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Informational Text in the High School Biology Class

Changes in Education? ..... Always!

In my 29 years of teaching, I have learned many, many things.  What lessons do I learn over and over, year after year?

  • There is always something new in education!  
  • The old tried and true ways are no longer acceptable.  
  • Out with the old trends, and in with the new trends.
  • Every 2-3 years brings in a new curriculum.
Don't misunderstand.  I am not one who opposes change.  Change is good. Our world is in a constant state of change:  There are changes in societal issues, there are changes in technologies , and there are changes in the students we teach.  The good news is that classroom teachers are the most adaptable people I know!  Each year brings us a new set of students with different ability levels, with different personalities, and with different needs. We adapt every year and we adapt to the teaching of these new students accordingly.

So what is new?  Everyone involved in education knows about the new Common Core Reading Standards and the push to teach critical reading through the use of informational text. Our world today is packed with information, and I agree that we must insure that our students are being taught to read, understand and comprehend informational passages. We must teach our science students to read critically, to answer questions of a problem solving nature, to read charts, data tables, and graphs, and to form accurate conclusions.

My question is:  Haven't we science teachers been doing this all along?

What is a science book, if not a huge selection of informational text readings?  

Our high school is being very proactive in addressing the new Common Core standards.  We have been directed by our administration to incorporate informational text and critical reading into all subject areas.   We have even worked a special time into our weekly schedule for this.  One day each week, 45 minutes is set aside to address the Common Core standards.  (Clarification: Each teacher is addressing Common Core standards in every class, every day. The 45-minute, weekly time is devoted to "extra" informational text reading practice.)  Each and every teacher in our school meets with a group of students and teaches a lesson that involves information text, writing, and critical reading.  Teachers have been charged with writing materials related to their subject area that can be used during this time. Each week I meet with a different group of students and provide them with a lesson on reading informational text in science.  Students meet with a different teacher each week in order to be exposed to texts of varying subject areas.

At this point, I have developed two exercises that I have used with these groups of students.

The first involves the predator/prey relationship.  It does contain an informational text passage, but I just could not help myself. I included a graphing activity along with it!

The second is a rather lengthy reading about lichens.  It includes facts about the mutualistic nature of lichens, structure of lichens, and the important role that lichens play in the environment.  Pictures are included to enhance the text.   I thought it would be nice to have the students read about an organism that they might not know a lot about.

The days of Common Core are upon us.  Let us embrace it as we have with all of the trends of the past.  There is good news..... If we don't like this, all we have to do is wait for a year or two, and we will be challenged with something new!  ;)

Have fun teaching!  

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like your school is doing a great job to focus on this and support students. I'm not sure everyone is seeing this need for shifting (as you said, "haven't we already been doing that"). It sounds like you all are explicitly teaching reading for understanding in other content areas vs assigning students reading in the content areas.

    I have not been out of high school too terribly long and still remember nights sitting with science and social studies textbooks or class reading assignments and not having a clue what I was reading about. I thought every single word was important and therefore did not know what I needed to remember. I was always good at reading and understanding fiction but hit a wall with informational. I don't think I really overcame this until I was student teaching and learning so much using 5th grade and middle school leveled nonfiction to plan my units.