The Synergy of Science and English Language Arts: Means and Mutual Benefits of Integration

by Ashley Iveland; Burr Tyler; Jerry Hipps; Kimberly Nguyen; Steve Schneider; Ted Britton

Oct 1, 2017

The California K-8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative (known in short as the Early Implementers Initiative) is equipping teachers to richly integrate science and English language arts (ELA). In fact, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as well as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) clearly call for such integration.

The nature of the NGSS and their recommended instructional approaches readily enable powerful ELA learning for all students. In a dramatic departure from science instruction that emphasizes scientific information and facts, NGSS science has students working as scientists to make sense of phenomena in the natural world. The NGSS approach requires a lot of lively discussion, critical reading, and thoughtful writing and drawing. Initiative teachers have clearly demonstrated that integrated science instruction is accessible to English learners and that these learners get strong ELA benefits from science instruction.

While the Initiative equips teachers to integrate science and ELA, it does not call for all science instruction to be a concerted blending of science and ELA. Indeed, teachers reported that half of their science instructional time was stand-alone science.

As a member of the State Board of Education commented during an advisory board meeting for the Initiative's evaluation: "Everyone is saying you should integrate science and ELA, but what does that actually look like in the classroom?" This report -- intended for state and district leaders, including principals -- addresses that question and several others highlighted below. To get answers, the evaluation team observed all key professional development sessions and 20 classroom lessons, surveyed over 500 teachers, interviewed Initiative leaders, and more.