Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two Annotated Lessons to Show How Concepts of Literacy Might Continually Intersect in a Science Classroom

Building on my previous post (a must read before this one), I describe two lessons here, labeling the literacy components of each lesson. For reference, connections to literacy strategies (L), disciplinary literacy (DL), and scientific literacy (SL) are labeled within the descriptions of the lessons below. Because each reference to disciplinary literacy (DL) would also be a reference to scientific literacy, for clarity it’s only labeled as DL (not as SL too). 

In a kindergarten classroom, a teacher puts a stuffed animal on a rolling chair in front of the room. The teacher asks, “How could we make ‘Stuffy’ move? Share an idea with a partner” [DL]. She then circulates to hear student talk [L]. She randomly asks a few students to come describe and demonstrate their method [DL]. As students share their method, she’ll be pointing out terms they use, particularly highlighting or prompting the terms push and pull. Next, she has students write in their science notebooks, “A force is a push or a pull” [L]. This writing may be scaffolded by having some students just trace these words on a worksheet glued into the notebook [L]. Above that writing, she asks students to draw a picture of their idea, or another pair’s idea, for how to move the animal [DL]. Some student pairs that haven’t shared yet are then given the opportunity to share and explain their drawing [DL]. Students are specifically asked to explain, “What is causing the force in your picture?” [SL]. 

For homework, students are asked to somehow show their parents a push and a pull and tell them that a push or a pull is a force [DL]. For accountability, parents could help students write or draw about what they did, or students would just know they would have to share the next day.
In class the next day, the teacher asks students to share some of the pushes and pulls they showed their parents, asking them to use the word force [DL]. She then asks students to talk with their partner about, “Why did the animal in the chair sometimes move far and sometimes not move as far when we added a force?” [SL]. She then asks some students to demonstrate and describe an idea for making the animal/chair more far or less far; ideally, students will push or pull with varying degrees of force [SL]. Students are then asked to write in their notebooks, “A big force makes it move more!” [L] With a teacher example as needed, they also draw an image of what this might look like [DL]. 

As a possible extension: how would a scientist decide for sure which went further? How would she measure it? The class could discuss and perform different means for measurement, standard and nonstandard [SL].

Middle School
Student groups begin with a set of rocks and crystals at their table. The teacher asks them to generate a set of science-related questions in relation to them, noting those questions in their notebooks [SL]. Each group shares one of their questions, looking for one that’s different from other groups and adding new ideas they like to their list [L]. The teacher then asks students to observe the rocks and crystals with a goal of generating a list of characteristics based on/related to those patterns [SL]. Groups share how they’ve characterized the rocks, adding interesting new ideas shared to their own lists [L]. Tools such as microscopes or magnifying lenses will be useful in their observations [SL]. 

Students next read an article on rock and mineral types, including characteristics of those rocks and minerals [L]. The teacher asks them to specifically find information on characteristics of the rock types that relate to or are similar to the list of characteristics (groupings) that they’ve generated [DL]. Finally, groups of students put their rocks into groups based on the categories and characteristics provided in the text, providing written rationale and evidence for why each rock would be placed within each group [DL]. 

Extension: Before reading the text, the teacher could also elicit background information and use characteristics generated by students to have them predict what types of processes would have been required to create these rocks and crystals, with the given characteristics [SL]. One possible question, “What do you observe about the rocks that makes you think different processes might have been involved in forming and shaping them?” Further, they could model and investigate where the energy involved in creating the rocks came from, linking processes with types of energy (such as gravity providing the energy for erosion due to water or the thermal energy of earth’s core providing energy for metamorphosis of rocks and creation of crystals) [DL and SL]. 

Concluding Thoughts
As I labeled the literacy facets of these lessons, I more fully realized how integrated these components should be in a classroom all the time. Effective science instruction constantly: 1) supports the literacy work that students do (L), 2) as it encourages them to interact with text like scientists (DL), 3) while they engage in meaningful scientific thinking and practice (SL).

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