Reading in Science

As we all know, reading in science requires its own targeted strategies that differ from those needed in the other subject areas. Try these resources to enhance your students’ skills and comprehension:

Reading Comprehension Strategies provides descriptions of strategies that can be used in all disciplines.

Some Approaches to Learning Science Vocabulary and Concepts shares techniques for helping middle school students master vocabulary related to abstract concepts.

Science Literacy: Get Real! describes how to introduce vocabulary through real-world events.

Make Science Reading Fun and Meaningful in Middle School! discusses how reciprocal teaching can help students remember what they have read, make connections, and draw conclusions.

Literacy Support Strategies & Ohio Resource Center Science Lessons shows how various reading strategies can be used to help students read informational text.

Upcoming Free MSP2 Webinars

We have some excellent webinars scheduled in the month of October – presented by MSP2 teacher leaders and staff. Please share these opportunities with your colleagues. All presentations will be recorded and available on the MSP2 Webinar Archive page. Hope to “see you” online!

Beaks and Biomes: Integrating Science and Literacy
Thursday, October 14, 2010 from 4-5pm EST
For more information: http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/BeyondPenguins/Seminars

The series is sponsored by Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears, an NSF-funded project that provides professional development and instructional resources to elementary teachers (but lots of middle school teachers use them too).

This life science unit uses scientific inquiry, literacy instruction, and a multigenre text set to examine adaptations, migration, and ecosystems. Leave with a unit framework you can directly incorporate into your classroom! Note: This session builds on concepts presented in our first two seminars: Informational Text and Multigenre Text Sets and Inquiry, Literacy, and the Learning Cycle. You’ll get the most out of the session if you’ve participated in the previous seminars, or view the archives at http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/BeyondPenguins/Seminars.

MSP2 Book Club: Discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 from 7-8pm EST
For more information: http://www.msteacher2.org/events/msp2-book-club-discuss-the

How did cells taken from a poor black woman in 1951 come to unlock some of the biggest advances in science? Hope you’ll join me in reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. For a really good overview go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jun/23/henrietta-lacks-cells-medical-advances.

21st Century Skills and…
Thursday, October 21, 2010 from 7-8pm EST
For more information: http://www.msteacher2.org/events/21st-century-skills-and

The U.S. is in critical need for a qualified workforce equipped with skills beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. The U.S. future workforce needs employees with critical thinking and problem solving, communications, collaboration and creative and innovation skills. We as educators will need to tweak what we already are doing in order to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities that await them in the 21st Century. Learn how you can incorporate these skills in to your instruction to meet the needs of the 21st century employer.

Virtual Field Trips
Thursday, October 28, 2010 from 8-9pm EST
For more information: http://www.msteacher2.org/events/virtual-field-trips

The world becomes a smaller place if you can expand your classroom beyond its walls and location. Purposefully used, virtual field trips can enhance learning and support content mastery.

This webinar provides a framework to expand teaching strategies by incorporating digital technology to explore the world, inquire about big ideas, and create authentic experiences. See examples of virtual field trips around STEM concepts. In addition, learn about tools used to create your own virtual journeys and how to access resources for established field trips.

Teaching With Trade Books – Math

As a middle school mathematics teacher, you probably feel like you don’t have enough time to teach all of your content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would you ever want to add more material in the form of trade books when you can’t seem to finish your assigned textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate children’s literature in your classroom can led to rich results.

One of the most immediate benefits of using trade books is increasing student engagement. High quality trade books are written as to spark interest and create a desire to read. Many contain colorful, interesting illustrations, photographs, and diagrams, all of which draw students into the text and improve comprehension. Contrast this with the reaction that many students have toward the textbook: either a lack of interest or an assumption that the assigned reading will be too difficult.

Incorporating children’s literature also allows you to differentiate instruction and support English Language Learners and struggling readers in a way that textbooks cannot. If you visit the children’s section of your school or local library, you’ll discover a wealth of books for students on every reading level and topic. Using trade books which better match students’ abilities can help them build content knowledge and interact more successfully with the required text.

Of course, successful integration of children’s literature into your middle school mathematics class requires planning and forethought. Here are some tips for using trade books in your classroom. The following resources will guide you in finding exemplary trade books and lessons.

