Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Text Savvy: Planning Rich Reading Experiences That Support Language Development and Science Learning

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Text Savvy: Planning Rich Reading Experiences That Support Language Development and Science Learning

Article excerpt


Learning science is language intensive (Quinn, Lee, and Valdes 2012). Students might have to interpret the meaning of models, support claims with evidence, communicate arguments, and discuss phenomena and scientific principles. For English Language Learners (ELLs), engaging in scientific and engineering practices includes additional challenges, such as learning (1) to listen to the teacher and peers while still developing oral skills, (2) how the same word (e.g., table) has different meanings depending on the context, (e.g., water table, data table, kitchen table) and (3) how to comprehend the increasingly dense and diverse texts encountered in secondary settings.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013) and the Common Core State Standards (NGAC and CCSSO 2010) (see NGSS box, p. 56) encourage educators to develop ELLs' language and literacy in the context of learning subject matter, given the inextricable link between language and science (Lyon at al. 2016). One way to do this is through carefully selecting texts that support all students in literacy and science.

This article describes a series of lessons that incorporates text selected to deepen student understanding of the role of sexual reproduction in genetic diversity and to develop students' disciplinary literacy. We used six instructional planning principles (Figure 1) developed by the Accelerating Academic Achievement for English Learners (AAAEL) Project team to improve the academic achievement of ELLs. The lessons were designed and carried out in courses in sheltered biology, academic biology, and honors biology. Figure 2 outlines the five steps taken to create the lessons: text selection, text analysis, exploring the concept of genetic variation, engaging students with the text, and assessment.



Step 1: Choose text

We collected multiple texts from various sources, including National Geographic, Scientific American, the New York Times science section, and Student Science News. After carefully considering the Criteria for Text Selection (Figure 3), we selected a National Geographic blog post (Young 2010) about the whiptail lizard, an all-female species of lizard that reproduces asexually using an unusual form of meiosis. After students read the blog post, we asked, "Are males necessary in a population?" and "Why sex?" to trigger student curiosity and motivate them to engage with the content (which meets the first project principle [Figure 1]).

AAAEL project principles.

1. Design learning experiences that foster
intellectual curiosity about the discipline.

2. Plan for rich reading experiences that support
language development and disciplinary

3. Provide meaningful and accessible text-based
reading lessons.

4. Support students' engagement in collaborative
conversations that lead to thoughtful and
informed writing.

5. Generate feedback on student learning through
the use of deliberate and sustained formative

6. Implement instructional tasks that are
responsive to English language performance
levels and the language needs of ELL students.

The five steps to create a lesson.

Step 1, Choose Text

* Connects to standard, engaging, complex but accessible, about
1 page in length

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Step 2. Complete Preparatory Analysis of Text (PAT)

* Background Knowledge

* Key Vocabulary

* Leveled Inquiry Questions

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Step 3. Explore the Core Idea

* Each day; students read, students speak, and students write

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Step 4. Engage with text

* Close reading protocol

* Collaborative productive discussion

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Step 5. Performance Task/Assessment

* Make a claim supported by evidence and reasoning

Step 2: Complete Preparatory Analysis of Text

After deciding to use the whiptail lizard text, we completed the Preparatory Analysis of Text (PAT) tool (Figure 4, p. …

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