General Science and Teaching

Practical Reading Strategies for the Science Classroom

As a middle school Literacy Coach, I am curious to hear the opinions of the science teachers from a broader platform than my suburban school. What are the practical ways you are incorporating reading strategies into your science instruction? Which strategies do you find to be invaluable for your students? Thanks for commenting. I can't wait to see what filters in. :)

Sarah Mohrhauser
Sarah Mohrhauser
50 Activity Points

Hi Sarah, What a great thread to open up for general discussion. Thank you for being so proactive :} May I start, please, by turning it back to you by asking, " What are the practical ways you are incorporating reading strategies into your science instruction? Which strategies do you find to be invaluable for your students?" and add to this the question, " What differences among schools would you expect? Or are methods equally adaptable and effective in a variety of situations?" Gosh, I really am looking forward to our 'hanging some substantive thoughts' onto this thread. I'm sure the conversations will roll with your input. Thanks so much for your reply. Patty R

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

Our middle school has focused on two building-wide initiatives. They include KWL and generative word study (school list of prefixes and root words). The Science department shares responsibility to work with these two pieces as part of their instruction. We have also been working on gathering and incorporating multiple levels of text on topics covered by the science curriculum so that all students can access learning of science concepts even though they cannot all access the textbook equally. I will be providing staff development for grades 6-12 Science and Technology teachers; and as a Literacy Coach, I have more than enough ideas for strategies to share. At this point I plan to focus on accessing prior knowledge/building background, examining text structure, questioning/predicting, setting a purpose for reading, and inquiry as methods to use in supporting student reading of the textbook. I'm hoping that the science teachers on the NSTA discussion board will share their ideas of 'what works' so that I can include real-life examples as part of our ongoing staff development in reading.

Sarah Mohrhauser
Sarah Mohrhauser
50 Activity Points

Hi! I will go through my library and find a collection of articles about Literacy. I will post them here.

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Hi: Sorry, I thought I posted it. I will try again. Adah


Literacy in the Science Classroom Collection
(43 items)

     -
Methods and Strategies: The Art and Science of Building a Classroom Library
     -Journal Article
Primary Students and Informational Texts
     -Journal Article

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Sarah, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I would first like to comment on having multiple text material so that all students may access the reading about a science concept. It has been my experience that if a teacher brainstorms ideas with students, guides them through 'active hands-on inquiry' where they wonder about something, make a prediction, do an investigation to gather data, organize this data, analyze it, refer to their initial predictions, adjust personal thinking, and examine what now, why should I care, and where do I go from here --then there need not be a large amount of textual material for them to read. The writings on science concepts under investigation should be clear, concise, and developmentally sound. It also need not be long and often may be a page of text that students may read and discuss in class; some teachers may even have students read aloud to a cooperative group or to the class or read a bit her/himself. True discussion with students followed by gather, analyze, reflect, discuss on the part of the students does not need to rely on much textual material. That being said, there continues to be an awareness of the importance of accessible language for the students, and learning science terms is often akin to learning a foreign language for students. Many teachers of MS science create lists of words for students to think about and to see on large placards around the room as they explore specific concepts. More importantly, as students learn science, they need to be given the honor of that 'wait time' as it applied to their formulation of their thoughts which they must be allowed to present in their own language. It is more important for students to express their observations with their own vocubalary before they are 'forced' to adopt an accepted science vocabulary. Conceptual development and understanding parallel a students personal belief system (in and of science and why and how things happen) and their ability to express these beliefs and then to reexamine them after inquiry. Sound pedagogy and constructivist research by cognitive scientists definitely point to the importance of the teachers ability to ferret out personal belief systems of students. Teachers must interview students in some manner and assess their thinking through their personal descriptions of why and how something happens in the physical or biological world. Preconceived ideas are tenacious and students must express them in their 'own' language or through another means of non-verbal expression. This is not concommitant with a students reading of a text book but emerges from students discussion of their beliefs about phenomena or something written and drawn in their journals. i might argue that a sound constructivist approach and true inquiry does not rely on reading a textbook. Hmmm, might science teachers move away from the text and into 'what do you think' 'what do you see' what do you measure' 'how do you explain' etc. Many science teachers are designing classrooms and crafting lessons along these lines. As to real-life examples, the students can experience science and behave as scientists. If you are looking for examples of the lives of scientists, then there are many resources available in the learning center and many collections identify great reading materials for students on the lives of scientists. Could you enlighten me a bit more on what you imply with 'real-life examples." Thanks so much, Sarah. Let's invite many others to chime in on this topic so that we see a gamut of ideas and share stories about what works well in our science classrooms. Patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I often feel as though as a science teacher you have to be a reading teacher as well. I have found great ideas in books that focus on content area reading strategies. My favorites include " How to teach reading when you're not a reading teacher" by Sharon Faber. She was an awesome presenter and her ideas are so straightforward. Another great book is "Subjects Matter: every teacher's guide to content-area reading" by Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman. I attended a professional development session where the presenter suggested article sets where you could collect articles from a wide variety of reading levels with different science concepts. This takes some leg work, but I have noticed certain topics such as poop, germs, or other gross ideas really gets students reading quite frequently which is really the trick to successful reading in any subject area :) Hope the books help out in your quest!

