CSTA Classroom Science

Yearlong Fifth-Grade Science Curriculum for All Students, Including English Learners

By Alison Haas, Rita Januszyk, Scott Grapin, Lorena Llosa, and Okhee Lee

Bella:    Okay, so we have the geosphere here (points to model) and the hydrosphere here (points to model), but we need to show them like moving. 
Sara:    Ya, it’s gotta be like how the mountain and river, how they go together. 
Luis:    How everything is working together. So maybe we need something in a key. 
Sara:    Oh ya! Like a symbol. 
Luis:    That’s it! 
Bella:    It’s perfect cuz if we show a symbol we could make it for like all of the places where the systems work together. 
Sara:    Ya, and then it will be easy to show how it’s the same for bottled and tap water.

In this excerpt, our fifth-grade English learners (ELs) are developing a model to explain how the hydrosphere interacts with the geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere in order to answer the driving question of the unit, “Why does it matter if I drink tap water or bottled water?” How does this engagement in sense-making and purposeful classroom talk happen? Enter Science And Integrated Language (SAIL). 

In 2015, a team of researchers, teachers, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) writers, science content experts, and applied linguists began designing a yearlong, fifth-grade, NGSS-aligned science curriculum. Our curriculum was aimed at engaging all students, and ELs in particular, in three-dimensional learning to explain local phenomena. Now, after five years of iterative cycles of field-testing and revising, the full fifth-grade curriculum is available for free download here.

Our Approach 
Our conceptual framework (fully described in Lee et al., 2019) includes science and language design principles. From a science perspective, the SAIL curriculum leverages three design principles. First, students explain phenomena (science) and design solutions to problems (engineering). As students use science knowledge to make sense of phenomena and figure out answers to questions, they experience the work of scientists and engineers and have a purpose for learning science. Students’ interest in local phenomena sustains their engagement over a unit. Second, students engage in three-dimensional learning, as each lesson includes science and engineering practices (SEPs), crosscutting concepts (CCCs), and disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). Third, students’ learning builds over the year as the unit design scaffolds their learning over time. 

From a language perspective, the SAIL curriculum focuses on three key aspects of language use in the science classroom. First, students use multiple modalities in increasingly strategic ways. Modalities, or the diverse channels through which communication occurs, include both linguistic modalities of talk and text as well as visual modalities like gestures, drawings, graphs, symbols, and tables. Second, students use a range of registers, from everyday registers in conversations with peers to specialized registers in more formal presentations. Third, students meet the communicative demands of different interactions. SAIL lesson plans denote student engagement in purposeful interactions with peers in partners (one-to-one), small groups (one-to-small group), and the whole class (one-to-many). For example, the curriculum prompts teachers to use discipline-specific probes when ELs are working in small groups and reimagines traditional EL strategies (pre-teaching vocabulary, sentence frames, using visuals) for the science classroom (Grapin et al., 2020).

Curriculum Overview 
The SAIL curriculum consists of four 9-week units. In each unit, students engage in three-dimensional learning to answer a driving question about a local phenomenon. Each unit addresses the fifth-grade NGSS performance expectations and is broken down into lessons, with each lesson spanning one to seven class periods of 40 minutes each. Table 1 provides an overview of the four units in the SAIL curriculum.

A full description of our development process can be found in Haas et al. (in press), including how we bundled unit performance expectations; unpacked SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs; developed the storyline/sequence of instruction; and wrote lessons.

Downloading the Curriculum 
The curriculum is available for free download here. Six folders are included for each unit, as described next. 

