Embedding Reading Apprenticeship in High School Chemistry Class, Oakland, CA
Nearly half the students in the video from Dr. Willard Brown's Introduction to Chemistry class scored below the 10th percentile on standardized reading tests. Yet these very inexperienced readers are learning to value the questions a text raises for them, including questions that arise when they recognize that they do not understand what they are reading. While the Introduction to Chemistry class at Skyline High is the school's least demanding science class that counts towards college admission, it is a chemistry class all the same. Students must read and understand challenging academic texts. Learning to actively process their reading experiences is an important first step.
The video was filmed in early January, during the first week of a two-month unit on acids and bases. The unit was organized around an Acid and Base Exploration lab, in which students discovered the properties of acids and bases by determining the pH of household chemicals.
Will embeds Reading Apprenticeship strategies as he teaches this unit, engaging students in reading a variety of discipline-based texts in class, including a supplementary text on acids and bases, lab procedures, numerical equations, and data tables.
While reading, students monitor their comprehension and used three cognitive strategies—clarifying, questioning and summarizing. Will engages students in ongoing small group and whole class conversations about their reading and thinking processes, and models his own strategies for making sense of science materials.
Through this cycle of reading and talk, Will’s students practice discipline-based reading and thinking skills. They gain stamina for challenging reading as well as knowledge of the chemistry content.