January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Reading and Science Processes in One

Posted: Monday, April 1st, 2013

by Lisa Hegdahl

If you are like me, you are being asked to begin implementing the Common Core Standards in my science classroom.  With the help of district trainings, and a curriculum coach to observe delivery of my literacy instruction, I have managed to do so.  Although the lessons have been reasonably successful, I realized I tended to move quickly back to science processes where students are doing science – asking questions, making predictions, and testing hypothesizes.  This past week, though, I had the opportunity to visit a literacy lesson taught by the 8th grade science team at Rancho Medanos Junior High in Pittsburgh, California.  I ended the day knowing it’s possible to combine science processes with reading literacy in a way I had not considered before. 

As students entered the classroom, there was a three-paragraph reading assignment on their desks.  Instructions at the front of the room asked the students to read the selection and circle words they had any questions about – for example, unfamiliar words, words they could not pronounce, etc.  When the bell rang to start class, the teacher used the first paragraph of the reading to explain elastic forces, and then students used manipulatives that were in baskets at their desks to pick out objects that demonstrated the concept of elastic forces.  This was the first literacy lesson I have seen where reading was used in conjunction with science lab materials.  As the lesson progressed, the students read the selected science paragraphs with the teacher, working through both unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts. The desktop materials gave students a chance to experience the science they were reading about, predict what might come next, and show the teacher immediately if they could apply what they were reading in a tangible way.

A brief opportunity to speak with the instructors afterwards revealed how they choose the readings very purposefully.  Carefully selected diagrams within the reading also give students occasion to apply the new concepts to alternate situations.  I am eager to incorporate more lab-type aspects into my literacy lessons and to, with practice, build upon the best of both strategies.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

One Response

  1. Great article Lisa! This is something everyone is trying to figure out. It is important that we push back against the idea that working on literacy replaces doing science, but understand that literacy is part of doing science. Scientists need to read to find out what other scientists have already learned and how they learned it.

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