Reading in Science
Specific Reading Strategies
Questioning the Textbook
Textbooks are imperfect but useful sources of scientific information and can be used as an inquiry tool for developing literacy skills. Consider some of the following strategies:
- Have students read an entire chapter section—one of the major headings in the textbook. Ask them to list as many questions as they can as they read. Steer them toward questions about what is known and how it’s known rather than questions like, What does this word mean?
- To develop students’ ability to think more conceptually, have them focus on the table of contents and write down broad themes or big ideas that they see.
- Have students use the index to read passages out of order in the textbook to build an understanding of vocabulary and concepts in different contexts.
- When assigning textbook reading, ask students to briefly describe an experiment that they think should be done that relates to the material they read.
- For an independent research project, have students research a textbook topic in more depth and prepare a short paper or a slideshow that includes background information, a statement of the problem or question, and experiments and data that address the problem.
- Have students do close reading on the same topic in two different textbooks to compare and contrast the content presented and the conclusions emphasized.
- Select a graphic from the textbook and have students write a paragraph that explains the graphic. Alternatively, have them describe the experiment(s) that were likely done to generate the information in the graphic.
In general textbooks have enough richness of text complexity to be useful for honing students' skills at interpreting various elements of more complicated text. The following interactive activity is designed to focus in particular on graphic elements.