STEAM and English

English Language Arts - Connection to STEAM Education

English and reading are the foundation for any learning.  In the 'Final Report of the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy' it states:

"During the last twenty years our nation’s educational system has scored some extraordinary successes, especially in improving the reading and writing skills of young children. Yet the pace of literacy improvement has not kept up with the pace of growth in the global economy, and literacy gains have not been extended to adolescents in the secondary grades."


According to the College Board the things that change from 4th grade to 12th grade include:

  • Literacy demands change

  • Vocabulary demand increases

  • Texts become longer

  • Sentence complexity increases

  • Structural complexity increases

  • Graphical representation becomes more important

  • Conceptual Challenge increases

  • Types of texts used vary widely across content areas


The major difference between reading in grades K-5 and reading in grades 6-12 is the transition from learning to read to reading to
learn (Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy Carnegie Corporation).


"Among the strengths that distinguish the Common Core Standards are…the focus on reading and writing across the curriculum, which are skills that colleges and employers value…"

Memo from Dr. Mitchell D. Chester, Commissioner of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education of Massachusetts to Board members.




Common Core State Standards - STEAM is Connected

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the business community at large deem it imperative that instruction in English language arts should be integrated into science instruction and that science texts should be integrated into English language arts instruction. CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects state:

There is a need for college and career ready students to be proficient in reading
complex informational text independently in a variety of content areas because
most of the required reading in college and workforce training programs is
informational in structure and challenging in content.


The CCSS recognize that ELA teachers cannot accomplish this alone and that all ELA experiences cannot focus on informational text. Therefore, as part of a school-wide literacy program, much of the responsibility for teaching students how to engage with informational text should rest with teachers of social studies, history, science, and technical subjects, as well as teachers of other subjects in the school (College Board).


Examples of CCSS relevant to Science Anchor Standards 8 for reading, writing, listening, and speaking state:

  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence (p. 10).

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and
    sufficient evidence.

  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. 

  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (p. 48).

  • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (p. 48).

  • Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of
    presentations (p. 48).


Clearly there is an overlap between ELA Common Core Standards and existing standards in science. According to College Board, "If done well, the integration of ELA with science could be an effective approach to teaching science content, reasoning and critical response skills, and literacy skills."

Reading and Writing Like a Scientist

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

Science is about generating and interpreting data, but it is also about:

  • communicating facts, 

  • ideas, and

  • hypotheses.


  • write,

  • speak, 

  • debate,

  • visualize,

  • listen, and

  • read about their specialties daily.

For students unfamiliar with the language or style of science,
 the deceptively simple act of communication can be a barrier to 
understanding or becoming involved with science (p. 447).






Advance Rather that Substitute 


“…when science literacy is conceptualized as a
form of inquiry, reading and writing activities can
be used to advance scientific inquiry, rather than
substitute for it. When literacy activities are driven
by inquiry, students simultaneously learn how to
read and write science texts and to do science”
Pearson, Moje, and Greenleaf: Science, 2010, pp. 459-460

Discourse in Science


Scientists must share explanations & predictions with other scientists:
– Published results of scientific investigations
– Oral presentations & meetings
– Grant writing
– The peer review process

Teachers and students should be expected to use in their classroom discourse the language, representations and reasoning structures that are accepted by scientists language, representations and reasoning structures that are accepted by scientists.

Science discourse goes beyond proper language to engage students in making clear, to themselves and others, not just what they know, but how they know it.

Claims are made; evidence is produced; and explanations are formulated, revised and extended through science discourse during which claims, evidence, and reasoning are discussed and critiqued.

Modeling in Science


Modeling is both a form of communication and a tool for making predictions.

Models may help others understand the conclusions of a scientist, but they are also a public display of a scientist’s understanding of the world, as well as a
way for all to test predictions about the world (i.e., what is expected to happen under the conditions described in the model).

STEAM Examples with Reading and Language Arts

Ashley Bible, an English teacher, has some great examples of integrating STEAM concepts on her blog.


1. Design a tiny house for ANY character in a book or text. This is the project that got my students and me hooked on STEM. After reading some informational texts on the environmental benefits of tiny houses (science), watching researching tiny house clips (technology), and evaluating character traits, my students designed a tiny house to fit the needs of a character in the novel we were reading. They used to design their houses (engineering) while calculating square footage so as not go over the 500 sq ft mark (math). I can not tell you how much my students loved this project. They really got into the design symbolism for the character and especially enjoyed seeing their designs come to life in 3D.


2. Design a theme park based on ANY novel, play, or short story: This idea from
The Literary Maven is awesome! To make this a little more STEM-y, students could
build an element in the park (engineering), calculate the size of the park, the speed
of a ride, or cost needed for attendance (math), and create a commercial for their
park (technology). 



3. Practice procedural writing with survival themed books: This is my latest STEM adventure, and it went really well! This activity can be used with any novel or story in which the character needs to create a shelter in the wilderness.
include: Lord of the Flies - Hatchet - My Side of the Mountain - Island of the Blue Dolphins - Sign of the Beaver - Touching Spirit Bear +More


4. Real World Issues. With the push of informational text, students are reading more and
ore articles about real-world issues. These articles have a way of presenting opportunities
for STEM. For example, when we read the poem "Thanatopsis," I have my students research
he environmental impacts of traditional burials. Then, they come up with solutions that are
 more environmentally friendly and present their inventions to the class.

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