Misty Richmond
Misty Richmond
2410 Activity Points

Hi,
What critical discussion thread! Too often we have middle and secondary levels of students that have weak reading and note taking strategies.

For secondary science educators, a NSTA archived Web Seminar titled, "Using Stories to Teach Chemistry" is available in PDF format with an accompanying powerpoint and a downloadable resource collection. The seminar's main focus is teaching reading comprehension strategies through use of the Chem Matters magazine.

I've also attached a revised student Scientific Argumentation Review from a University of Kansas STEM course. Developing our students' critical reading and writing skills is imperative in our society. I use this periodical review with my alternative 6th-8th grade students. 6th graders must be introduced to the argumentation concept, vocabulary and explore the importance of becoming critical thinkers.

My 8th graders are empowered with their knowledge and ability to discuss and/or write about science concepts and opinions. I've also seen them carry over their reviewing skills when writing persuasive essays on our state tests.

Enjoy your week, Alyce

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

I am a six grade science teacher who has tried to incorporate differentiated reading instruction in my science classes. The biggest challenge has been finding science text and books on various reading levels that discuss the unit concepts we are studying. I have been resigned to using the grade level science textbook. I know that some of my students are not able to read and comprehend the science textbook so I allow those who can not read on grade level to listen to the science book on tape.

LeRoy Attles
LeRoy Attles
56495 Activity Points

I found a good read which included some hands-on appoach & practical stratgies on the subject you can try with your middle school students. Check out the journal Science Scope; Connecting Literacy and Science by Leonara Rochwerger, Shelly Stagg Peterson and Theresa Calovini....Here what they have say. The development of communication skills is a key component in any science program but most students don't see the connection between science and writing. Connect literacy and science by using this hands-on activity that is a fun alternative to traditional lab report writing because students can use whatever genre they think will best communicate what they learned in a science unit, such as comic strips or stories. I provided a link below on the article.


Connecting Literacy and Science Collection
(2 items)
Multigenre Lab Reports: Connecting Literacy and Science
     -Journal Article
Reading Into Science: Making It Meaningful
     -Journal Article

Manuel Vasquez
Manuel Vasquez
1950 Activity Points

I am enjoying checking out the reading strategy resources shared so far. Thank you, Everyone, and thank you for sharing those two articles, Manuel. I added them to my Science Literacy Collection. I noticed that the second article came from the Science Scope journal published on September 1, 2007. The whole magazine that month was about reading. I have attached another article from that issue that I think provides some great ideas for teaching vocabulary terms: "Science Sampler: Using Direct Instruction to Teach Content Vocabulary".
Another article I came across had a list of nonfiction books for middle school students: "Science Sampler: Reading Science". I wish the author had differentiated the books by reading ability, though.
That came from the March, 2005 issue of Science Scope which was also chock full of reading resources. Another article from that issue was, "Science Sampler: Content Reading Strategies." I thought it was a good review of what I had learned from our school's reading specialist about providing direct instruction to our students on the use of pre-reading and during reading strategies.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Hello Science Friends,
I'm the only science educator in our alternative middle school. The majority of my students not only have several emotional struggles, but are often not proficient in their basic writing and reading skills. And, we all know reading in science (as in other content areas) requires its own targeted strategies that will often differ from other core content areas. Following are a few sites that I have used to support and enhance my students in their scientific reading and writing struggles:

Reading Comprehension Strategies provides descriptions of strategies that can be used in all disciplines.

Some Approaches to Learning Science Vocabulary and Concepts shares techniques for helping middle school students master vocabulary related to abstract concepts.

Science Literacy: Get Real! describes how to introduce vocabulary through real-world events.

Make Science Reading Fun and Meaningful in Middle School! discusses how reciprocal teaching can help students remember what they have read, make connections, and draw conclusions.

Literacy Support Strategies & Ohio Resource Center Science Lessons shows how various reading strategies can be used to help students read informational text.

