Newsela offers a broad range of curricular content that provides teachers with opportunities to integrate diverse topics and disciplines into the classroom. Many of us regularly use interdisciplinary approaches, and are adept at making cross-curricular connections. When it comes to covering science content, however, you may feel less prepared, and more hesitant, to dig into the Newsela science articles. “I am not a science teacher.” True enough -- we are not all science teachers, and we all bring different academic strengths and weaknesses with us to the classroom. However, we live at a time when an understanding of science is more important than ever, and science-related current events offer a valuable way to approach critical issues that face us all.
Although it’s not expected that ELA teachers will know the Next Generation Science Standards, a quick look will likely show Essential Questions and Standards that you already know and use. As well, connections to CCSS are addressed in each section, like these from HS. Space Systems:
The NGSS have a lot in common with many of the performance expectations you already have. You’re not expected to teach science concepts, but being able to work with science content extends your reach, relevance, and the role of academic inquiry in the classroom.
- Consider the use of Common Core State Standards already indicated in the science articles. Frequently these feature a close look at vocabulary and text structure. The common goal across disciplines is to develop academic literacy. Academic vocabulary lists should include relevant science terms as used in Newsela articles. Identifying text structure and showing how it works to develop a central idea helps students learn the language of science--its complex sentence structure, sequences, and word patterns.
- Developing an argument, spoken and written, is integral to academic literacy and cuts across all disciplines. ELA teachers already share a common language with other disciplines: claim, evidence, interpretation. Students regularly interpret data and make observations and inferences in their non-science classes. It’s a regular practice in every classroom.
- Use multiple perspectives to build different points of view. Look for articles and viewpoints that provide contrasting global perspectives. Who are the stakeholders in an issue? How will the latest discovery impact different regions and groups of people? Who decides what course to take based on emerging scientific research?
Strategies and Practices
- Annotation Tool: The Annotation tool can be used in many different ways. It’s much more effective, however, if the students know that their annotations will be used in some way, either in a discussion, or as pre-writing for a paper or project.
- Vocabulary--Highlight unfamiliar vocabulary; look up words or create working definitions.
- Text Structure--identify words and phrases from text that show text development; use annotations for explanation.
- Guiding Questions--provide students with a guiding question and ask them to highlight specific text evidence and paraphrase.
- Roles/multiple perspectives--identify text that relates to specific viewpoints in different colors.
- Claim/evidence--highlight text that makes a claim in one color; use another color for evidence that supports the claim.
- Multiple reads: Most students benefit from reading any text more than once, but this is especially true with science articles. They are more likely to actually read more than once if you assign different tasks for each read, such as:
- 1st read--focus on vocabulary and capture the gist.
- 2nd read--introduce a question; ask students to work with a partner to read again, annotating text that relates to the question as they read.
- 3rd read--read one more time, individually, and look for additional evidence; follow with writing task that uses Annotations.
- ‘If-then’ prediction statements: Read a section of text aloud, identifying the ‘if-then’ components; ask students to keep reading and identify additional ‘if-then’ predictions. Note: There are specific requirements about developing an actual hypothesis in science. If you want to introduce the term “hypothesis,” make sure it’s framed as an “if-then-because” statement.
- Mentor sentences/paragraphs: These are more frequently used in middle school, but can be useful in secondary classrooms too. Since the language used in science articles is often quite dense and uses complex sentence structure, they provide models that can be analyzed with the class. Ask students to write a sentence that you choose from the article, and ask them to identify different features of text--parts of speech, phrases, clauses. What patterns are repeated? If the language is formal, ask them to re-state in less formal terms. How does the sentence/paragraph relate to the central idea?
- Argument Graphic Organizer: There are many templates available online. This one from Jim Burke Argument Organizer provides a straightforward approach that’s easy to use.
- Socratic Seminar & Discussion Protocols: Discussion practices give students a chance to clarify their thinking, and can play an active role in the development of an argument. There are many good models for conducting a Socratic Seminar. Discussion protocols are generally less involved than a Socratic Seminar and can be completed in less time. The following protocol is adapted from School Reform Initiative.
- Person #1 has 1.5 minutes to talk about . . .
PERSON #2 CANNOT TALK!
- Person #2 paraphrases--puts in his/her own words and reflects on what was said by person #1.
- Person #1 gives feedback about person #2’s paraphrase/reflection.
- Now switch.
- Quick Write-Summary Stem: Use at the end of class as an Exit Ticket.
- According to the article . . .
- The author bases this claim on . . .
- The conclusion that can be drawn from the article is . . .
- Thinking routine from Visible Thinking: There are many variations of this that can be used. Instead of asking for an analogy, you might ask for an inference or a conclusion.