Academic journal article Science Scope

Light, Color, Vision, Optics! A Text Set for Grades 6-8

Academic journal article Science Scope

Light, Color, Vision, Optics! A Text Set for Grades 6-8

Article excerpt


Suitably scaffolded, grade-level text sets can be useful tools to help science teachers fulfill the expectations of science and literacy standards. A text set is a coherent, gradated sequence of texts on a specific topic or line of inquiry that supports students in developing the vocabulary and background knowledge required to comprehend scientific texts, which can be compiled by classroom teachers. The set's topic or line of inquiry is determined by an anchor text--a rich, complex, gradelevel text that may be the focus of a close reading, with accompanying instructional supports (see Pearson, Moje, and Greenleaf 2010). The number of subsidiary texts in a set can vary depending on purpose and resource availability around a given topic, as well as students' needs, as determined by the teacher. The subsidiary texts in the set provide scaffolds that build knowledge or vocabulary and deepen understanding of the anchor text and afford a shared entry point for all students, some of whom may be weaker readers but have high interest in or knowledge of a topic, whereas other, stronger readers may know less about the topic but can build knowledge with the simpler texts (Cappiello and Dawes 2013). In a sense, the texts "talk to one another" so that in reading the set, students gain a coherent body of knowledge around a specific topic or line of inquiry and are supported in reading increasingly complex texts throughout the set (Kern 2014). Importantly, STEM text sets can be used to accompany and advance inquiry and should not be viewed as a substitute.

Background information

Others have developed general principles to help create text sets (CCSSO 2013), which we have extended to the use of scaffolded, grade-level texts that accompany and support STEM instruction. The text set that we describe in this article (see Figure 1) was developed for middle schools by the ShowMe InABox STEM enrichment program, which partners with sixth- to eighth-grade teachers in schools in central Missouri and St. Louis (see Resources).

In prior years, the enrichment program distributed an unscaffolded collection of thematic texts; however, we found that these texts were not widely used by teachers or students because many students do not come to science class reading at grade level, and most are challenged by domain-specific, academic vocabularies and knowledge. Consequently, we developed this text set using teacher input, and it is currently being implemented with accompanying enrichment activities in classrooms. Assessments have been developed to measure program outcomes (Romine et al., forthcoming), the results of which will be published when completed. Initial feedback emphasizes the need for collaboration between science and ELA teachers and between schools and public libraries. The enrichment program provides schools with commercially available texts, but some of these texts are available without copyright restrictions, and other suitable texts may be substituted for those not in the public domain. We plan to develop and disseminate additional text sets and encourage others to do so also.

Using a text set

The "Light, Color, Vision, Optics!" text set is organized into four steps. First, students engage with the topic and line of inquiry by considering differences between their and others' perceptions of the color of everyday objects. Second, students read subsidiary texts of simple to moderate complexity that introduce light and color, vision, and engineering practices. These texts lay a vocabulary foundation and baseline knowledge to help students access the complex but highly engaging anchor text, "How Do We See Color?" Now that students have a greater understanding of light, vision, and color, the fourth step asks them to consider the broader implications of sensory perception for the fitness of all living organisms.

Note that the specific texts discussed in this article are only examples; alternative texts may be substituted. …

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