Also, remember you are not alone in your frustrations of supporting students who struggle in their reading and comprehension of science curriculum. Your passionate efforts are making a difference! Alyce

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

Alyce, thank you for a link to the Ohio Resource Center. I had not been aware of that site. I just spent a few minutes on it and picked up lots of great ideas. It even led me to another site: Colorin Colorado - Helping children read...and succeed!. The adolescent literacy and early literacy links were excellent. This site has many resources for ELL teachers, too, and the site can be accessed in English and Spanish.
Sarah asked at the beginning of the thread, "What are the practical ways you are incorporating reading strategies into your science instruction? Which strategies do you find to be invaluable for your students?" Sarah, I especially found great weblinks to Graphic Organizers resources (I use different organizers to help students with vocabulary development, take notes on content material, utilize higher level thinking skills, etc.).
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Carolyn,
I'm so glad you chose to highlight and further explore the Ohio Resource Center and their wonderful support materials for classroom teachers. I live in Colorado and have been subscribing to the weekly newsletter that ORC sends to classroom teachers! The engaging, inquiry based activities are drawn from 100's of sites and lessons are easily matched to national standards.

Does anyone know of other state education department sites that are as well crafted as Ohio's?
Alyce

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

Reading Literacy In Science:
My first year teaching struggling students I realized it was my responsibility to teach science and reading literacy. I felt overwhelmed when I began to realize my lessons needed to be...differentiated, hands-on, inquiry based, standards based, and incorporate reading literacy. This is not a short bill to fill. Then one day, I came across Everyday Science Mysteries. This series of books contains short (1-2 pages), student friendly narratives on science topics. I use them to set the stage for inquiry lessons.

For example, in a lesson about heat transfer, I sent several students home the day before with a copy of "How Cold is Cold", with assigned roles for a readers theater. This was a differentiation strategy to give the students time to read the story they knew they would be reading to classmates. The next day, we read the story as a readers theater (twice). As we were reading I asked students to write down (on sticky notes) the questions the narrative was presenting. Next we discussed the questions as a class. Then the students were shown a selection of materials, and asked how they could design an experiment to solve the mystery.
I really do encourage everyone to take a look at this series of books. In my opinion, they were the perfect solution to combining reading and science.
Thank You,
Angie

Angie Fairweather
Angelika Fairweather
12160 Activity Points

Great question. I've been involved in integrating reading skills into content areas for several years. I'll give you some of my favorite strategies. ABC reading- Use this before students read a section. Have the students letter from A to Z down the side of a paper. Students then skim through a section trying to find words dealing with the topic of the section that begin with as many different letters of the alphabet as possible. Having more than one word for a letter is fine. Of course, words like "the", "and", "however", etc., do not count. I letter A to Z on my active board. After about 10 minutes, I have students come up and write one of their words after the letter. They then have to tell me what that word has to do with the topic. Since this is usually new material, I let them bring their book with them to help. We hopefully go through the entire class. Students may erase a word to replace it with one of their own (the same word cannot be put back up there). Sometimes we're able to go through students more than once. At the end of class, anyone who still has a word up gets one pt. extra credit for each word they have left. Graffiti- Students do this one cold to activate prior knowledge. Give the students a general topic (astronomy). Students come up one at a time and write 1-3 words they know that applies to the topic. After all students have gone, we group the words into categories. This can also be used after having students read a section in their text to test comprehension. Reverse crossword puzzle- Fill out a crossword puzzle with the words. Students are to write the clues for words. The key is to limit the number of words allowed in the clues. Early in the year, I limit clues to 6 words or less. As the year goes on, I drop the number of words allowed in the clues. I usually stop at 4 words. Teaching 6th and 7th graders, they sometimes have trouble summarizing definitions. Most of them can usually handle 4 word clues.

Tom Heckman
Tom Heckman
5495 Activity Points

Reading is a huge issue even at the College level. At Dartmouth's Student Success Website you can find a link to "How to Read Your Texbooks" [url=http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/index.html]How to Read Your Textbook Word problems in math pose such a problem because many student simply can not figure out what is being asked. Thanks so much for all then great ideas! Pam

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68535 Activity Points

Oh gosh the link did not take Try this http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/index.html

