February 6, 2023


Through Education Matters

Integrating Language and Science Instruction


In the traditional teaching instruction, students with poor English are normally placed in low-ability groups, because it is believed it difficult for them to learn how to respond to the higher level classes with more complex demands. Integrating language skills with science instruction has become an alternative to traditional instruction. In the integrated approach, teachers held high expectations for their students and deliberately promote critical thinking skills which help them succeed in academic courses.

The science process skills-including observing, predicting, communicating, classifying, and analyzing-are similar to language learning skills-seeking information, comparing, ordering, synthesizing, and evaluating (Short, 1991). These skills are important keys to integrating science instruction with language acquisition. Motivating and engaging students to speak, ask questions, learn new vocabulary, and write down their thoughts comes easily when they are curious, exploring and engaged in science or science inquiry. Integrating literacy activities within teaching of science helps clarify science concept and can make science and more meaningful and interesting to the student.

Research suggests that increased student participation and peer interaction enhances the students’ language better that teacher-directed activities (Ruddell, 2004). For instance, teacher can use cooperative learning jigsaws where students become experts on topics through texts that they read or listen to, take notes on, and teach to peers. Using cooperative learning method gives integrated teachers an opportunity to encourage interdependency among group members, assisting students to work together in small groups so that all participate in sharing data and in developing group reports.

Instructional Strategy

Unfortunately, today many classroom teachers who teach either science or language do not think science and language are interdependent (Short, 1991). Language teachers do not address the language needs of the students within the framework of the subject matter’s objectives. They may think teaching content subject matter is not essential. Similarly, the content teachers may not understand language issues, nor be prepared to use English as a Second Language (ELL) methods for which they might have little or no experience.

The integrated approach is required for both language and science classrooms to bridge the gap that has often separated these two disciplines. Students can improve language proficiency through science instruction as either the background or theme of lessons. For example, once a science topic has been discussed and students have shared their knowledge of it, pertinent vocabulary may be taught. Later, certain concepts such as grammar rules or writing processes can be examined through the vocabulary or the application activities that are planned (Sherris, 2008).

Reading and writing activities and content-area instruction can be integrated in one lesson or unit, or the approach can form the basis for an entire curriculum. Even though the extent of implementation may vary widely, the underlying principles and procedures remain the same. An instructor takes first an objective from a content area curriculum, such as science, and determines the kind of language students need in order to be able to accomplish that objective. As a teacher helps students develop the science process skills of inquiry, language process skills or language learning strategies are simultaneously being developed. Two fundamental characteristics of the learning process, transfer and language dependence, frame our understanding of critical issues in teaching and assessing English learners in the science classroom (Short, 2002).

The integrated approach focuses on the fostering of thinking skills and the student-centered method of the instruction. Integrated teachers utilize a variety of teaching methods such as inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, brainstorming, cooperative learning, hands-on, interactive activity etc.

Instructional strategies that can be used in an integrated classroom include increased use of visuals, demonstrations, and graphic organizers; the development of thinking and study skills; and the use of pre-reading and pre-writing activities. By providing opportunities to use language in meaningful contexts, teachers can facilitate their students’ transition into mainstream courses (Crandall and Peyton, 1993).

Integrated teachers need to pay attention to the science to be learned, the language skills required to learn it, and the reasoning abilities needed to be manipulated. When necessary, for example, they should provide explicit vocabulary instructions or model activities to the whole class before breaking into small groups. Teachers should encourage students to conduct independent research, but provide support students solicit assistance from each other. Through this approach, science teachers become sensitive to language problems that exist in their current textbooks, supplementary materials and teacher talk, and recognize other potential problem that their students may experience. The approach also helps language teachers as well, through a variety of methods used to introduce authentic and relevant science into classroom (Short, 2002).

Integrated lesson planning skills

Each integrated lesson should have a language and science component and the goal for the teacher should be to develop academic achievement and language proficiency simultaneously. To prepare clear science and language outcomes, teachers should draw on a variety of resources that include standards of knowledge and skills in a science area, language proficiency standards, prior student performance assessments, and available course materials. For example, a science teacher would prepare an integrated science and language lesson by first examining the science standards to determine the concept and skill to be learned, then selecting learning objectives, tasks, and materials appropriate to the students as determined by assessments of student performance.

To address the practice of integrating reading, writing, listening, and speaking, teachers must identify and work with students on two sets of discourse skills-one specific to a subject area, the other more generalized. Teachers then provide opportunities for students to improve all four language components-reading, writing, listening, and speaking-across a variety of text types, including some specific to their subject area and others that are generic (Aronson, et al 1978). Some examples of discourse that are content-area specific are experimental studies, community surveys, and interviews. Those that are generic include summary, comparison, and outlining.

For instance, in planning to teach motion, a teacher might construct the following possible outcome statements:

Students will be able to observe and calculate speed and acceleration of a moving object, discuss different methods of measuring the distance, and write a summary of each method. Calculate, discuss, and write are the descriptive verbs that determine whether a particular outcome addresses the knowledge and skill of a science area or specific language functions. Observing and calculating the speed and acceleration describe science outcomes, whereas discussing and writing about the methods used to compare types of distance measurement describe language outcomes related to the science. Integrated teachers should consciously attempt to sort the descriptive verbs used in standards documents and course materials into separately identified language and content outcomes.

According to Sherris (2008), the integrated lesson plans have at least two key benefits. First, the teachers clarify for themselves the separate content and language objectives of the lesson, which can improve their delivery of the instruction. Second, if these objectives are both explicitly presented and subsequently reviewed within each lesson, students become aware of the separate content and language goals, which may help them direct and monitor their own learning.

Students also develop the ability to carry out other content related tasks, such as lab experiments, creative scientific calculations, and historical inquiry. They solve problems, evaluate solutions, and collaborate effectively with one another in these activities through the use of appropriate academic language.

Integrated Lesson Plan

Lesson planning is critical to both a student’s and a teacher’s success. For maximum learning to occur, planning must produce lessons that enable students to make connections between their own knowledge and experiences, and the new information being taught (Rummelhart, 1995). In effective instruction, concrete content objectives that identify what students should know and be able to do must guide teaching and learning. For English learners, however, content objectives for each lesson need to be stated simply, orally and in writing, and they need to be tied to specific grade-level content standards (Echevarria and Graves, 2004). As with content objectives, language objectives should be stated clearly and simply, and students should be informed of them, both orally and in writing.

The integrated science lesson plan guidelines ( see attached table) describes the teaching phases in integrated lesson plans and the most effective science lessons for ELL are those have language and content objectives. As students gain both science process and English language skills, they will be able to examine independently scientific explanations and use logical reasoning to communicate. Higher-order thinking skills, such as articulating predictions or hypotheses, stating conclusions, summarizing information, and making comparisons, can be tied to language objectives.