Information in science, the standards say, should be obtained, evaluated, and communicated. But how can you do this without a bunch of research papers? Think outside the box! Instead of just gathering information, ask kids to compare and evaluate. You know, use higher order thinking skills.
Ms. Sneed Uses Information in Science
Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her mentee. “I’d like to show you how to use information in science,” Ms. Sneed said.
“You mean our textbook?” asked Mr. Grow?
“Well, yes, that could be a part of it. But I guess I’m referring more to the research end of it today.”
Ms. Sneed pointed to her laptop. On it, Mr. Grow saw a file on electricity.
“This is the final NGSS science practice we’ll discuss.” She pointed to the wall where the practices were displayed:
- Ask testable questions
- Use models
- Plan investigations
- Analyze and interpret data
- Use math in science
- Construct explanations
- Encourage scientific argument
- Use information
“This final science practice,” Ms. Sneed continued, “asks kids to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. Actually, today we’ll just focus on obtaining and communicating. However, in the supporting points for this practice, the NGSS emphasizes:
- Reading and comprehending informational text.
- Comparing ideas.
- Combining ideas in tables, diagrams, or charts.
- Communicating in oral and written forms.”
Let the Standards Guide You
Looking at her earth science standards, Ms. Sneed continued. “Wondering when to use information in science? The standards actually guide you. For example, this set of activities addresses this standard:
NGSS 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.
“See the words? Obtain lets you know that kids need to read about science concepts. Combine tells you that kids need to synthesize in some way. Then you see the content right there in black and white: (1) energy and fuels come from natural resources and (2) use affects the environment.”
Mr. Grow nodded. “Okay, let’s take a look.”
Kids Read Information in Science Class
Quickly, Ms. Sneed scrolled through the electricity file until she came to a page on fossil fuels. “As always, kids need a lot of background information in science class. For this activity, kids read about fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect. This provides a context for environmentally-friendly electricity options. Additionally, they read about atoms and the specifics of generating and supplying current electricity.”
“This is similar to reading in a textbook,” Mr. Grow said.
“Right. In this case, comprehension is essential. Actually, they’re doing reading – just in science class.”
They Compare Ways That Electricity Is Generated
Next, Ms. Sneed scrolled to a section with six informative articles on different ways electricity is generated:
- Nuclear power
- Natural gas
- Wind energy
- Solar energy
“Now we’ll talk about something that’s not in a textbook. When kids research information in science class, give them something to compare. In this activity, I’ve provided the texts. However, when they research on their own, you’ll also need to emphasize reliability of sources.”
The Students Use Tables to Combine Information in Science
Just past the articles, Ms. Sneed found a table. “As I said, the NGSS wants kids to combine information on tables. Here’s an example. From the reading, they determine whether each form is renewable or nonrenewable.”
Finally, They Communicate
Again, Ms. Sneed scrolled. Soon, she stopped on a page with a writing organizer. “From everything they’ve read, students can write a paragraph. Here, they use information in science to back up their opinion on whether renewable or nonrenewable energy should be used.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Grow. “Lots of reading with a writing prompt at the end.”
“Not only that,” his mentor said. “In this activity, kids read, compare, combine, think, and communicate. Effective science activities integrate experiences from different subject areas – as well as critical thinking.”
Enjoy Teaching Information in Science
Once again, Ms. Sneed scrolled through the file. “Let me give you another example of how to use information in science. For the same reading passages, kids determine which energy source should be used to generate electricity.”
Mr. Grow nodded. “Yes, I like this one even better.”
“Interdisciplinary teaching makes me enjoy teaching,” said Ms. Sneed. “In this case, I get to teach my kids about science concepts, reading informational text, and paragraph writing.”
“All in one fell swoop,” Mr. Grow joked.
With that, a slow teacher smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face.