Get Your Science Students to Gobble Up Reading

girlreadAs science teachers, we all want our students to become lifelong learners. We want our curriculum to give them a better understanding of what is going on in the real world. One way I have tried to accomplish these goals is through a variety of reading techniques.  Teaching kids to read about science gives them a much needed skill they can use in the future.

But wait, this isn’t English class! How many science teachers (or math, or history, or anything other than English) have heard this from their students? Reading is not something that should be limited to one period a day. It certainly won’t be when they leave school! So here are three reading techniques that I use in my high school biology classroom to give students a better understanding of how science happens in real life. Once your students get used to them, the complaints will go away. Who knows, they might even enjoy your class more!

Technique #1 –Biology Reading Days

Preparation: I put together a list of books (both fiction and non-fiction) that have a strong tie to biology. I find a variety of topics at a range of difficulty levels. I also make sure that the books are available through our library system so that students can check them out.

Implementation: Once a week I give my students an entire class period to read their book. Students also have to complete a weekly reading slip to bring in some of the Common Core Standards. We also do group discussions towards the end of the semester. I love walking around the room and listening to my students have conversations about what they read!

Reading Recommendations: A few of our favorites from the list are “Peeps” by Scott Westerfield, “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin, “Stiff: The Curious Life of Cadavers” by Mary Roach, and “Crashing Through” by Robert Kurson.

Technique #2 – Current Event Articles

Preparation: There are tons of great news articles out there. One of my favorite sources is the New York Times science section (if you haven’t checked it out yet, GO NOW… then come back to this blog, of course). I assign articles from there at least once a week.

Implementation: I have my students turn the article in with the important information highlighted and they write a one paragraph response (what they thought about what they read- NO summaries allowed). This shows them real world examples of what we are learning about in class.

Article Recommendations:

Technique #3 -Collaborative Reading

Preparation: One thing that always bothers me is that when I give my students questions to answer, they just skim through to find the answers instead of actually reading. I also find that they have trouble listening (which I’m sure is shocking). So here’s my solution: I take an article and spilt it into two parts, going paragraph by paragraph.

Implementation: The students take turns reading and have to answer questions about the sections that their partner reads. This means they have to LISTEN! Let me be honest, they hate this at first (“why can’t I just read the whole thing myself?”). But if they’re struggling, it means they have to actually apply themselves and WORK! It’s worth the time and effort it takes to plan it out.

Hopefully these ideas are useful for your classes. What techniques do you apply to improving science literacy?

 

Mikos

 

 

 

 

Aubrey Mikos is a LifeSciTRC Community Member, Scholar, and Fellow. She teaches Biology and Anatomy and Physiology at Serena High School in Serena, IL.

 

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6 Comments
6 thoughts on “Get Your Science Students to Gobble Up Reading”

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I will definitely attempt to use these reading techniques in my classroom. Thanks!

These ideas are great! I am constantly looking for ideas to implement reading into my curriculum and this not only does that, but it also allows the students to explore current scientific issues. The last idea about alternating paragraphs definitely sounds like it is worth a shot. Thanks for the great ideas!

Aubrey,

One of the expectations in my school is that all teachers incorporate reading into their curriculum to help boost reading scores. I have been asked to focus on nonfiction pieces. Fortunately for me science is always in the news. Every Friday students bring in articles of interest to them and complete the Close Reading task for the day. After completing the task, I have students share their article with their group members. Group members vote on one article to share with the entire class. I have eight groups of students, which means only eight articles are being shared with the entire class. The class will then vote on the article they find most fascinating and I hang that article on my “Article Friday” classroom bulletin board for the week. This allows for other classes to see what is being shared among the eighth grade students.

These are 3 solid ideas to address the challenge of getting all students to read.  I love the idea of having students collaborate as mentioned in idea #3 and I can already see the resistance that my students will put up, but I really feel like my students could benefit from such interaction.

 

These are 3 solid ideas to address the challenge of getting all students to read.  I love the idea of having students collaborate as mentioned in idea #3 and I can already see the resistance that my students will put up, but I really feel like my students could benefit from such interaction.

 

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