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Using the Site with Less-Skilled Readers

Key Reading Strategies in Science

by Suzanne Clewell, Ph.D.
Reading strategies are inherently connected with learning, especially in the sciences.  These strategies are a part of teaching students how to learn.  They also parallel strategies that scientists use when they read and conduct investigations. When students engage with online experiences such as Bayville, they learn to “read like a scientist.”  Scientists observe, hypothesize, collect data, record results, classify, and communicate investigations or explanations. 

These same strategies are also critical literacy strategies that you can model and teach your students during science.

All students will need varying degrees of support with these strategies.  Consider teaching the following reading strategies while you are “doing” science:

  • Activating Background Knowledge – Before reading or observing, model and have students brainstorm what they know about the science topic. Keep a record of these ideas to refine after the reading. Background is the biggest determinant of reading comprehension.
  • Setting a Purpose –Help students set their own purposes for reading or observing.  Model specifically why you read a piece.  Help them to focus on what is important and to take notes on that information.  Purpose setting drives the reading and leads readers to figure out what they need to be paying attention to.
  • Predicting -  Support students to internalize predicting as an essential part of before, during, and after reading. Before observing or reading, ask students to predict what the passage will be about and chart a few predictions.  Students may preview the headings, graphics, bold-faced print, pictures, and sidebars before predicting and giving evidence for their thinking. During reading, they will continue to revise, refine, or change their predictions.  After reading, revisit the predictions for confirmation.
  • Vocabulary Building – Since science has many specialized terms, focus on important science concepts before, during, and after reading.  To help students learn new vocabulary, students may scan for those words in the context of the passage and write a prediction of word meanings.  As they read, they may take notes about the new terms and refine their definitions.  Making word maps that show all the features of a word as well as sorting and categorizing words are active ways that students can learn and own important science vocabulary.
  • Using Graphic Organizers – Visual displays show how information is organized.  Both during and after reading, students may select facts and record their thinking on a graphic organizer that shows the relevant information they have selected. Cause and effect, problem-solution, and sequential order patterns are the most frequently used in science.
  • Synthesizing – As a strategy, synthesizing helps students to reflect on their thinking and to come up with their own idea about what they have observed or read.  Support students by having them reflect on what they just read. They will be gathering pieces of information to come up with their own insights to better understand what they are reading.
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