With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy, incorporating the standards into the science classroom is increasingly important. Many of the standards related to science literacy may be things that you do with your students already. For example, if your students perform laboratory experiments, it’s likely that they already follow procedures to carry out an experiment and take measurements, part of the Common Core State Standards for ELA & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Other standards involve the reading of technical or scientific texts, comprehending, and making connections between these texts, which can be textbooks, journal articles, news articles, nonfiction or fiction passages, and books. Whatever reading you choose to assign your students, the following are strategies to help students as they navigate through difficult text.
Strategies to navigate difficult text
- Guided reading
Before students begin reading the entire text, have them read the title of the chapter and predict what the chapter will be about and what topics or information might be covered. You may want to have students brainstorm, as a class or individually, what they already know about the topic and what they would like to learn about the topic; have them record their prior knowledge and what they want to learn. Then have students examine the images, including graphs and tables, associated with the text and discuss what they might show. Encourage your students to think about what the images might represent or what information graphs and tables might supply. After students have considered the images, have them read the captions and further refine their ideas regarding what the chapter might discuss. This may be a good time to have students add information to their recorded prior knowledge or write down additional questions about the text.
After students have gone through the text, have them return to their recorded prior knowledge and determine if they listed things that are not accurate. Challenge your students to refine some of the ideas and examine the questions they had at the beginning. Are there any questions that they can now answer? Questions they originally had but were not covered by the text may make for interesting independent study or extensions to your lesson. Finally, have students make a list of the new information they learned from the text.
- Sentence summaries
As students read the text, it may be helpful for them to summarize each paragraph in a single sentence. This approach encourages students to look for the main idea of the passage rather than additional information and supporting details. The summary sentences can be used as an outline for further interactions with the text.
- Explaining illustrations and diagrams
Have students write short passages in which they explain, in their own words, diagrams and pictures from the text. This allows students to consider the presented information in a different manner and may help your students who are more visual learners. You may also want to challenge students to create other visuals and diagrams, such as cartoons or collages, to support the text information.
- Annotating the text
Have students make notations in the text as they read. If they are unable to write in the text they are reading, have them use sticky notes or flags that can be removed at the end of a lesson or school year. While they are reading the text, students should circle or underline unfamiliar terms; have them look up the terms to form their own glossary. Students can also note questions they have or indicate unclear passages as they read the text. Additionally, you may wish to have them note (underline, highlight, or restate) the main idea of each passage.
- Paragraph summaries
If you assign shorter texts, such as articles, you may want to have students summarize the article in a single paragraph. Have them describe the important points of the text, without the details. Students can then write an additional paragraph to connect the text to what you are currently studying in class or to address their thoughts, opinions, or questions that arose while reading.
- Graphic organizers
Have students create a graphic organizer (e.g., Venn diagram, concept map, flow chart, or timeline) that summarizes concepts or shows the relationship between the main points of the text. With this strategy, students are able to organize ideas or events into a visual representation of the information.
Whether you choose to incorporate readings from textbooks, journal articles, news articles, or fiction or nonfiction books, deciphering the text’s meaning can be challenging for students. These strategies should help them—and you—get the most from the reading assignments and stay on target with the Common Core State Standards.