September 2, 2016

Five Ways to Fit Science In

Guest post by Tammy
from The Owl Teacher Blog

Every year when I sit down to plan out my class schedule around all my specials, it seems I just don't have a lot of time left to fit in science, and don't even get me started on social studies. My district requires so much time to be spent on language arts and math. It's understandable that these are important subject areas, but I always feel I'm short changing my students. By time I get done, I'm often left with 30 minutes (give or take) for science. That often leaves me wondering, just how am I going to give my students good quality instruction in science while meeting the required curriculum?

Most districts (though not all) have a required amount of minutes they would like to see teachers spend in certain subject areas. Since this is typically something we have no control over, I wanted to share with you some strategies that I have used over the years to help fit more science in when I'm limited with class time.

1. Scheduling
If you have the ability to create your own classroom schedule, consider the following:
  • Alternating between science and social studies to allow more time and deeper studies of the content. I have spent 9 weeks studying science and then the next 9 weeks studying social studies.
  • Cutting back a bit the time in your reading block and using it to primarily teach the fiction standards and skills. Then teach your nonfiction standards and skills during (and with) your science and social studies block.  Nonfiction texts are perfect to apply these standards and skills to.
  • Consider alternating science and social studies, where one week you teach science and the following week you teach social studies. Or, if you don't want to wait that long to teach that subject again, alternate days.
  • If your school allows it, consider block scheduling and switch classes with another teacher. I have seen third grade and up handle this just fine.

2. Integrate 
The idea of integrating can sometimes be a bit scary. It doesn't have to be. Start small by bringing in trade books during guided reading related to the studied topic in science. Then slowly work in more concepts as you teach. Often teachers want to bring science into their reading, but I have actually found it to be easier to bring reading into science. During science, read a text such as The Magic School Bus and create a t-chart deciding the fictional parts and nonfictional parts. You could also discuss main idea, cause and effect, and compare and contrast.

Morning work and homework is a great time to fit in science that is needed for reinforcement but sometimes takes up class time that could be spent doing other things such as inquiry or experiments. (I know homework is not always an option in some areas.) For example, in my classroom, I like to start my mornings by placing a picture on the doc cam. As part of their routine (and to warm up their brain), they look at the picture, observe the key details, and then infer what science they see in the picture. Then, using the organizer, they record their observations, any questions they have, and their inferences. When they are done, they record the science they believe is in the picture. You can get your mornings started with my free science picture of the day activity! It's a fun activity, and it integrates both reading skills and science!

3. Centers 
Using centers during reading or for early finishers is a great way to provide science topics and exploration.  Students can research science topics they are curious about, read about science topics, or even complete science activities. I have also dedicated the last two hours of the day on Friday to centers for each subject area as a way to meet with small groups, while still making sure I'm getting in much needed quality curriculum.

4. Quality Instruction over Quantity
Sometimes when we teach we are tempted to go with a cute activity because it looks so fun and we just know the kiddos will love it. However, when we are limited on time, we really need to ask ourselves if the students are really going to get any educational value out of it, meaning meeting those standards and preparing them for upcoming content. One thing that I do not like about our science books is that they often cover a lot of topics at a surface level. As teachers, we want to make sure that we are using what time we have to teach at a deep level, rather than skipping across the surface.

5. Organization 
The more organized and well planned out you are, the easier it is for things to run smoothly during that planned science time that you do have.  Whenever I scheduled my science time, I always tried to plan it right after a recess period, so I could set up while students were outside.  I could "prep" them mentally before they went outside about the expectations of when they came in and when they returned we could get started right away.  There was no downtime to pass out materials or lab sheets.

Science is just as important as language arts and math, and with these 5 ideas, you'll find more time to fit it in! But just as important is how we use our time. Use it wisely and don't be afraid to bundle things up! You've got this! Happy Teaching!

Tammy is the author of the Owl Teacher blog. She is passionate about finding ways to help teachers save time in the classroom because she hated giving up so much time to planning and not spending enough time with her loved ones. Tammy is dedicated to blogging about teaching ideas and creating resources that will help you take your weekends back without sacrificing quality teaching!


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  2. Thank you for your blog! As a teacher who works in a district whose instructional minutes are mandated rather intensely, it's refreshing to see new approaches to incorporating multiple subjects and skills. I love the idea of science pictures in the morning to replace our journal writing. I'll definitely be doing that, in addition to incorporating more science books into our centers and for read-a loud stories. One site I use for science and LA as well is Newsela. It has a variety of relevant/current articles that have the same concept, but written at different lexiles. I just discovered your blog and I love it!


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