Reflection: Complex Tasks Day Four of Joey's Plant Lab - Section 4: Instruction


The Common Core State Standards have clearly articulated the need for students to read increasingly complex text.  Science is the perfect place for this!  Engaging in close reading of very rigorous text takes motivation and stamina.  Providing students with hands-on inquiry based science experiences, giving them the opportunity to ask questions about those experiences, and then providing them with complex text that they can examine for answers, is an authentic way to help them build the kind of close reading skills that they will need to be successful in all academic areas.  This is the kind of reading instruction in particular that ELL students and students with low academic language need, in order to be college and career ready.

I typically try to choose fairly short pieces of text such as these (found at  It is important to use this kind of "dense" text - text that contains high level vocabulary and complex ideas.  Students need a challenge.  However, it is also important that the text is not too challenging, and that the scaffolding provided is sufficient so that students can be successful.  

It is also important that students have many repeated opportunities to practice this strategy - and across content areas.  We do this over, and over, and over.  Hopefully, by the time I send them on their way at the end of the year, they will have integrated this strategy into their repertoire.  If I had a list of must dos with regard to teaching reading in Science, it would be this:

  • Teach students how to use context clues to define vocabulary.
  • Teach students how to determine the "gist" or main idea of what they are reading by thinking about how the ideas are connected.
  • Teach students how to "mark-up" the text - annotating, highlighting, and taking notes.
  • Teach students how to be metacognitive - to know when they don't know or understand something, and strategies for how to figure it out - or get help.

  Close Reading in Science
  Complex Tasks: Close Reading in Science
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Day Four of Joey's Plant Lab

Unit 2: Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems
Lesson 11 of 20

Objective: SWBAT explain how plants acquire their material for growth; describe basic plant structures; and explain how matter cycles through ecosystems.

Big Idea: How do plants participate in cycling matter through an ecosystem? Students consolidate their understanding of plant structures and function to answer this important question, and demonstrate a basic understanding of The Oxygen Cycle.

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