Program Information

Aim 1:  Develop 6th– to 8th-grade-level STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry activities to address commonalities in Science and English Language Arts Practices delineated by Missouri Learning Standards (MLS), NGSS and Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

Aim 2:  Provide instructional support for using the STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry activities, with special attention to the needs of diverse learners.In fulfilling these aims, we offer annual professional development workshops and academic year support for 6th-8th grade Science, English Language Arts and Special Education teachers from Missouri.The focus of professional development is in two main areas:

  • Development of and use of STEM multimodal text sets and linked inquiry.
  • Evidence-based practices for teaching diverse learners.

Learning science requires sophisticated literacy skills such as accessing scientific terminology and text genre, interpreting data, engaging in interpretive and critical reading, comprehending and critiquing scientific principles and reading and writing explanations. The need for such well-established literacy skills in STEM education are acknowledged by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards for English/language arts-technical subjects (CCSS-ELA.RST).

Two-thirds of U.S. middle school students are not reading at a proficient level. By middle school, students are expected to use significant literacy skills to develop STEM content knowledge and practices.  The NGSS and CCSS-ELA-RST and most state equivalents articulate that all learners should draw evidence from informational texts and synthesize information from multiple sources. Fulfillment of these standards requires content-rich and discourse-rich classroom environments in which language learning and science learning support each other. Much evidence supports the use of complex texts in preparing students for college and careers, yet few are available. Furthermore, many students struggle to read complex texts because of challenges with unfamiliar text structures, conceptual density, vocabulary complexity, and expectations of prior knowledge.

The dearth of quality complex texts and appropriate instructional scaffolds greatly limits STEM learning, and this is particularly severe for many diverse learners – those with disabilities, at-risk for school failure, and/or from culturally, socio-economically and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

What is a multimodal text set?

Organization of a multimodal text set.

To address these needs, the Linking Science & Literacy for All Learners program is developing innovative multimodal STEM text sets with linked scaffolds and teacher professional development. A multimodal STEM text set is a coherent  sequence of texts and materials pertaining to a specific STEM topic or line of inquiry that supports diverse learners in building the vocabulary and background knowledge required for reading comprehension, grounded in evidence. The topic or line of inquiry of the text set is determined by an anchor text – a rich, complex grade-level text, that reflects the grade level science and literacy standards. Subsidiary scaffolding texts and science practices are carefully sequenced to build knowledge and vocabulary to support students in learning science. With a clear content sequence, teachers employ appropriate instructional scaffolds aligned to the cross-cutting practices in literacy and science. By meaningfully connecting the anchor text, subsidiary texts, multimodal materials and practices, diverse learners are provided support required to build knowledge and/or vocabulary and literacy skills so as to be able to fulfill the NGSS and CCSS-ELA.RST Performance Expectations (Romine et al., in press).

Program Overview

bumblee on a flower

In Year 1, program partner teachers worked with a new multimodal text set titled Flight of the Bumblebee , which addresses the use of sound waves to monitor bees and pollination services. In this text set, ELA and STEM are integrated to help students appreciate how science and engineering principles can help develop solutions to a significant problem – the decline of bee populations worldwide. The anchor text is adapted from a peer-reviewed scientific article (Miller-Struttmann, N. E., Heise, D., Schul, J., Geib, J. C., & Galen, C. (2017). Flight of the bumble bee: Buzzes predict pollination services. PloS One, 12(6), e0179273). Students practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set, and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario-based assessments.

image of Earth

In Year 2, program partner teachers worked with Flight of the Bumblebee or a new multimodal text set titled Earth and Human Body Systems, which addresses the impact of climate change in the Midwest upon heat stress experienced by humans. In this text set ELA and STEM are integrated to help students understand foundations of modeling Earth’s climate systems and how that can guide human activity so as to lessen the projected impacts of climate change. The anchor text is adapted from a recent peer-reviewed scientific article (Steinweg, C., & Gutowski, W.J. (2015). Projected changes in greater St. Louis summer heat stress in NARCCAP simulations: Weather, Climate, and Society, 7(2), 159-168). Students practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set, and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario-based assessments.

Image of smoke

In Year 3, program partner teachers are working with Earth and Human Body Systems or a new multimodal text set titled Vaping: Not for the Young at Heart, which addresses the impact of nicotine and vaping on cardiovascular health and COVID-19. The anchor text has been adapted from a recent peer-reviewed scientific article (Middlekauff, H.R. (2020) Cardiovascular impact of electronic-cigarette use, Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, 30(30), 133-140). Students practice close reading of the grade-level complex text with supports provided by the text set and use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) to respond to scenario-based assessments. The year-long professional development program is focusing especially upon providing resources for distance/remote learning.

For further program information, please visit our publications and presentations page.

Professional Development Program: The year-long professional development involves an orientation session (Saturday) in spring, a weeklong summer workshop, and workdays during the academic year, as outlined below.

Summer Professional Development – In Person or Virtual Format Academic Year
Orientation Session (1 day) Summer Workshop (5 days) Follow-up Workdays (6 half days)
Focus of orientation:

  • Meet participants and introduce goals of professional development.
  • Assign tasks for 5-day workshop (e.g., readings about content area, locating resources).
Third week of July
Focus of workshop:

  • Identify materials and develop text sets
  • Linked inquiry activities
  • Develop implementation plans
  • Identify and learn about instructional practices to support diverse learners
August – May
Focus of sessions:

  • Share implementation practices, challenges and solutions; identify additional practices
  • Refine text sets and linked inquiry activities