As we enter the second year of VESOL (Virginia Essentialized Standards of Learning) instruction, there is a better understanding of how to prepare great lessons that set our students up for success. Yet, a few questions remain. One of the most common questions coming from educators is- How do I find time to teach reading, math, AND science standards?
The idea of teaching separate daily lessons on reading, math, and science to our students with intellectual disabilities may seem daunting. When we add in time for daily living skills, OT, PT, personal care, etc., it may feel overwhelming. The key is to integrate content from multiple subjects into single lessons or units.
One powerful way to integrate your content is to select a science concept to teach and then embed reading and math into your lesson. (By the way, embedded instruction is an evidence-based practice for students with disabilities!). Here is an example of how this might look using a few 5th grade VESOLs.
Let’s assume that we are going to teach the above VESOL during a unit on ocean organisms. It is a fair assumption that part of the learning process will involve students reading text passages or having passages read to them, which will help students address the VESOL below.
Turtles spend most of their lives in the water. Sea turtles live in the ocean. Freshwater turtles live in ponds, lakes, and rivers.
Now it is time to incorporate our math content. For this example, we will consider a VESOL related to data and graphing.
The graph below was created specifically for this lesson. It incorporates our science lesson (ocean organisms) and our reading passage (turtles). You might print large copies of the graph or project it on to a screen. Since your students have been learning about turtles, you might find that they are more engaged in the related math lesson.
There are so many questions that we can ask our learners based on this graph.
- How many of these creatures live in the ocean?
- Where do turtles live?
- Which body of water is home to 3 of these creatures?
- Which of these creatures lives in the most bodies of water?
- How many of these creatures can be found in both rivers and oceans?
I am confident that you will be able to match science, reading, and math VESOLs to create integrated lessons. Here are a few additional strategies to help you along the way:
- Create word problems based on your science topic. There are a number of VESOLs that ask students to answer word problems. Rather than presenting your learners with arbitrary word problems, create some options that fit your theme. Whether your science lesson addresses animals, the solar system, water sheds, or other topics, it will be easy to create word problems that help your learners simultaneously work on reading, math, and science skills.
- Incorporate math manipulatives related to your science lesson. Hopefully, we can agree that all students benefit from math manipulatives. Perhaps you typically use counters such as chips or colored bears. Can you create or obtain manipulatives that represent what you are studying in science? Instead of chips, perhaps you can print and cutout images of the planets. Instead of colored bears, perhaps you can use small toys that represent the plants or animals that you are studying.
- Teach science early and often. Presently, we only have official science VESOLs for grades 5, 8, and high school. However, there is nothing that says we shouldn’t introduce science content in other grades. For example, there are nearly 20 different 5th grade science VESOLs. That is a lot to teach in a year. Why not begin teaching some of the concepts in earlier elementary years? This can be accomplished by incorporating science content into the reading passages and math problems that are presented in other grades.
You can find a range of great VESOL-related resources at TTAC Online.