Becoming an “Expert”

Two Truths and a Lie "A Lesson on Giving Your Why" Moving Writers

  1. Two Truths and a Lie "A Lesson on Giving Your Why"
  2. Becoming an "Expert"

(Above is a recording of the following article)

If I had a quarter for everytime someone told me that we don’t have time to write in subjects other than ELA I think I might be a millionaire. Writing is such an integral part of every subject area and I am on a mission to make our classrooms outside of ELA full of words. 

Yes I’m talking even to you, high school math teacher. 

At the beginning of the year I spend a lot of time discussing what it means to be an expert. This is something that any field of study has. I really find that this is a great segue to starting the school year and getting my students to think through writing outside of the ELA classroom.  I was moved a few years ago from 5th grade ELA to math and science. So, in my math and science classrooms it is important to establish right away that my students are readers and writers, even outside the ELA classroom.

Becoming an Expert 

(Image via spark.adobe.com)

Becoming an expert is the catalyst I use to dive into the beginning steps of research in my science classroom. The hope is that through research and experiencing the content students will master the skills we are giving them. But how do we do this? I begin with image reading. 

Everyone can read an image right? But how do we read   images? 

Reading an Image 

On the first day of school I start with an easy “get to know you” I post 5 pictures of myself and give students 1 minute, each photo, to make noticings and inferences based on reading a photo about myself. This lends to conversations quickly about the 5 w’s and 1 h (who, what, where, when, why and how). These questions are the bases of the scientific method… and is my sneaky way of introducing thinking like a reader/writer into my classroom. 

Here is an example of a picture I may use. Some questions students may ask are: 

Where are you? 

Who is this? 

How long ago was this taken? 

Do you like this person? 

Why are you happy?

And so on… 

Some inferences they often make are, “I infer… “ 

  • That you like this person because you are hugging him very close
  • You are somewhere in the daytime
  • You are at the lake because I see the reflection in your glasses
  • This person could be related to you or has similar heritage because you look alike
  • It is very bright outside because you are wearing glasses


I usually show them 4-5 pictures of me. I give them 3 minutes to read the image before we turn and talk. 

My students always do such an amazing job of this. It also can lead to some amazing conversations about the author’s purpose, main idea of the “text”, setting and characterization, but I digress. 

From reading images about me,  the second day we move to reading content related images. We start with ecosystems at the beginning of the year in science- but this could be easily implemented into any content. Students read the images and  add in their thinking with noticing, wondering, and inferring. These are the first three steps in the scientific process: asking questions, making hypotheses, experimenting/collecting data based on observations. See what I did here? Making more ELA connections. 

(Image via alquimiahealingarts.com )

My students always do such an amazing job at this. It also can lead to some deep conversations about the author’s purpose, main idea of the “text”, setting and characterization, but I digress. 

From reading images about me,  the second day we move to reading content-related images. We start with ecosystems at the beginning of the year in science, but any content images could be easily implemented for this strategy. Students read the images and add in their thinking with noticing, wondering, and inferring. These are the first three steps in the scientific process: asking questions, making hypotheses, experimenting/collecting data based on observations. For example, my students watch a video in class of a pumpkin decomposing.  Students go through the process of reading the image (video). They make observations, ask questions, make predictions and notice the variables in the potential data collected. In ELA terms, they read the image and they synthesized it. See what I did here? Making more ELA connections.

The pivotal question: How can I see myself as a reader and writer of science? 

From here we normally take a piece of scientific writing, grade level appropriate text, and we analyze it with our scientific glasses. “Thinking like a scientist and writing like a scientist.” 

Here is my take on comparing reading comprehension strategies with the scientific method… What are you noticing and wondering? 

We talk about what makes a scientific reader?

  • Asking questions 
  • Making inferences 
  • Predictions
  • Making connections
  • Collecting data or research material 
  • Identifying the author’s purpose (this is very important with our culture’s current trend to not trust sources) 
  • Identifying the main idea and finding supporting details

Thinking like a scientist should reflect the ELA classroom when it comes to analyzing informational text. The more they practice reading images the deeper their reading comprehension of informational text becomes. Before I know it … my students are experts. 

Do you have ideas on how to implement ELA into the contents out of the reading classroom? What has worked in the past and hasn’t? Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund 

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