I must admit literacy was off my radar for too long, it was something else to do. Two intertwined events have changed my view and I now see it as a central part of what I do to teach Science. The first one was understanding in the broadest sense by what Berger describes as beautiful work. The second was visiting High Tech High and seeing the books written and published by the students. How the ideas of a subject are communicated is important.
So, what I'd like to do with my next couple of post is compile some of the strategies that help develop student literacy and learn Science. The duality of this is essential for me and students; it gives it a pedagogical purpose.
First Glance and Second Glance- How To Read a Scientific Journal
Several moons ago, I was lucky enough to be involved in the pilot for LSS project, with Kings College London and the Weizmann Institute. Although much of it was vin ordinaire. These two procedures however, have remained part of my practice.
Journals articles outside of your specialism are daunting, so imagine how they must look to students, impregnable like Michael Gove's sense of self importance. Cock. However, often they are the most exciting things about our subjects. Not only do they have the method, data and conclusions of investigation, but they have the Scientific thinking behind them. Why should we hold back, nay hide these wondrous articles.
In brief the first glance technique is a trick, a way if exposing that lack of confidence that complex writing brings. The questions that are then asked highlight the essentials; Title, authors, date of publication.The things the knowledgeable reader does subconsciously When the students realise that they can do this with ease its wonderful to see that the incomprehensible becomes accessible and of value to them. I am fully aware that time, effort and skill in selecting a relevant, useful and readable article plays a big part in the student response, but when asked " Would it be useful and worthwhile our effort in reading this article further?" unanimously the response has been yes. This is testament to the main part is usefulness of the First Glance procedure.
The Second Glance is always much more readily accepted as a challenge. I would recommend following straight on with the procedures,(For the full procedure and some clear examples can be found here) I tend to add another brief reading spell to help increase their familiarity with the text. Once more this is a trick based task, when students see they have detailed questions to answer they instantly think they must read everything. So the strategy of stopping them quickly, and then reading the first line in every paragraph, seems like a revelation to them. I do tend to write questions, for their first exposure, that have questions derived mainly from the first line of each paragraph to reinforce this idea. Just this simple method makes skimming much more efficient. As a lazy reader of many years, I'm still amazed at how much information this renders.
The crafty part of the Second Glance strategy is in the students NOT to answer questions, but to find where the information can be found and record it. I like this for three reasons. Firstly, it keeps the students reading and looking for information and not copying it from a page. Secondly, it implies that the information i.e. The article will always be theirs for rereading. For me that's very useful. it shouts "Find the parts that will help you learn and concentrate your efforts here"; why didn't someone tell me to do this years ago? Finally,having questions helps them practice scanning looking out for the keywords.
I have used of both these as stand alone tasks, but a project based approach brings a whole new purposefulness to them. It is an important and liberating way of allowing students to actually find out things for themselves with structure and a way of developing their reading.
My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.