Along with this month’s Science Teacher, the articles in this issue focus on reading and writing in science. Science teachers are the best ones to guide students in these literacy processes, given the content and structure of science text and science writing. The theme that seems to run through this issue is the importance of guidance and modeling.
Reading science text (whether a book or online) can be difficult for students, with advanced vocabulary and a style different from stories and novels. If your students have difficulty comprehending science text, Shake It Up With Reading has suggestions for reading strategies such as questioning the text. The Science Text for All: Using Textmasters to Help All Students Access Written Science Content shows how cooperative “literature circles” (often used in language arts or reading classes) can be adapted for science reading. Both articles have examples of rubrics and guides for students. [SciLinks: Earthquakes]
Science text also includes graphics and visuals. Teaching with Visuals in the Science Classroom differentiates between decorative visuals and those that convey information. The author lists seven suggestions for helping students process this information. Vocabulary is another challenge in reading science text. Jump-Start Your Middle School Students’ Background Knowledge and Vocabulary Skills introduces us to “jump pages,” online collections of resources on a topic created by teachers (or students). Each “card” focuses on a topic with links to videos, PowerPoint presentations, web pages, or word documents and assessments related to the topic. The authors provide directions and rubrics. [SciLinks: Current Electricity, Magnetism] The online tools Museum Box or Glogster could be used in this way, although Internet access and logins are necessary for these.
Sometimes we expect middle schoolers to know more than they actually do. They need guidance and modeling in writing, too, as described in Getting Past “Just Because.” The article describes how the authors implemented a CER (claim-evidence-reasoning) process to help students write informative text. NOT Another Lab Report has suggestions for guiding students in documenting their investigations. And as the author of Using “Brags and Whines” as a Creative Writing Technique notes, science writing can tap into student creativity. These articles have rubrics to show how writing can be assessed (with a focus on understanding, reasoning, and evidence rather than spelling and mechanics).
Do you keep a journal–a diary, lifelist, field notes, or scrapbook? Nature Journaling shows how students can get hooked on writing while fine-tuning skills such as observing and noting details. Even the schoolyard can be a place for nature journaling, and the authors provide examples of student work. And students might enjoy seeing your journal, too.
Are you planning a field trip for this year? Transforming a Field Trip into an Expedition can help you and your students go beyond the traditional scavenger hunt. The author describes activities before, during, and after the trip that turns a “day off” into an investigation, including a student question guide and rubric.
Nuclear Energy has a description of this source of energy, including a timeline and a discussion of pros and cons of these power plants. The article is just in time for National Nuclear Science Week, January 24–28. NSTA is hosting a special live web seminar from the Illinois Institute of Technology on January 25 with scientists and national experts from the medical, energy, and research fields who will lead the discussion. For more information and to register, click here. [SciLinks: Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Reactors]
Check out the Connections for this issue (January 2012). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, this resource has ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, etc.