love using these scenes as much as I do, grab the full-year Build-A-Scene bundle here.

5. Read-Alouds Allow for an Authentic Reading Experience

Read-alouds are a great way to hook students with reading. Sometimes, students even discover a new interest in a genre or author by listening to a read-aloud. According to INcompassing Education, “Benefits of a read-aloud include content information retention, vocabulary gains, and the application of new strategies when reading independently.”

Books like the "I Survived" series are perfect for integrating science and social studies in the classroom. This image features " I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg" and "I Survived the American Revolution".

You can choose books for read-alouds that center around the current science or social studies topics. These read-alouds can include picture books or chapter books. My students really enjoy listening to the books in the I Survived book series! The series covers a lot of different events from historical to natural events. The books have a great storyline mixed with factual information!

Read-alouds are powerful opportunities to model reading comprehension strategies for all readers. These are some of my favorite read alouds that connect multiple subjects! Your local or school library may have several of these ready to be checked out. If you’d like your own copy, you can find these on Amazon too!

6. Read-Aloud Extensions

You can also add extension activities to include writing based on the reading. I use different activities based on the amount of time we have or the depth I want my class to go into in their responses.

This photo shows a student writing at a desk in an elementary classroom.

One example is after the read-aloud, each student receives a note card or piece of looseleaf. They are given 3 – 5 minutes (I will tell them this before they start) to retell all the details they can remember from the read-aloud. I encourage them to try to write the entire time.

Another activity I do with my class is the 3-2-1 ticket. Also using a note card or piece of looseleaf, students write down three facts they learned, two questions they have from the reading, and one favorite part. If time allows, we share some facts, questions, and favorite parts. The questions sometimes even lead to great group discussions that are led by the students. Otherwise, I compile all the questions and we review them from time to time throughout the reading (if it’s a chapter book) or through the unit to see if the questions get answered!

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Be sure to save these activities to your favorite teacher Pinterest board so you can come back anytime for creative ways to help integrate science and social studies into your language arts instruction!

Integrating science and social studies into language arts in your classroom is a great way to maximize your time in the classroom as you address standards! In this post, I share some of my favorite ways to integrate other content areas into literacy lessons.

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