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68535 Activity Points

Here are a few more ideas Literacy in Science Resources Barton, Mary Lee, and Jordan, Deborah L. (2001). Teaching Reading in Science. Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, Aurora, CO. Science teachers often feel unprepared or too pressured for time to teach skills typically associated with reading classrooms. However, in order for students to fully comprehend science texts and other written materials dealing with science content, students need some specific strategies for engaging and constructing meaning from those materials. This 'teacher's guide' provides a wealth of strategies to improve reading, writing, and communicating within the natural context of the science classroom. Cwiklinski, Ann, Czapla, Beth, and Stern, Luli (1996). Books to help teachers achieve science literacy. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EDO-SE-9) Project 2061, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) K-12 education reform effort, has created a database of 120 nonfiction science books, essays, philosophical works, and fiction books which are likely to enrich the reader's understanding of important ideas in science, mathematics, and technology. The books in the database meet 3 criteria: (1) match content in the Benchmarks, (2) come highly rated from a reliable source, and (3) be of interest to a general audience. Most have been published within the last 15 years. Dickinson, Valarie L, and Young, Terrell A. (1998). Elementary science and language arts: should we blur the boundaries? School Science and Mathematics, 98(6), 334-340. Many elementary teachers feel unprepared to teach science, and thus often put off teaching science because they feel that developing reading and writing is more important. These teachers often do not see the connection between developing literacy through science. Helping teachers see, understand, and implement instructional practices which rely on the teachers' strengths in language arts instruction to improve their teaching of science content could be a solution to the lack of confidence in science instruction. The authors discuss thematic interdisciplinary instruction as a remedy, while highlighting some key considerations for maintaining the integrity of each discipline. DiGisi, Lori Lyman (1998). Summary of CUSER Institute on Science and Literacy: November 12-14, 1998. Center for Urban Science Education Reform (CUSER), New York City, New York. This report is a synthesis of the Center for Urban Science Education Reform (CUSER) Institute on Science and Literacy. Beginning with the assumption that literacy supports science and science fosters literacy through interest, the institute provided a forum to present current research and an impetus for instructional reform. National experts on reading, writing, and language in science were convened to explore the connections between literacy and science in the classroom. Several recommendations were concluded based on discussions among participants. These included specific strategies to foster skilled science communicators, suggestions for assessing student learning and using that information to drive classroom practice, creating time for collaboration among literacy specialists and science teachers to plan and assess student work, and strategic ideas for the leadership of science and literacy programs. Donahue, David M. (2000). Experimenting with texts: new science teachers' experience and practice as readers and teachers of reading. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 43(8), 728-736. Reading should be viewed as a "social activity of constructing meaning from prior knowledge, current experience, and information from a variety of texts," suggests the author, who teaches a course on reading in the content areas. Focusing on one's own reading in science may help them better understand how students' reading influences their understandings and assumptions about science. 10 preservice teachers were involved in a study that examined their own beliefs about science and literacy by having them read outside of their required course texts for 3 hours per week. The only requirement was that it be connected to their subject matter, thus it could consist of popular books, journals, essays, etc. The teachers had to write about their reading each week and respond to someone else's journal (within the same content area as their own) every other week. The author examined the journals and drew conclusions as to the preservice teachers' beliefs about reading and writing in their content areas, particularly science. Results, conclusions, and implications of the findings are presented. Ebbers, Margaretha (2002). Science text sets: using various genres to promote

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68535 Activity Points

I've tried to use realistic fiction books in science class before with very limited success. This year, we are all reading Who Really Killed Cock Robin? by Jean Craighead George. This is an eco-mystery linking point and non-point pollution to the ecosystem of the small town in the book.
Some strategies we're using are:


    Making a calendar of the action of the story (the whole book takes place over the course of about 6 weeks)
    Using the provided map in the beginning of the book and adapting it to separate out the natural structures of the town (hills, river, etc.), the human-created structures, the wind patterns, and the water flow underground
    The kids must use evidence from the text to support any claim they make
    Using in-class investigations and observations of similar phenomenon in the classroom aquarium and terrarium
    I'd also like to make character maps, vocabulary building, and other standard reading comprehension strategies.


So far, so good. The kids at least like the story.
JC George has several other nature-centered fiction books for middle school-aged kids:


    WaterSky
    Shark Beneath the Reef
    My Side of the Mountain
    The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo
    The Case of the Missing Cutthroats
    Julie of the Wolves
    The Talking Earth

plus a LOT of nonfiction books, some of which are unfortunately out of print.
She's awesome.

Ann Allison Cooke
Allison Cooke
6380 Activity Points

Hi Sarah and thread participants!
For this reading strategies discussion,I discovered another excellent Learning Center journal article that hasn't been mentioned yet. I wrote a review for it, and I thought it might be of interest to others. The article focuses on using a vocabulary activity to improve students' abilities to read text information:
The Science Teacher article: Teaching Expository Text Structures
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

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