Mathematics and Children’s Literature
In three lessons from NCTM Illuminations, students participate in activities in which they focus on connections between mathematics and children’s literature. Three pieces of literature are used to teach geometry and measurement topics in the mathematics curriculum, from using and describing geometric figures to estimating volume of figures.

Lesson 1: Shapes and Poetry – Students read the poem “Shapes” from A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein, and create their own illustration of the poem. In this lesson, students explore geometric figures and positional words.

Lesson 2: Estimating Volume by Counting on Frank – In this lesson, students read the book Counting on Frank. They use information in the book to make estimates involving volume. In particular, students explore the size of humpback whales.

Lesson 3: How Big Is a Foot? – In this lesson, students read the book How Big Is a Foot?, by Rolf Myller. They then create non-standard units (using their own footprints) and use them to make “beds.” As a result, students explore the need for a standard unit of measure.

One Grain of Rice
In this lesson, also from NCTM Illuminations, students take on the role of a villager in a third-world country trying to feed her village. While listening to the teacher read aloud the book One Grain of Rice by Demi, students work collaboratively to come up with a bargaining plan to trick the raja into feeding the village using algebra, exponential growth, and estimation.

Ohio Resource Center (ORC) Mathematics Bookshelf
The Mathematics Bookshelf features outstanding trade books that support mathematics instruction in K–12 classrooms. Mathematics Review Board members have selected books that will appeal to students and enrich the teaching and learning of mathematics. Each book review includes:

— a brief summary of the story
— the main mathematical ideas
— suggestions for how to use the book
— the value of the book in standards-based instruction
— standards alignment
— a list of related ORC resources

Math and Nonfiction, Grades 6–8
This print book helps teachers build on their students’ natural passion for knowledge as they engage in real-world mathematical problem solving. The lessons in this book use nonfiction as a springboard to explore mathematical concepts key to the middle school curriculum.

Read any Good Math Lately?
This print book by David Whitin and Sandra Wilde acquaints readers with some of the best children’s literature containing a mathematical subtext, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, books of games and puzzles, books that reflect different cultures. The titles are diverse, but they all address a range of mathematical topics: place value, estimation, large numbers, geometry, measurement, fractions, classification, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

It’s the Story that Counts
This print book, also by David Whitin and Sandra Wilde, explains ways books have been used to explore mathematical concepts, the importance of children’s spontaneous reactions, and the role of mathematical conversation. It also focuses on the books themselves, exploring multicultural themes and images in books, books on the number system, statistics, and probability.

Math and Literature, Grades 6-8
This print book by Jennifer M. Bay-Williams and Sherri L. Martinie brings the joy of children’s literature to the middle-school math classroom. It contains lessons and ideas based on 30 children’s literature titles. Children explore mathematical concepts based on lessons derived from titles such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Holes.

Search for Literature
The California Department of Education has created this online literature search for science and mathematics with over 1,400 titles in the search database. The search includes the typical categories found in a search for literature at a library, such as author, title, and keyword. It also contains a customized search for selecting up to three categories that relate more specifically to education. Those categories include grade level, language, genre, classifications (types of books), curriculum connections, awards (by author or illustrator), science subject area, mathmatics subject area, science standards connections, and math standards connections (California state standards). Teachers will find useful a recommended list of literature for science and mathematics.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/08/2011.

Teaching With Trade Books – Science

As a middle school science teacher, you probably feel like you don’t have enough time to teach all of your content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would you ever want to add more material in the form of trade books when you can’t seem to finish your assigned textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate children’s literature in your classroom can led to rich results.

One of the most immediate benefits of using trade books is increasing student engagement. High quality trade books are written as to spark interest and create a desire to read. Many contain colorful, interesting illustrations, photographs, and diagrams, all of which draw students into the text and improve comprehension. Contrast this with the reaction that many students have toward the textbook: either a lack of interest or an assumption that the assigned reading will be too difficult.

Incorporating children’s literature also allows you to differentiate instruction and support English Language Learners and struggling readers in a way that textbooks cannot. If you visit the children’s section of your school or local library, you’ll discover a wealth of books for students on every reading level and topic. Using trade books which better match students’ abilities can help them build content knowledge and interact more successfully with the required text.

