Science in the ELA Classroom

Disclosure: I  have been chosen to participate in the Back to School Legends of Learning campaign.  This is a sponsored post, but all opinions and experiences are mine.

Earlier in the year, I took my first class toward my PhD in English with an emphasis on teaching: “Teaching Climate Change in the ELA Classroom.” The most frequent reaction I got to telling people was, “Wait. Science in the English classroom? How does that even work?” These are all questions I had too before starting the class, and why I chose it. Interestingly, it’s not all about just teaching science fiction.

Throughout the class, we learned about climate change, so I was doing a lot of science reading. I don’t think I have read this much science content in my life, but it was foundation for the work we would be doing to think about how to incorporate climate change into our existing classrooms. As I learned, it occurred to me that rather than creating an entire new unit, I could alter the reading of a novel already in my curriculum to be through that of a climate change lens. It felt natural to rework my unit on The Giver by Lois Lowry.

In doing so, I wanted my 8th grade students to learn not just about climate change, but also about human impact on Earth’s systems and how we can decrease human impact and make a change. This means bringing some science into my 8th grade classroom!

As a teacher of words, I wasn’t really sure how to start. I knew where I wanted my students to end up, but I needed to make sure their knowledge of the science was there. Our school is adapting the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) this coming school year and I know climate change will be a part of what they learn. I don’t, however, know if that will align to when we read The Giver.

I also know I couldn’t hand them the texts I read in my graduate class if I wanted them to understand and retain new information; it would be way over their reading level.

Thankfully, there are awesome, free resources available like Legends of Learning.

Legends of Learning takes elementary and middle school science concepts and standards and gamifies them. One thing I know about 8th graders is that if they can play a computer game about it, they are more likely to get engaged with it.

Teachers can sign up for a free account with Legends of Learning and explore the games in the area they are teaching. Since I teach 8th grade, I went to the middle school level and explored the types of science games available.

I chose “Earth Science” since my focus is climate change, and scrolled until I found the topics I was looking for.

I played quite a few of the games to get a feel for what I was looking for. There are many games that are good for practice after a concept has been taught, but I found some that also gave students content plus practice. Those work best for me since I am not an expert in science teaching, but I want my students to have the information to a level that they can apply it to our reading of The Giver and use it as prompts for writing and creating.

One of the coolest parts of Legends of Learning is that, as a teacher, I get to choose which games my students play by creating Playlists that I can assign my students. This way they are not doing elementary school games, when I have climate change games I want them to focus on.

I actually created quite a few playlists because I’m not sure what content my students will need since I am not sure yet when in the school year we will be reading The Giver. I want to work with our 8th grade science team to tighten up my instruction depending on what standards they have already worked on.

One playlist I know I will use is my Human Impact playlist. I included two games in this list: one that called “Human + Earth” that will teach them about the balance and impacts humans have with Earth and climate change, and one called “Greenville Pollution Manager”  so students can take what they know to help a community make better choices.

After playing these, students will write and then turn and talk about their experiences with the game as well as how it connects to what we are reading/discussing with The Giver. It will also be a reference when we get to the end of the unit and students create their own calls to action for humans to decrease their impact on climate change.

As an English teacher, Legends of Learning is an excellent resource to help me with cross-curricular units. I can only imagine the way a science teacher could weave these free learning games into each unit. If you are a teacher, what are you waiting for? Sign up for your free account and start exploring! Parents, bring this info with you this fall when you meet your children’s new teacher, and let the engaged learning begin!


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