Unit 2:Unit 2: What is science literacy? How has it been implemented in the classroom?

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Learning Objectives

At the end of Unit 2, the learner will understand what science literacy is, and view lessons and ideas to foster scientific literacy in the classroom.


Why is it important to integrate literacy into science?

""In an age fueled by information and driven by technology, understanding the concepts and process of science is as indispensable as knowing how to read, write, speak, and listen...Adults in the twenty-first century...will need to be scientifically literate-to possess a set of skills that marries knowledge of science concepts, facts, and processes with the ability to use language to articulate and communicate about ideas" (Thier & Daviss, 2002)." (Minnesota)

Language skills are essential to understanding scientific concepts. There are many parallels that run between comprehensive scientific understanding and literacy or "english" skills. View the following PowerPoint, adapted from Carolina Curriculum Leadership Series, which illustrates this point: Comparing Scientific Skills to Literacy Skills (Press the back button to get back to Unit 2).

As seen in the previous presentation, scientific literacy skills are deeply connected to English literacy skills. However, students who already have poor language skills, find the language used in science can be a barrier to success in science. Instead of using traditional methods in science, it is important to develop the thinking skills in order for students to understand concepts in their own capacity of understanding. View the following video from the Annenberg Learner which shows the role of prior knowledge in learning new scientific skills. Pay special attention to the "kid-friendly" methods the instructors are using to make science more accessible (Press the VOD button to view the video; make sure your browser allows pop-ups): Workshop 4: Conceptual Change (Press the back button to get back to Unit 2).

Learning Activities

This learning activity can be done with other teachers in the same content area:

Activity 1:

1. Break up staff members into groups based on science content area (Biology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry) OR break up group based on other content area criteria (History, English, Math, Science)

2. Make a list of 10 commonly used science terms used in the classroom (i.e. Biology: mitosis, meiosis, gene, heredity)

3. For each term, explain it's meaning in "kid-friendly" terms.

4. Have one member from each content area go to another group and explain at least 2 terms (different in each group).

5. As the new member explains what each term is in "kid-friendly" terms, the new group members will draw a description of each word.

6. Ask: Were the pictures accurate to the description? Was the explanation "kid-friendly" enough to make sense to someone who does not know the content?

Activity 2: (As an alternative to activity 1)

1. Think about the language used in your next lesson.

2. Make a list of the terms used, they do not have to be "scientific" terms. (Do not take for grated what students may not know (i.e. maternal and paternal may be obvious terms to you, but some students may not know what that means))

3. Around each word, organize the following: a. picture of word/term, b. used in a sentence, c. a "kid-friendly" definition.

4. Implement the strategy as a preview to the next units vocabulary.


Now that you have completed Unit 2, you should have some ideas of strategies for implementing a scientific literacy curriculum into your own classroom. Before you move on to Unit 3, ask yourself, What strategies or ideas have I used in my classroom? Where they successful to the overall understanding of the concepts being taught?

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Fostering Scientific Literacy