Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reading Aloud: Integrating Science and Literature for All Students

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reading Aloud: Integrating Science and Literature for All Students

Article excerpt

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When students read literature that connects science to their everyday lives, the science becomes more interesting and relevant, and in turn, students are motivated to gain a better understanding of the subject matter. Many resources are available to elementary teachers who wish to support science learning with literature. Unfortunately, somewhere between middle school and high school, the emphasis on using literature to teach science content--particularly the exercise of reading aloud--has all but disappeared.

The practice of reading aloud is helpful because most students have higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension (Trelease 2006)--low-reading level students, English language learners, and auditory learners in particular tend to understand what they hear better than what they read. This article provides suggestions for including the practice of reading aloud in the high school science classroom.

Engaging students

If reading aloud to young students is so important for their academic development, then why stop in the sixth grade? In general, reading aloud to (and with) students is a good way to role model positive reading behavior, to introduce students to books they may not normally read, and to help create a positive attitude toward books and reading in general. In the science classroom, sharing even one well-chosen book a semester with students will support the subject matter being studied. This can be accomplished by simply reading a book out loud to students throughout the semester. Better yet, have students themselves actively participate--provide each student with a copy of the book if you have a classroom set, or pass around your copy, and encourage students to read aloud and follow along.

Dialogic reading in particular requires students to fully engage with the text by creating an interaction between you, the student, and the book. In dialogic reading, you are responsible for asking open-ended questions while students read aloud. For example, ask students: "What do you think is going to happen next?" or "Why do you think the character did that?" In my classes, I first ask a student with weak comprehension skills what he or she remembers; then, I direct questions to additional students until the main points of the text have been covered. When students are asked to summarize or retell text, they are challenged to digest information and re-form it in their own words. Students can also retell text by summarizing parts of a book in their journals, taking an end-of-the-book quiz, or drawing parts of a book as a series of pictures with or without words. (See Figure 2, p. 36 for more reading-related activities.)

When incorporating reading aloud in the classroom, keep in mind that it should always be voluntary; allow students to opt out of reading aloud so that they do not feel threatened by it. During the activity, call on everyone in the class, but give each student the choice of reading an entire section (e.g., paragraph or page) aloud, just reading the first few words of a chapter (to demonstrate they are following along), or simply pointing to the appropriate place in the book. Surprisingly, I have found that many students with weak reading skills choose to read out loud. When struggling students learn how to read, they want to share their accomplishment with their peers. (Note: Classroom expectations should ensure students are respectful of others at all times. Do not tolerate any laughing or inappropriate comments while a student is reading aloud.)

Including all genres

When searching for reading material for your classroom, consider all genres (Figure 1). Do not rule out fiction--many good informational fiction books are available. For instance, Jean Craighead George and Gary Paulsen weave fictional stories around factual information and describe human interaction with the natural world (Figure 1). …

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