Teaching this lesson had a few more objectives than just science objectives. The Common Core ELA standards have put a large emphasis on non-fiction science text and being able to read it closely and well. (R.I 2.3)
A previous lesson used a reading passage to focus on other areas of science, but I wanted to teach my students how to summarize the reading as well. Scientists spend a good portion of their work time reading other scientists work. They learn from each other and must be able to synthesize the information they read to determine if new discoveries have been made that could guide their own questions and further investigations.
It seemed like the perfect marriage in lessons to use the same passage to practice this skill.
This lesson is not an inquiry lesson, but a content lesson to focus on analyzing which evidence is relevant to a scientific question and which is not. (SP7)
"Boys and girls, I want to ask you a question....when a scientist wants to learn something new where do you think they look for new information?"
I expect the children to answer with answers like: the internet, books, newspapers.
"The other day when we read the book, Apples to Oregon, we practiced writing a summary. Does anyone remember what we called it?"
"Yep, that is right. IVF...that was pretty fun to do. Well, today we are going to take that same organizer and practice what a scientist would do when they read someone else's work. They need to be able to read the research and decide what information will be important or not important to their own work. We are going to use the reading passage from the lesson we did the other day. "
I remind the students about an earlier lesson we had in a reading session from the previous day. I activate the children's prior knowledge triggering the visual of "sweeping up" the best parts of a summary. The children instantly know what I mean when I use this phrase of "sweeping up." During the reading lesson, I explain to the students that a summary is really like a broom that we use to sweep all the main ideas together into a tidy little pile.
Explaining that we are going to use this same idea with our science reading as well. I bring up the IVF Power Point to demonstrate how we will do this with a scientific piece of text.
The first two slides of the power point explain the essential elements of the summary. Slide two explains more explicitly what the letters I-V-F stand for:
I - Identify the main idea
V - Select a verb
F - Finish the thought
This structure is taken from the Step Up to Writing program that my school district uses. All teachers in my district are expected to utilize this curriculum in our teaching. I have found that many of the suggested lessons can be easily adapted to help support teaching strong science writing.
I carefully go through each slide with the children. Most of the books in the powerpoint presentation are books that I have used in previous science lessons as mentor texts. So the children are very familiar with the messages shared in each book.
Slide 8 shows the last book that is profiled and is also a book that was read previously in a science lesson from the Inquiry Unit. I find that this makes it more engaging for the students when I can bring in mentor texts that I have used in previous lessons. The children become very excited when they have experience and background knowledge with the information being presented.
This slide demonstrates the first step in the process of beginning to summarize the writing. Slide 9, then shows how to bring the three elements of slide 8 into one sentence. As I click the power point, each appropriate element will be circled on the slide with corresponding colored rings.
Slide 10 presents Step 3. I explain to the students that during this step, we need to decide upon three or four facts from the passage or story that makes it important.
Slide 11 presents Step 4, the final step. Weaving all the pieces together.
Each slide carefully and explicitly walks the children through the process.
The children are great about helping out and sharing their ideas as we are working through each slide.
Once the children have practiced with me and the examples on the power point, I want them to try to practice a bit more. I bring them the It Is Apple Season passage and also the blackline master with the organizer to practice creating a summary of the passage.
Not all the children will be able to completely accomplish this activity alone or independently so we will read together.
I model gathering the information on my copy with the document camera while the children are writing at their desks.
We continue reading and working together until we have finished the summary.