In taking on teaching all subjects in a STEM classroom, the one I was most worried about was ELA. How do I incorporate all of the common core requirements and still teach good literature? I KNOW I can incorporate non-fiction with Social Studies and Science, but I also want to find good books that incorporate STEM ideas. Then it hit me this summer..... SURVIVAL books! In all honesty, some of these were novels I used when I taught years ago, and so is the writing project, but I have of course updated the work.
In introducing the idea of survival books as a theme, I had the students read excerpts from two of the books. I really should have had them read from all 5, but I wanted them to search for evidence to show me WHY these books met the theme. One night the students read from Hatchet, and another night they read from My Side of the Mountain. Each day they would come in with evidence as to how the character survived.
Once all of the kids had finished their evidence, they broke into teams and analyzed the data provided. They took the evidence and started to break it down into categories. They came up with the following without any guidance from me: shelter, finding food and water, making fire, protection from animals and weather, making weapons, making clothing, and making tools. When I revealed my list of survival elements they were quite surprised as they were so similar. The following day the students looked at all 5 novels to choose from and got to pick their title. I did ask the students who stay in my math/science class to please choose Earthquake Terror as this connects our Science (Landforms) to the theme of survival.
As my students read this novel they are looking for evidence of: shelter, food/water, fire, protection/weapons, clothing, tools, and descriptions of the setting. See, my list of elements was VERY close to theirs, but they got to discover them on their own which I believe makes it more powerful. I'll let you know their projects to choose from soon.