Reviewed by Rebecca Bell
Environmental Education Specialist
This book provides a much–needed bridge between science, reading, and other forms of literacy. A reading teacher and a science teacher teamed to produce a book that is of use to both.
The text uses the learning cycle to develop scientific knowledge as well as to develop and refine literacy skills. The authors promote the use of authentic reading and writing; that is, reading to uncover information and writing to inform another person of their research, rather than accepting reading as reading a worksheet and writing as filling in the worksheet. Sample units present models for instruction through a collection of non–fiction texts that provide engaging science content.
Inquiry science activities, based on a modified 5E model, form the basis of each unit. The reading, writing, listening, viewing, and speaking activities are carefully selected to provide students with authentic and relevant assignments that reflect the science processes inherent in the unit. The authors define a text set as a collection of 5 to15 books that relate to a single topic which may consist of the genres listed above. An example: the unit around paleontology employs a text set that includes a biography, reference, narrative expository, and a field guide. A thoughtful approach to choosing texts of differing genres to comprise the text set, rather than just clearing the library shelf, provides a variety of learning material for students and also increases their awareness of the diversity of available texts.
The chapter entitled "Nonfiction Text Sets" includes a look at the genres of reference, explanation, narrative expository, how–to, biography, field guides, journals, and poetry. The different phases of the learning cycle more easily lend themselves to certain aspects of literacy. For example, during the Engage section of learning, students need to view materials that will help them generate questions. The Explain portion of the 5E model can be addressed through the use of references and materials that provide explanations for observed phenomena.
Chapter 5 presents the how–to on creating science inquiry units. The second part of the book consists of sample units that are structured to show the stages of the 5E model, the science skills and processes, the use of texts and graphic organizers to assist students in making meaning of their science work, as well as formative assessments after each of the E’s. The units contain scientific background information for the teachers, common misconceptions about a particular concept, 4–12 texts in the text set, the inquiry activity itself, worksheets for data gathering, and suggested organizers for helping students structure the information they gather from the experiment and the text set. Appendices include a review of specific science process skills and literacy strategies, rubrics for science processes and literacy, and alignment with National Science Education Standards.
This approach may be the answer to the present dilemma of science instruction taking a backseat to reading. Students experience reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing in context of their science work. Instruction on how to do the reading and writing is embedded within the unit, seamlessly integrating literacy skill development to science content, skills, and processes.
Review posted on 1/4/2013