Physics in the ELA classroom
Why Newton Matters to the English Teacher
How do we foster deeper thinking? We can’t simply run skill based activities and expect to have kids make genuine progress in deeper thinking. Grokking, as Robert Heinlein calls it in Stranger in a Strange Land, involves thinking deeply about something by laying that deep thought against another often unlike idea.
The key to this cross discipline detour is to remember that human knowledge was never meant to be purely compartmentalized and each experience or understanding tucked away without thought or reflection. We understand and we create through the tangential and sometimes wild collisions of unlike events--yes read that as disciplines overlapping.
Often, the students in our English classes are there not by choice but rather by requirement. Their aptitudes may very well be in other subject matters. This set of activities is built upon an interest students might have for the sciences. By integrating that engagement with science, or in this case Physics, with a study of close reading of short works, the English teacher might have an opportunity with reluctant learners.
Begin with a simple enough reminder that the rules in laws we encounter in the various disciplines we study do not exist only for that discipline. Take for example gravity. The laws and rules governing gravity don’t cease to exist the moment you leave a physics classroom, do they? You are still bound by them regardless of school building location. Therefore, it becomes plausible to build on the idea that the rules and laws we learn in other disciplines should also be applicable to the study of English. In other words, things like Newton’s Three Laws of Motion should provide for us an acceptable way to discuss literature. And so, this small unit.
In the pages that follow you will see an idea which can be extended by you and used with a wide variety of readings. If your purpose be to foster some deep and creative thinking as well as ignite engagement, then this is worth trying out.