Summer reading

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I’m getting ready for a camping trip to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts for some sightseeing and hiking later this month. In addition to attending a concert at Tanglewood and perhaps adding to my birding lifelist, I’m also looking forward to propping up my feet and reading in the fresh air. As I packed my bag of reading materials, I found some great ideas in this month’s A Diverse Summer Reading List and the NSTA Recommends feature. I also looked at Kick Off Summer with Reading in this month’s Science Teacher for another list of suggested books, and at the NSTA Recommends website you can get even more reading resources.
In addition to reading text materials, this month’s issue has articles relating to other types of “literacy.” Visual Literacy in Science has some terrific ideas for helping students to understand what information is communicated through the photographs, diagrams, tables, graphs, and sidebars in their textbooks or other documents. The authors have a set of four brief lessons that introduce students to the concept of visual literacy. This could be complementary to the “textbook tour” that many teachers use to point out the purpose of the table of contents, index, glossary, headings and subheadings, sidebars, and summaries. This type of instruction is important, especially when in the middle years, as students make the transition from “learning to read” to “”reading to learn.”

Two other articles address the “reading to learn” concept. When reading nonfiction text, such as a science article or textbook, it’s important for students to have strategies to process the content. Reading fast is not enough (and is probably inappropriate). Graphic organizers, such as the one described in Fishbone Diagrams, can help students to organize and make sense of the text. The authors of this article discuss how to use this and include many examples of student work. I’ve  often used these fishbones in cause-and-effect activities and in teacher workshop on root cause analysis, but I now see how they can be used in other contexts.
An Understanding for Their Method shows how students can learn about scientific inquiry through biographies of famous scientists. The article includes resources for the activity, such as a graphic organizer for the students and a list of book titles. If your school is fortunate enough to still have a librarian (don’t get me started on this!), share the list with him/her to see what you have available. Through online sources, you can check to see what titles might be in your local public library, too. And don’t forget that there are online sources, too. SciLinks has a collection of Scientists’ Biographies ranging from in-depth articles to brief summaries such as Famous People in the History of Energy and Nobel Prize Winners in chemistry, physics, medicine. And this article segues with the theme of Practical Ways to Assess and Change Students’ Perceptions of Scientists.
Bees in the News: Connecting Classroom Science to Real-Life Issues illustrates how students connected a news article with what they were learning about insects, food webs, adaptations, and the impact of human activity on other organisms. SciLinks has a set of website on Honeybees for middle schoolers (and also for 9–12 and K–4). Speaking of bees in the news, who would think about beekeeping in a city?
In a radio call-in show I was listening to, a caller very adamantly stated that students should be taught the steps of the scientific method. The author of Teaching the Practice of Science, Unteaching the “Scientific Method” would probably take issue with two points. The first would be the existence of a single, formulaic “method” that is and should be used in science investigations. In the article, he illustrates the many ways that investigations are conducted, including experimentation and observation. He also might mention that while a student may have memorized a list of steps, this is not the same as actually engaging in the questioning and creativity that are part of any science investigation. And I loved one of his headings: It’s OK to be baffled.
But you won’t be baffled by the instructional strategies described in Should We Continue Space Travel? (the blogging strategies could be adapted to any topic). If you do use the topic of Space Travel, share some of these related websites in SciLinks with your students.

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