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Posted on September 4, 2013

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The Short List: What Science Teachers Need to Know

With the confluence of the Common Core Standards in science literacy and attention to literacy in the Next Generation Science Standards, Michael Feder, from The National Academies Board on Science Education, collected advice from science and literacy experts about what science teachers need to know about language and learning. Cynthia Greenleaf, co-director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative, offered eight propositions.


The Short List
What Science Teachers Need to Know about Literacy: 8 Propositions from Reading Apprenticeship

  1. That allowing students to avoid science texts and science reading perpetuates their dependency on others for information

    Absence of science literacy is therefore poor currency for students’ futures.

    Critical appraisal of burgeoning information sources is increasingly necessary.

  2. That students can simultaneously learn science and become increasingly independent learners and readers of science texts

    Students are more capable than they believe.

    As inexperienced—but not beginning readers—students can accelerate their science literacy and their science learning with practice and support.

  3. That teachers’ science literacy practices are instrumental in students’ ownership of science literacy

    By making apparent and modeling what they do as readers of science, teachers can mentor students in the process of constructing understanding from science texts.

  4. That the process of close reading is inquiry with text—exploring possibilities, making connections, building coherence, making inferences, hypothesis-testing

    The cognitive processes and reasoning practices of science and literacy are intriguingly similar.

    These processes need to be taught—modeled and practiced.

  5. That science texts are multiple and varied

    Diagrams, graphs, models, and other visual displays are conventional forms of science expression, along with print.

    Students must learn to make sense of all these forms of conventional texts to be successful in science.

  6. That science texts offer both science and literacy learning opportunities

    These include academic language, technical vocabulary, complex sentence structures, varied discourse structures (such as extended definition, cause and effect, explanation) and the conventional discourse practices of the science community.

  7. That pedagogical approaches to foster meaning making with science texts overlap greatly with those that foster meaning making with hands-on investigations

    Making thinking visible, documenting thinking, and revising thinking support literacy learning as well as science learning practices.

    Regular pair, small group, and whole class discussion to negotiate meaning is vital to build literacy skills as well as science understandings.

  8. That English language arts teachers are not equipped (or inclined) to teach science-specific literacy practices
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