March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Supporting Common Core ELA Standards in the High School Science Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

Hello CSTA Members, my name is Jeff Orlinsky and I am the CSTA High School Director. I am a biology teacher and have been teaching at the same school for the last 27 years. During that time, I have watched a lot of “educational reforms,” and the roll out of the Common Core Standards is just the next chapter in my career. My science department is just beginning to feel the impact of the Common Core language arts standards in the science classroom. This academic school year, the science department will begin incorporating several reading and writing Common Core standards and strategies into our curriculum.

I’d like to acknowledge that many science teachers already incorporate reading and writing and I am not suggesting you stop what you are using to try something different. On the contrary, I am proposing a way to support what you are already doing in the classroom and make your lessons support the Common Core Standards.

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There are many changes in the Common Core Standards that may affect our science curriculum. First, the Common Core reading levels as measured by readability or “Lexile Scores” are more rigorous than the past ELA standards. Second, teachers need to be more attentive to the text structure, language, and the purpose of the text when incorporating reading in the classroom. Third, teachers need to create tasks that are accessible and challenging to our students, and lastly, we have to help our students learn that reading is a form of accessing information.

Here is a series of steps that you can use to make the transition from simply reading and answering questions to reading an article to obtain content.

Once you have selected a topic, provide several articles or written resources for your students to read. Using the web resources below, determine the grade level or the Lexile scores. I would recommend that you have samples of text from several different reading levels available for the students to read.

One type of strategy is called close reading. Select texts you want the students to read, and use these steps to help guide your students through the text.

  • Purpose for the reading: Decide why you want to use these articles; do they have new information for students to find? Do the articles or text support or contradict a scientific argument?
  • Determine one or two overarching questions to be answered by the article, i.e. “how is this article different from what we have learned in class?”
  • How will students engage with the text (annotations, graphic organizers)? Which vocabulary do I need to frontload prior to the students reading the text?
  • Have 2-5 text-dependent questions. These questions are specific to the text, maybe recall or analysis-level questions.
  • Writing Assignment: Have the students respond to your purpose or overarching questions. You can determine the appropriate length of the assignment.

Web Resources

Appendix B Text Exemplars and Sample performance Tasks (pdf)

Lexile Conversion Charts

Readability-Score Calculator

 

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is CSTA’s High School Director.

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