Archive for the ‘Scientific Literacy’ Category

Scavenger Hunt Activity

The following is a lesson I wrote using a literacy scavenger hunt to help students review and learn more about the respiratory system. There is a lesson plan, accompanying worksheet, and a reference page so you can try and find the books we found most useful.

While this lesson focuses on the respiratory system (for 7th grade), the activity itself can be altered to be more appropriate for any age level or content area.


My Favorite Literacy Strategies

Since my grad program has a focus on content area literacy, I thought I’d share some of my favorite strategies. While some strategies might seem like too much work and not worth the time, each is designed to help students improve their reading and writing skills – not that you are teaching them to read or write better, necessarily, but you are teaching students how to learn content more comprehensively through reading and writing.

Every strategy requires 4 steps of explicit instruction to ensure students truly understand how to use the strategy and are getting the most out of it:

To start, PreP is a strategy to activate students prior knowledge. I’ve only included a short outline, but there are tons of articles online about each of these strategies.

EmPOWER is a strategy to teach formal writing. The best part is that you don’t have to teach the whole strategy, just the parts you need most. As a former writing tutor, I like the concise steps involved in this strategy that create good habits in writing:

Teach better reading comprehension using ConStruct:

The beauty of each of the above strategies is that they are most effective when coupled with graphic organizers. I love graphic organizers. Especially Semantic Organizers, also known as Concept Maps. I like to make a map for each unit so I can clearly see which concepts, vocab, and equations are important to cover.

An example of the concept map for a unit on Heat in Physics:

Another literacy strategy, clearly incorporating graphic organizers, is the KWL chart. Students fill one column with what they know about a topic, the next column with what they want to know about that topic. and the third with what they have learned about the topic at the end of the unit. I did an example about fruit:

Lastly, LGL is a great way to help students synthesize reading text and, eventually, to learn to write their ideas without using the original author’s wording. Here’s an example using snowboarding:

The “list” is a grouping of words from a pre-chosen text the entire class has read. The students then group words into different classifications. Lastly, students label each group. This chart is useful because it shows the students that the basic themes of the reading on snowboarding to be the conditions, events, and history related to the sport. Finally, you can then assign a writing prompt for students to describe the conditions, events, and history related to snowboarding – since the students will no longer have the text in front of them, there is no temptation for plagiarism.

As mentioned before, each of these strategies should have a graphic organizer (of your choosing). There are articles on graphic organizers littered around the web, but there is no need to do anything formal or fancy. A simple graphic organizer will be easier for a student to implement and be more effective in the end.

One last note, science teachers are often resistant to using literacy strategies in their class. The important thing to remember is that teaching content literacy is different than teaching reading and writing. Content literacy is improving students reading and writing skills in order to teach a deeper level of content understanding. Just try one thing at a time!

Tiger Woods Reads Physics?

Despite the unfortunate nature of Tiger Woods’ return to top fold news this week, it has encouraged the sale of the book Get A Grip on Physics by John Gribbin.

This book is definitely going to the top of my wishlist!

Literacy Movement

I’ve been taking a class on literacy in the context of science class and this EdWeek article was recommended:

An Ala. High School Makes Literacy a Schoolwide Job

Classroom Current Events Day

I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate current events into a science classroom. Recently, Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers wrote a great post about using the Friday period to discuss current events from any aspect of science.

If you’re interested in this, read the post Science News in the Classroom. Feel free to suggest any other ways you use current events stories in your classroom.

NOVA scienceNOW

While I was watching last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, I was pleased to see that Steven Colbert’s guest was Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an Astrophysicist associated with the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Dr. Tyson hosts the PBS show NOVA scienceNOW. He described the show as an opportunity to share all parts of science with the public in a way that is easy to understand and interesting. The show’s website has episodes and information listed by scientific category: Health & Biosciences; Natural & Human Worlds; Physics & Space Science; Scientist Profiles; and Technology & Math.

I clicked on the link to Physics and found a great page all about CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Websites like this are so important in expanding science literacy. Even now as I am reading Dan Brown’s book Angel & Demons, I am frustrated that his depiction of physics and of CERN are inaccurate, fully knowing most readers won’t do any research to find what information is correct and what is not. I hope that programs such as NOVA scienceNOW will aid in correcting myths about science.

For more information on Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, visit his official website.

Book Review: The Scientists

I was browsing through a book store the other day when I found The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbon. I haven’t read the book, but it looks like a fabulous resource for teachers who want to know more about the scientists involved in the growth and development of science. I am really interested in using it to teach a science class chronologically – teaching content based on when it was discovered, rather than in the traditional format. The book would also be a great resource for students if they are doing projects or writing on individual scientists.

Publishers Weekly says, “As expansive (and as massive) as a textbook, this remarkably readable popular history explores the development of modern science through the individual stories of philosophers and scientists both renowned and overlooked. Prolific popular science writer Gribbin wants to use the lives of these thinkers to show how they “reflect the society in which they lived, and… the way the work of one specific scientist followed from that of another.” While he makes this case well, the real joy in the book can be found in the way Gribbin (who has made complex science understandable in such books as In Search of Schr”dinger’s Cat) revels not just in the development of science but also in the human details of his subjects’ lives. He writes, “Science is made from people, not people by science,” and the book weaves together countless stories of the people who made science, from the arrogance and political maneuverings of Tycho Brahe in the 16th century to Benjamin Thompson’s exploits during the American Revolution as a spy for the British and his later life as Count Rumford of Bavaria (in the realm of science, he studied convection and helped discredit the caloric theory of heat). Though the names and discoveries become more and more prolific as the book reaches the 19th century, Gribbin does an admirable job of organizing his narrative around coherent topics (e.g., “The Darwinian Revolution,” “Atoms and Molecules,” “The Realm of Life”), leaving the reader exhausted by the journey, but in awe of the personalities and the sheer scope of 500 years’ worth of scientific discovery.”

Gribbin has authored other notable books including In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality. I’m excited to start to build a library of his work in the near future!