Common Core “As A Scientist”
Although there are no current Common Core State Standards that are specifically written for science content, science teachers will be using the fundamental skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking within their science content to help students become ready for college and career .
One of the focuses of Common Core for English/Language Arts (ELA) is informational text. Interesting enough, as students transition from elementary to middle to high school, they encounter more informational text because of the core courses they are taking. The majority of the literary texts are only taught in the English and language arts classes. Therefore, students are required to read more informational text within their specific content areas. Further, students who are struggling readers are placed in reading classes in middle school and even in high school. Is it only the job of the English and language arts teachers or the reading teachers to teach the students how to read informational texts?
Essentially, science teachers have challenged the issue that struggling students who are taking reading classes in middle school and high school are not engaging in "complex text" that is required in the science classrooms. These students can have such reading deficits that the reading teacher has to spend time on teaching the core principles of reading such as fluency, phonemic awareness, and oral language development. Therefore, it can be difficult to have students read grade-level science text during reading class. With the adoption of the Common Core, science teachers are beginning to understand that the majority of the responsibility of teaching students to read, comprehend, and analyze science text, will fall on the science teachers themselves; thus, meaning that science teachers are "reading teachers of science." We science teachers have to teach our students how to read, write, listen, and speak "as a scientist" by using complex science text.
Instructional Change: Using Science Anchor Texts
Although most classroom science textbooks are now written to engage students with pictures, graphs, and diagrams, this serves as an entry into reading authentic science text. The typical middle and high school science textbook lacks thorough application and analysis to bring current, authentic findings to students. Many science textbooks use only traditional science experiments and examples as the application and analysis for real-world instances, which have their place in helping students learn the history of significant scientific discoveries. But to get students interested in the "now" in science, current science text is needed.
Journal articles from public domain sites are an excellent way to integrate current information and allows for analysis of recent, real-world discoveries. Science teachers can use these articles as the "anchor" text for teaching reading, comprehension, and analysis in science within a given unit of instruction. Because Common Core calls for students to engage in close reading of complex text, these anchor texts will allow students to do close reading, multiple times, with the science teacher setting a purpose for each read using text-based reading, writing, and speaking. Most importantly, this will enable science teachers to still teach their required science curriculum and content within the Common Core for ELA. These science anchor texts can be used in conjunction with the classroom science textbook.
Science is a dynamic subject with more recent discoveries and modern approaches to understanding the world around us. These discoveries provide the means for engaging students in authentic, complex science text that will help them read, write, listen, and speak as a scientist.
Slough, S. W., McTigue, E. M., Kim, S., & Jennings, S. K. (2010). Science textbooks' use of graphical representation: A descriptive analysis of four sixth grade science texts. Reading Psychology, 31(3), 301–325. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts. Washington DC: Authors.
Nicole D. Nearor, PhD, is a STEM Coordinator with the Florida Department of Education. She has 15 years of classroom teaching experience in rural, urban, and suburban school settings, and spent several years as a school- and district-based science instructional coach in Broward County, Fla. Currently, Nearor develops and provides STEM-based professional development for science teachers in three of Florida's largest school districts. One of her main goals is to help science teachers integrate literacy into science teaching and learning. Nearor is also the President of Reading STEMulates!! LLC, a consulting company for reading and STEM-based initiatives.