Sunday, February 1, 2015

Two great sites for improving Science literacy

 As a middle school teacher, I want to expose my students to as many science related content as I possibly can. In my head, I envision a classroom where students would come in ready to discuss a topic after having been able to read several pieces. Unfortunately, finding those sources can be time consuming and frustrating. Let's face it, most science articles are not meant for this age group. Even then, my student's have vast differences in reading abilities, so I often end up having to assign different readings just so that we can all discuss a topic somewhat intelligently.

That is where two websites I recently found come in. NEWSELA and BirdBrain Science. Both offer science related articles at different reading levels, with the possibility of taking CCSS aligned quizzes after the reading, and a way for teachers to track student progress.

Bird Brain Science is more textbooky. The science articles are informational in nature, and are presented within specific science topics. Although there is the option to assign readings as "interest", most are not particularly interesting to students. I see and have used it more as a supplement to instruction since I can assign a specific topic (i.e. I used the "Where did I come from?" article from the Genetics unit - to review the concept of heredity).

NEWSELA takes recent scientific articles and adapts them to different reading levels. Although much more interesting to read, the articles themselves do not lend themselves for use as part of my instruction. For example, although it might be nice to read about "Cuban crocodiles losing their identity", unless we are specifically studying the plight of the cuban crocodiles, I still have to scour the site to find articles to broaden the topic. I see this site as an enrichment opportunity or as a way to give my lower readers access to what is going on in the scientific community.

Now, if these two sites had a baby... Just imagine leveled reading for science content and science interest. What about you? Do you prefer one over the other?