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Teacher's Corner: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
In this month’s Teacher’s Corner, we’ll discuss how to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) content into your English language classroom.

Across the world, there has been a growing interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Much of this interest comes from the growing daily use of technology; from computers to cell phones to driverless cars, more and more of the world is powered by computer code. The largest companies in the world are increasingly technology-based and in need of skilled engineers, computer coders, and scientists.

Incorporating STEM subject matter into our English language classrooms can help our students develop awareness and skills that may help them in their future careers. In fact, many educators are now arguing for STEAM education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. The call for adding art education to STEM learning comes from the need to effectively communicate creatively in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math through excellent speaking and writing skills.

In this month’s Teacher’s Corner, we will develop and practice speaking and writing through a variety of STEM-related activities. Each week students will have the opportunity to explore the STEM fields while engaged in the arts of speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English. Along the way, they will use science to help protect the environment, learn computer code, explore the role of women in engineering, and use logic to solve a challenging puzzle:

Week 1 – Science: Protecting the Environment

Week 2 – Technology: Coding – A Language for the Future

Week 3 – Engineering: A Career for All

Week 4 – Math: Thinking Logically

During Week 1, we’ll begin the month with a reading and speaking activity centered on reducing, reusing, and recycling to protect the environment. In Week 2, students will engage in listening and reading while learning about coding. In Week 3, students will be encouraged to explore the role women have played in engineering and computer science through a reading and writing activity. Finally, in Week 4, we’ll conclude with a reading and speaking activity centered on solving a logic puzzle.

For more on STEM, check out the American English STEM MOOC!

 

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Table of Contents

Week 1 - Science: Protecting the EnvironmentExpand

Part of the growing interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education has been the push to make science and math more interesting and hands-on for students. Teachers are increasingly looking for ways to change the teaching of science and math from rules and formulas to problem solving and critical thinking. In this week’s Teacher’s Corner, we will take a fun and creative approach to science by encouraging students to think of problems in their own environment and to create solutions.

Level

Intermediate to Advanced

 

Language Focus

Reading, speaking (primary focus); writing (secondary focus)         

 

Goals

During this activity students will do the following:

  • Practice reading skills related to the environment
  • Develop speaking skills by recording an environmental project video

 

Materials

  • Teacher: whiteboard/chalkboard, markers/chalk, a timing device
  • Students: pencils or pens, notebooks or writing paper, recording devices
  • Note: This activity involves students creating videos. This can be done on most mobile phones. If video recording is not possible, the project can be done with an audio recording. If mobile phones or other recording devices are not available, students can create environmental reports on paper.

 

Preparation

  1. Read through all the materials carefully.
  2. Print out copies of Appendix 1.  
  3. This activity occurs across several days and includes the following activities: a homework assignment, a classroom activity about the environment, and an environmental field report. For the environmental field report, students are tasked with visiting a local area where an environmental issue occurs. If this is not possible for the students, they can still create a video where they discuss a local issue without visiting the site.

 

Activity Part One: Trace Effects homework

 

In this part of the activity, students will read Chapter 4 of Trace Effects. In this chapter, the characters work to clean up an area near the Grand Canyon in the United States.

1.     Begin this activity at the end of the class session the day before the class session in which Activity Part Two takes place.

2.     Students should read Chapter 4 of Trace Effects for homework.  

a.     Note: If you are new to Trace Effects and the storyline of Chapter 4, see the Trace Effects Teacher’s Manual Chapter 4  for more information.

b.     An alternative to assigning the reading of this chapter as homework would be to have students read it together in class.  This may be more suitable for lower-level learners.

 

Activity Part two: environment in the classroom

 

1.     Begin the class by checking the students’ understanding about the reading homework by asking these comprehension questions:

a.     What state does Trace visit? (Answer: Arizona in the United States)

b.     Who does he meet? (Answer: George)

c.     What is George trying to do? (Answer: Clean up the environment.)

2.     Next, have the students form pairs or small groups. Each group will need one sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.

3.     In their groups, have the students list the three places that George and Trace visit and work to clean up.

4.     Write these words on the board: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Ask the students if they know the meaning of the terms. Ask the students:

a.     Who do George and Trace ask to recycle? (Answer: They ask the Walkers to recycle.)

b.     Who do George and Trace ask to reuse? (Answer: They ask Sydney and Sierra to reuse.)

c.     Who do George and Trace ask to reduce? (Answer: They ask Zach to reduce.)

5.     Next, give each pair or small group a copy of the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle worksheet in Appendix 1.

6.     Challenge the groups to brainstorm as many ideas as possible about how to reuse the three items George and Trace found: plastic bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers. Set a timer depending on the level of your students or the time remaining in class.

7.     Once time is up, have the groups share their ideas with the class. The groups can vote on the best ideas, or the pair or small group with the most ideas can be made the winner.

8.     For homework, assign Activity Part Three to the class.

 

Activity Part three: Environmental report

 

For Activity Three, students will work in groups to create short videos to identify a local environmental issue and to present ways to help solve the problem.

1.     As homework, each group of students will select a location in the local area that could benefit from environmental clean-up.

2.     Student groups will coordinate to visit that area.

3.     At the location, have the students record a short video to show the location and describe the environmental issues there.