  • Overview Document: The overview document provides at-a-glance summary information for each unit. First, the anchoring phenomenon and driving question for the unit are described. Then, a unit overview is provided with a bulleted list summarizing the components of each lesson and the lesson-level, three-dimensional learning performance(s). Finally, the overview document lists the performance expectations addressed in the unit and the grades K-8 DCI learning progressions. 
  • Lessons: The SAIL lessons are divided into clusters, with each cluster consisting of one or more lessons. The lessons are numbered such that the first number indicates the cluster and the second number indicates the lesson within that cluster. Lesson 2-1, for example, is the first lesson in the second cluster. 
  • Videos: Throughout the SAIL curriculum, videos are used during instruction. All accompanying lesson videos are included in the video folder.
  • PowerPoints: Most lessons contain pre-made PowerPoints to display to the class. These PowerPoints can be edited by the teacher to best fit student needs. 
  • Supply List: The unit supply list is provided for people interested in ordering supplies for implementation. Each supply list is divided into replenishable and non-replenishable categories. Replenishable supplies need to be replaced each school year (e.g., sticky notes, gloves, water). Non-replenishable can be re-used over the course of multiple years (e.g., graduated cylinders, scales, syringes). 
  • Assessment: The lesson plans contain formative assessments (indicated by green checkmarks). Additionally, each unit has an end-of-unit assessment with accompanying scoring rubrics.  

Concluding Thoughts 
In designing and implementing the SAIL curriculum, we experienced both the challenges and opportunities of designing high-quality NGSS-aligned instruction for all students, including ELs. Through our efforts and the efforts of our teachers, we observed how students began to see and think about the world around them differently – students who asked questions about phenomena and figured out answers to those questions. Seeing students engaged and excited about science made the challenges of designing and implementing NGSS-aligned instruction worthwhile. We wholeheartedly thank all of the teachers in our advisory board who worked tirelessly to implement and help revise the SAIL curriculum. This curriculum is possible because of these teachers and their students, and for that, we are grateful. 

Additional Resources 
Webinar and brief series describing our conceptual framework through SAIL classroom examples: http://www.nysed.gov/bilingual-ed/integrating-science-and-language-all-students-focus-english-language-learners 

Lee, O. (2020). Making everyday phenomena phenomenal. Science and Children, 58(1), 56-61.

Lee, O., Goggins, M., Haas, A., Januszyk, R., Llosa, L., & Grapin, S. E. (2019). Making everyday phenomena phenomenal: NGSS-aligned instructional materials using local phenomena with student diversity. In P. Spycher & E. Haynes (Eds.), Culturally and linguistically diverse learners and STEAM: Teachers and researchers working in partnership to build a better path forward (pp. 211-228). Information Age.

Crosscutting Concepts 
Goggins, M., Haas, A., Grapin, S. E, Llosa, L., & Lee, O. (2019). Integrating crosscutting concepts into science instruction. Science and Children, 57(2), 56-61.

Nordine, J., & Lee, O. (Eds.). (2021). Crosscutting concepts: Strengthening science and engineering learning. NSTA Press. 

Grapin, S. E. (2019). Multimodality in the new content standards era: Implications for English learners. TESL Quarterly, 53(1), 30-55.

Grapin, S. E., Haas, A., Goggins, M., Llosa, L., & Lee, O. (2019). Beyond general-purpose talk moves: Using discipline-specific probes with English learners in the science classroom. Science and Children, 57(4), 36-43.

Grapin, S. E., Llosa, L., Haas, A., Goggins, M., & Lee, O. (2019). Precision: Toward a meaning-centered view of language use with English learners in the content areas. Linguistics and Education, 50, 71-83.

Grapin, S. E., Llosa, L., Haas, A., & Lee, O. (2020). Rethinking instructional strategies with English learners in the content areas. TESOL Journal.

Haas, A., Januszyk, R., Grapin, S. E., Goggins, M., Llosa, L., & Lee, O. (in press). Developing instructional materials aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards for all students, including English learners. Journal of Science Teacher Education

Lee, O., Llosa, L., Grapin, S. E., Haas, A., & Goggins, M. (2019). Science and language integration with English learners: A conceptual framework guiding instructional materials development. Science Education, 103, 317-337.



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