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Tips & Resources to Make Content More Accessible in STEM Subjects

January 13, 2020

Around the world, schools are placing emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in order to inspire students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. These subjects are intimidating for many students, especially language learners, who struggle with the academic language used in learning materials to explain complex concepts and processes. This means teachers need to find STEM materials that are comprehensible for their language learners and that enhance their language development. The following resources will help you discover STEM lessons and activities that are more approachable and engaging for all learners. Additionally, you will discover free web tools to help your language learners comprehend the reading materials you already use.

Hands-On STEM Lessons and Projects

STEM is best learned hands on! Students need to put their learning to the test and see it in action. Here are some websites with engaging lesson plans and activities that encourage students to explore STEM concepts actively. The content is also presented in various formats to enhance listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

ESL Library’s collection of STEM lesson plans has audio clips, vocabulary support, projects, handouts, and activities that support reading, writing, and listening skills.

Mystery Science is a website with kindergarten to fifth‑grade STEM activities and lesson plans. The lesson plans do not focus on English fluency or comprehension. However, the lesson plans include a multimedia presentation with closed captioning to display what is being said, and they also have stopping points for reflection and discussion.

The Texas Performance Standards Project website has a searchable database of STEM lesson plans and projects for kindergarten through twelfth‑grade students. Each lesson includes handouts and instructions in both English and Spanish.

STEM Reading Materials

Science Journal for Kids is a website with scientific articles and teaching resources for kindergarten through twelfth‑grade students. Download a pdf of each article with illustrations, a glossary of terms, discussion questions, and quizzes. Each lesson also features a video and a suggestion for further research.

DOGO News is a website with kindergarten to fifth‑grade STEM articles and videos. Each text highlights key vocabulary items students can click on to discover their definition. There are also reading comprehension activities, such as quizzes and word searches.

Comprehension and Fluency Support

Students also need tools to comprehend texts and learning materials. Teachers and students can use Rewordify, a free online engine that simplifies any English text. Once teachers register, they can quickly create a vocabulary list with comprehension activities, and they can track students’ progress.

Immersive Reader is a free online tool that makes reading material more comprehensible with features like the ability to have text read out loud, color‑coded parts of speech, a picture dictionary, and much more.

A Maths Dictionary for Kids is an animated online dictionary with definitions, examples, illustrations, charts, and activities to help students understand math terms and concepts.

Multimedia STEM Content

Students need visuals to truly grasp science, technology, engineering, and math content. They need to see the content illustrated through models, diagrams, graphs, charts, simulations, blueprints, demonstrations, and 3D objects. Students also need to see symbols, numbers, equations, and abbreviations labeled within a context to aid understanding. The websites below help you find multimedia content to engage students and see STEM in action in the real world.

PBS Learning Media is a website with standards‑aligned STEM videos, interactives, and lesson plans for kindergarten through twelfth-grade students. Some of the videos have closed captioning and are also available in Spanish.

Teachers can use the Creative Commons and WikiMedia Commons search engines to find images, videos, gifs, and audio clips to help students visualize and understand the content.

Gifs are animated images that can be used to illustrate a theory, process, equation, principle, or concept. Giphy is a free website teachers can use to search for gifs, but not all are educational. The US National Archives has a vast collection of historical gifs on Giphy that are free to use.

Interactive Sites for Education is an online collection of free interactives and simulations that introduce STEM content virtually. Students are presented with scenarios, and they complete various activities to interact with the content and see it applied.

Be sure to check out ESL Library’s growing library of Science flashcards too!

What other websites do you recommend to find STEM resources for language learners?

If you want to receive more of Shelly’s tips for online resources for teaching English, then follow her posts!

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Comments (2)

Susan C.(Teacher)

While STEM subjects are interesting, my students need to have the vocabulary for their everyday world such as their neighborhoods, their homes, schools, etc. For reading at the beginner level, there are lessons about jeans and coffee, rather than basic vocabulary about the contents of their homes, schools, and cities. They need to know language to describe their kitchens, bedrooms, neighborhoods, etc. For reading about people, most of the people have died so the biographies are in the past tense. What about including people who are currently influencing our world?

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for your feedback! We do have plans to add more beginner-level reading and a new resource section that is currently in progress. We're excited to share it soon!

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