When we talk of integrating literacy with STEAM, the first question raised by most, is that we have limited educational resources and whether it is right to invest our limited education resources in teaching critical reading skills or in STEAM. I think we can and must do both. The components of literacy skills—reading, writing, speaking, vocabulary, should all be integrated in STEAM activities. Literacy is one subject that bind all the others together. Many educators wonder whether literacy is part of STEAM because STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math. So, what happens to reading and writing? Should we add it as an acronym to STEAM and make it STREAM, with R standing for reading? STEAM is guided by inquiry and is focused on application, creation and evaluation. I think adding another letter isn’t the point.
Literacy is a part of every subject—be it maths, arts, music, history, geography or science. It is always there in every content area. Literacy is an action with common components that are embedded into how we consume and share information. As such, it is naturally a part of STEAM. Reading and writing occurs across the curriculum, including the sciences. Schools today are placing more emphasis on STEAM: Science, Technology, Math, Arts and Engineering in the elementary classroom. There are many ways to integrate literacy and STEAM intentionally in your classroom.
For young learners this could be done by making a day filled with sensory play, exploration and observation, and by adding generous amounts of talking, reading, singing, drawing, or whatever works best for our young learners. A learning experience that integrates multiple subjects when studying a theme helps learners to make strong connections, which in turn strengthens the learning experience for the child. STEAM activities actually provide a fabulous vehicle for integrated learning. To integrate literacy and STEAM for young learners, inquiry-based instruction would be the best way of doing it. The hands-on experiences during activity-based learning will help develop better understanding, enrich vocabulary, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and reflection. A very important thing for the educator to do is ask high-quality, open-ended questions. With time learners will begin to approach problems in new and authentic ways. STEAM integration helps teachers focus on content (what to learn) and processes (how to learn).
STEAM helps students enhance their critical thinking skills and recognize the intersection of art, science, technology, engineering, and math. It is about applying creative thinking to projects, igniting students' imagination and creativity through the sciences and arts. Literacy with STEAM definitely contributes to the development of essential skills like collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The best thing to incorporate steam into the classroom is to do it gradually without worrying too much about incorporating all five elements of STEAM into an activity- based lesson. What is important is the lessons are creative and foster innovation, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. As you dive into integrated activities, you’ll see that the STEAM fields provide complementary perspectives on the world. They also promote similar processes for learning, such as asking questions, making connections with prior knowledge, gathering and analyzing data (including observations), and communicating findings and ideas.
We can use visual thinking to draw upon the foundation of literacy itself. Visual thinking strategies are a terrific way to introduce concepts to your students and to practice literacy across all content areas. One visual thinking strategy that could be used is to ask learners to look at a piece of text or an image or a process and then ask questions like:- what do you think is going on, what makes you say that, what more can we find? The foundation to visual thinking is in the questions that are asked and in listening to student responses. These are also the hallmarks of STEAM, so visual thinking and literacy makes sense. Reciprocal Teaching is all about using comprehension strategies to have formal conversations about text. If the text is a piece of art, or if it’s a scientific finding, the reciprocal teaching strategy will work regardless of content. Here’s the steps you need: Start by asking students to predict an outcome based on a problem, process, or prompt. Then, ask some guiding questions and encourage your students to ask each other questions about the work. Students can then point out elements of the problem, process, or prompt that they don’t understand. They can then research answers to these questions and summarize their findings. This strategy is often used to analyze traditional text and is a core component of literacy, but can easily be applied to any content area.
STEAM and Literacy are two sides of the same coin. They supplement and compliment each other when educators plan learning experiences using creative and innovative teaching-learning methods. Definitely literacy and Steam do not have to be on opposite sides of the education fence, but can be well integrated to provide meaningful and engaging learning experiences. Educators, let us begin to plan our lessons by weaving literacy into every learning experience and thus increase and enhance the benefits of learning. Let us take learning to a new level with our creative mindset.