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Lesson Plan

Integrating Literacy Into the Study of the Earth's Surface

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Catherine Crum

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Science trade books are an invaluable tool for supporting science learning with literacy. This lesson introduces third- through fifth-grade students to the bodies of water on the Earth's surface, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans. Five suggested titles form the basis for the five initial lessons, which include read-alouds, discussion, and science journals. The class also creates a science word wall incorporating new vocabulary from each of the books. Teams of students then compose and perform Readers Theatre scripts based on each of the titles, allowing for a comparative study of the different bodies of water.

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El-Hindi, A.E. (2003). Integrating literacy and science in the classroom: From ecomysteries to Readers Theatre. The Reading Teacher, 56(6), 536–538.

  • Science is one area where many teachers are uncomfortable in their knowledge of the subject area. Many elementary teachers are intimidated by science (Gallas, 1995), and too often settle for the teacher demonstrating an experiment that students witness with little or no involvement (Pearce, 1999).

  • Reading receives more instructional time than any other area (Hein and Sabra, 1994), while science is often offered the least amount of instructional time. Teachers may feel more comfortable supporting science instruction if they have concrete means for integrating science with everyday literacy instruction.

  • Student-centered discussions in the area of science and scientific inquiry are very important to science learning in the elementary classroom (Reddy et al., 1998). These instructional conversations promote the kinds of rich discussions that help students develop their ideas along with linguistic competence (Goldenberg, 1993).

  • Science talk can readily be supported through reading. During DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time students can be encouraged to read science trade books. Literature circles can provide a good avenue for science discussions, with students reading and talking about a particular scientific topic.

  • Dialogue journals are also an important tool in supporting science instruction, as students are encouraged to engage in meaningful discourse about scientific activity (Reddy et al., 1998). These journals can be a source for students' observations and reflections. This form of writing is crucial to developing scientific habits of mind, in which students are learning to link their observations to developing theories.

  • Readers Theatre, in which students interpret literature by reading and acting out scripts adapted from an original story, could be extended to include ecomysteries, stories in which the mystery revolves around an ecological problem, written by students in the classroom (George, 1996; Pearce, 1999).



Gallas, K. (1995). Talking their way into science. New York: Teachers College Press.


George, J.C. (1996). Writing eco-mysteries. In W. Saul, & J. Reardon (Eds.), Beyond the science kit (pp. 144-166). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Goldenberg, C. (1993). Instructional conversations. Promoting comprehension through discussion. The Reading Teacher, 46(4), 316–326.


Hein, G.E., & Sabra, P. (1994). Active assessment for active science. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Pearce, C.R. (1999). Nurturing inquiry: Real science for the elementary classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

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