Reading in Science
The discipline of asking good questions is core to science and its discourse. A piece of science writing, whether a popular article, a section of a textbook, or a research report, always addresses an overarching bigger question and usually addresses a smaller specific research question. In turn, a specific research question can usually be broken down into subsidiary questions. Ironically, the bigger questions require less background to understand (for example, How does the brain work?) as opposed to the more subsidiary and specific question (What chemicals are involved in the exchange of information between neurons?). The former question is easy to understand, but might be hard to act on experimentally. The latter question depends on more prior knowledge to be understood but has moved toward a question that can be answered with an observation or experiment. Scientists keep track of the big questions but are always in pursuit of the smaller subsidiary questions that can actually be addressed experimentally and answered in rigorous ways.
As students read, they should form questions at several levels: about understanding the overall purpose of the research, more specific questions about the evidence being presented, and questions concerning their own understanding of what they are reading. They should also form questions that are stimulated by their reading, questions that they are personally curious about that may be only slightly related to the reading.
Video: Watch Annotating Across Disciplines to see how a 7th grade science teacher uses learning how to use a microscope as an opportunity to engage students in scientific language, habits of close reading, and forming questions.
Catherine Rohrbaugh teaches students how to take notes and analyze text across different content areas to foster independent learning.
Teacher: Catherine Rohrbaugh
School: Dillard Drive Middle School, Raleigh, NC
Lesson Topic: Creating a wet-mount slide
Lesson Month: November
Number of Students: 28
Reflect: Do you think students who learn to take notes well and to ask good questions are also likely to gain science content knowledge?