4.     After showing the location and describing the environmental issue, have the students record themselves explaining how the location could be cleaned up and improved.

a.     What items in the area can be recycled?

b.     Can any of the items in the area be reused? How?

c.     What else can be done to improve and clean up this area?

5.     In the next class, have students share their videos with the class.

 

Optional activity: If possible, after the class has watched all the videos, have them pick one of the locations and organize a clean-up day!

 

For more on bringing environmental issues into the classroom check out:

Integrating Environmental Education into a Genre-Based EFL Writing Class

Going Green: Merging Environmental Education and Language Instruction

 

Appendix 1: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

 

Directions: For each of the items on the left brainstorm ways to reduce using them, ways to reuse them, or what could be made if they were recycled.

 

 

Reduce

Reuse

Recycle

Plastic Bottles

 

 

 

 

Plastic Bags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions: For each of the items on the left, brainstorm ways to reduce using them, ways to reuse them, or what could be made if they were recycled.

 

 

Reduce

Reuse

Recycle

Plastic Bottles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Bags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 2 - Technology: Coding – A Language For the FutureExpand

According to the website Code.org, in the United States alone there are more than half a million coding jobs available. The reason is that few students are learning to code, but the demand for this skill is only increasing. As technology continues to grow, more jobs will require coding skills. In this week’s Teacher’s Corner, we will explore the technology component of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) by learning the basics of coding. Along the way, students will practice their listening and reading skills by coding in an English-only environment.

This week’s activity takes a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. In constructivism, students are encouraged to work through problems and discover answers. This style of learning requires teachers to take a less direct role in the classroom. Instead of directing students and telling them what to do, teachers support students in their learning. In this week’s activity, students should know that mistakes are part of the learning process. Our goal as teachers will be to encourage them to think through the problems and to keep trying – not provide answers to them.

For more on constructivism, check out Constructivism in Theory and in Practice.

Level

Intermediate to Advanced

 

Language Focus

Reading, listening (primary focus); speaking (secondary focus)     

 

Goals

During this activity students will do the following:

·       Practice listening skills while learning the importance of code

·       Practice reading on-screen instructions while coding

 

Materials

  • Teacher: whiteboard/chalkboard, markers/chalk, computer and printer
  • Students: pencils or pens, notebooks
  • Computer lab: computers for each student (if possible) or one computer per small group of students (2-3 students per group)

 

Preparation

  1. Read through all the materials carefully.
  2. This activity uses the websites Code.org and Scratch. Before using this activity in class, visit the websites to become familiar with them. If you are new to coding, try some of the basics yourself!

 

Activity Part One: Code.org

This activity begins with an “Hour of Code” on the Code.org website. The Hour of Code allows students to practice the basics of coding with videos and tutorials that guide them through the process. After they have completed their hour of code, students can print out a certificate of completion.

  1. Begin the class by having students go to a computer. Students can work individually or in small groups.
  2. On the whiteboard/chalkboard write down the website Code.org and have the students navigate to that webpage.
  3. Once the students are on the Code.org webpage, have them click on “Students.”
    1. Note: The “Students” area is to the lower left of the screen and colored in purple. Students may need to scroll down the page to see the student area.
  4. On the student page, have the students click on the Hour of Code start button.
  5. Note: The Hour of Code option is the second option on the screen.
  6. Once the students are on the Hour of Code page, they can choose which Hour of Code they would like to do. The webpage offers a variety of options from famous characters to famous video games, but they all teach the same content.
  7. After the students have selected their Hour of Code, have them begin the activity. Each activity begins with a short video that students should watch.
  8. After watching the video, students should follow the on-screen directions to begin building their code.
  9. Have the students work on their code for as long as time permits. Students who do not finish their code in class can work on it after class as a homework assignment.
  10. If time permits at the end of class, have the students share what they did and what they learned by presenting their work to the class for an optional speaking activity.

Note: On the first day of incorporating this activity in your classroom, you may wish to walk students through the process and conduct this as a whole-class learning experience and demonstration. You could display your own computer and have all students choose the same activity in order to become familiar with it.

 

Activity Part Two: Scratch

This second activity can be completed as an extension of the first activity or as a stand-alone activity.

 

  1. Begin the class by having students go to a computer. Students can work individually or in small groups.
  2. On the whiteboard/chalkboard write down the website scratch.mit.edu and have the students navigate to the Scratch webpage.
  3. Once the students are on the Scratch webpage, have them click on “Try It Out.”
  4. On the Try It Out page, have the students click on the “Getting Started with Scratch” section of the website on the right side of the webpage.
    1. Note: To begin the tutorial, have the students click on the blue ”Start Moving” button.

5.     Have students follow the tutorial while they create a small project on Scratch.

a.     For students who already know code or who are eager to learn more, encourage them to explore the Scratch webpage. Scratch is less structured than Code.org, but it allows students to make more complex projects.

Note: As mentioned for the first activity, you may wish to walk students through the process and conduct this as a whole-class learning experience and demonstration on the first day. You could display your own computer screen and have all students work as a whole class on the first project before they work in independent groups.

Optional activity: If students show interest and excitement over coding, have them work in teams to build an English language learning game on Scratch. Once the games are completed, students can share them with the class. For examples of English language learning games on Scratch, check out: https://scratch.mit.edu/search/projects?q=english+learning

 

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