Helping students better navigate scientific text by modeling reading strategies and connecting scientific concepts to real-life experiences.

by Katie Anderson

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Introduction

I think it’s essential that teachers provide students strategies for reading informational text in a science and social studies classroom.

It’s important because our students come to us with varying levels of reading ability. When I ask all of them to work with the same text, I’m asking too much. In fact, most students, when assigned a scientific reading, neglected to read it at all. They simply didn’t know how.

My first response was to emphasize learning by doing – scientific investigation and experiments. But I stopped having them do a lot of reading. This was doing them a disservice because they would need to have the skills of reading and analyzing informational text as they progressed though school, into college, and in the work world.

In my classroom, I use a process to help students develop the capacity to read informational text that they can apply anywhere. You would see:

-Students with scientific notebooks out in front of them;

-The teacher modeling how to read and analyze the text so that students can see what they are expected to do;

-Students carrying out that strategy and documenting it in their notebooks;

-The teacher taking some students aside to give them additional support; and

-Students applying what they’ve learned by summarizing or writing a concluding paragraph.

I’m giving my students a toolkit that they can take with them to college and the workplace. This helps them read text with purpose and with a disciplined approach that can be replicated across subject areas and throughout their educational careers.

Reflections

What I did well…

This lesson allowed me to successfully model an instructional strategy that could potentially support students as they work to navigate and comprehend informational text.  In the instructional sequence, the participant’s role play being 7th-grade science students and participate in an activity, dissecting a dry lima bean seed to set a purpose for their reading.  Together the participants and I develop a guiding question to support our reading: How does a seed become a plant?  This process of setting a purpose helps to create “Mental Velcro” for students, in a sense, because it gives the students something to “stick” their new learning from the reading to, in their brain.  In the next essential step, I successfully model a reading strategy, text-annotation, which will support the participants as they read the informational text resource which describes how a seed becomes a plant.  And then students practice that strategy independently or with a partner and can answer their guiding question.  Finally, to reinforce the “Mental Velcro” created in the opening activity, students have the opportunity to dissect a partially germinated seed and synthesize what they read with their observations of how a seed begins the germination process, coming full circle, by connecting what they read to an authentic science activity.  

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

In part three of the video series, I ask the participants to reflect upon how they could utilize this three-step process for teaching informational text in their classrooms.  This conversation did not get as in-depth as I would have liked.  There are many reading strategies that students can and should use to support their reading of informational text, and we were only able to talk about one.  Given more time, it would have been useful to discuss other informational reading strategies such as: using text features, determining importance, inferring the meaning of unknown words, etc.  It would have also been useful for the participants to brainstorm a particular informational topic that they teach, and come up with an authentic activity they could facilitate that would create “Mental Velcro” for their students, along with what informational reading strategy might be best for that topic.  

I still want to grow in this practice by…

I want to continue to grow in this practice by developing a deeper understanding of how teachers might apply the three-step process to other content areas besides science.  I also want to work to develop my practice in differentiating instruction for students, especially for students that find reading challenging.  Using guided groups during reading time and finding texts at various reading levels could add the effectiveness of this type of instruction as a means of differentiation.

About Katie Anderson

Currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Reading and Literacy Leadership through Walden University, Katie Anderson is an Instructor of both Reading and Langu...

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