Learning and Doing Science With a Lot of Help from Literacy
I knew that I had to build immediate credibility with my audience to prepare for my role as a professional developer of lead high school science teachers and science department chairpersons in Chicago who were learning to integrate literacy strategies with science content. My own science content knowledge was mostly acquired through my experiences as an adult learner, not through formal school exposure to much more than biology. Monthly meetings with a dedicated cross-section of high school science teachers required that I provide expertise in my field (literacy) and practice with blending our collective worlds of science and literacy.
I decided to take the same science logic and reasoning test, the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), as Chicago high school 11th graders were required to take in the spring. I wanted to determine the thinking strategies I would need in place of neither deep nor broad science background knowledge to meet the challenges of the assessment. The good news was that I passed the test. I was able to access science content by using research-supported reading strategies before, during, and after reading the questions posed. What I needed to think about while taking the Prairie State Exam was what good readers do to learn from text and graphics. Good readers have a toolkit of strategies they are able to apply to multi-genre texts. Students should be taught to apply effective literacy strategies, which are essential instructional tools for independently accessing and understanding rigorous text.
I shared my thinking strategies for learning from science texts in those monthly meetings with key teachers in Chicago high school science departments. Much of that work is embodied in The High Quality Literacy Instruction Handbook that I co-authored for Chicago Public Schools (Google). The New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for grades 6-12 clearly provide evidence that the hedges that separated literacy and science in instructional settings have been trimmed. We continue to be good neighbors. Continue to visit http://www.project-collage.com/ to learn about the literacy practices that will enable students to read, write, communicate and think as a scientist would.