Of course, successful integration of children’s literature into your middle school science class requires planning and forethought. Here are some tips for using trade books in your classroom. The following resources will guide you in finding exemplary trade books and lessons.

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
The books that appear in these lists were selected as outstanding children’s science trade books. They were selected by a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council (CBC). NSTA and CBC have cooperated on this bibliographic project since 1973.

Libros de Ciencias en Espanol (2006)
If you have Spanish-speaking students in your science class, you will likely be interested in learning about the recent releases of Spanish trade books for children. From delightful board books and counting books for the very young to comprehensible series on contemporary scientific topics and lively introductions to Earth science, these books published in Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, and the United States, will draw Spanish speakers into the world of science.


Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Integrating Literacy in K-5 Classrooms Virtual Bookshelf
Even though most of these books are for elementary students, many can be used up into the middle school classroom.

Ohio Resource Center (ORC) Science Bookshelf
The Science Bookshelf features outstanding trade books that support science instruction in K–5 classrooms – although many of the books and commentary are perfectly usuable at the middle level (i.e. Scientists and Their Work and First to Fly). Science Review Board members have selected books that will appeal to students and enrich the teaching and learning of science. Each book review includes:

— a brief summary of the story
— the main mathematical ideas
— suggestions for how to use the book
— the value of the book in standards-based instruction
— standards alignment
— a list of related ORC resources

Search for Literature
The California Department of Education has created this online literature search for science and mathematics with over 1,400 titles in the search database. The search includes the typical categories found in a search for literature at a library, such as author, title, and keyword. It also contains a customized search for selecting up to three categories that relate more specifically to education. Those categories include grade level, language, genre, classifications (types of books), curriculum connections, awards (by author or illustrator), science subject area, mathmatics subject area, science standards connections, and math standards connections (California state standards). Teachers will find useful a recommended list of literature for science and mathematics.

Algebra: Teaching Concepts

When we teach algebra, most teachers find that getting across the manipulation of expressions is far easier than teaching the big ideas that underlie algebra. Lately I’ve run across sites that help middle school students grasp those concepts. I’d like to share them with you in this post and ask for your ideas in return.

First, two excellent ideas on helping students walk the bridge from arithmetic to algebra:

Building Bridges In this lesson, students move from arithmetical to algebraic thinking by exploring problems that are not limited to single-solution responses. These are common, not complex, problems that are developed through questioning to a higher level. Within real-world contexts, students organize values into tables and graphs, then note the patterns, and finally express them symbolically.

Difference of Squares uses a series of related arithmetic experiences to prompt students to generalize into more abstract ideas. In particular, students explore arithmetic statements leading to a result that is the factoring pattern for the difference of two squares. Very well done.

Equivalence is one of those underlying concepts that make algebraic reasoning possible. Everything Balances Out in the End offers a unit in which students use online pan balances to study key aspects of equivalence. The three lessons focus on balancing shapes to study equality, then balancing algebraic statements in order to explore simplifying expressions, order of operations, and determining if algebraic expressions are equal.

The next lesson, Equations of Attack, is a game but developed to uncover the algebra beneath the strategies. The two players each plot points on a coordinate grid to represent their ships and points along the y-axis to represent cannons. Slopes are chosen randomly (from a deck of prepared cards) to determine the line and its equation of attack. Students use their algebraic skills to sink their opponent’s ships and win the game. Afterwards, the algebraic approach to the game is investigated.

Walk the Plank is also a game. You need to place one end of a wooden board on a bathroom scale and the other end on a textbook. Students can “walk the plank” and record the weight measurement as their distance from the scale changes. This investigation leads to a real world occurrence of negative slope.

A final teaching idea develops students’ understanding of algebraic symbols: Extending to Symbols.  As students begin to use symbolic representations, they use variables as unknowns. To help their concept of symbolic representation to grow, they need to explore questions such as: What is an identity? and When are two symbolic representations equal? This activity engages students in work with an online algebraic balance.

Each of these lessons comes from NCTM’s Illuminations site, a rich source for K-12 teaching.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/08/2011.