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Reading and literacy integration

Reading and literacy integration

Amplify Science units provide strategy-based literacy instruction that aims to develop students’ facility with reading, writing, and talking about science. Each unit provides many authentic opportunities for students to learn about and practice the ways of communicating and learning that characterize science as a discipline. The following are the Amplify Science Guiding Principles for Literacy:

  1. Students acquire literacy expertise through the pursuit of science knowledge and by engaging in scientific and engineering practices.
  2. Attention to discipline literacy instruction should begin as soon as students enter school and should continue throughout the grades.
  3. Participation in a disciplinary community is key to acquiring disciplinary expertise and literacy.
  4. Since the purpose of science is to better explain the natural world, argumentation and explanation are the central enterprises of science. Therefore, these practices are central foci of reading, writing, and talk in science.

Literacy instruction in the Amplify Science program utilizes a Gradual Release of Responsibility approach (Pearson and Gallagher 1983). In this approach, instruction begins with the teacher assuming primary responsibility for modeling strategy or skill and explicitly instruction how to use each strategy or skill. As instruction proceeds, the teacher offers as much support as needed so students can practice using the target strategy more independently. Over time, students take on more responsibility for using the strategy more independently. Depending on the goal, the path from teacher modeling to student independence will vary. Over the course of a unit, students may not achieve independence for every literacy goal, but they will move along the continuum toward flexible use of a wide range of reading, writing, and learning strategies that have been incorporated throughout the program.

Each Amplify Science Elementary Unit includes five books that students use to build an understanding of science ideas, practices, and crosscutting concepts. While the program does not take on responsibility for providing all literacy instruction required for students’ reading development (e.g., skill-based or fluency-oriented literacy instruction), it is designed to support vocabulary, language, and reading comprehension development.

Amplify Science provides students with a series of content-rich nonfiction and informational texts that are read for a variety of purposes throughout the unit. The five books in each unit include one book for approximately every five days of instruction and one reference book that students draw upon throughout the 22-lesson units (20 instructional lessons & 2 assessment days for pre/post). Students are encouraged to read books as independently as possible so they can apply the comprehension strategies they are learning in order to understand what they read. In each Amplify Science reading session, comprehension is supported at three stages: before, during, and after reading. At each stage, students engage in planned tasks that build an understanding of the key concepts and themes in a book. The teacher’s role is to scaffold comprehension and provide opportunities for practicing the strategies and skills that are being taught. At each stage, these include:

  • Before-reading activities designed to help students activate their background knowledge, prepare to use particular comprehension strategies, and set a purpose for reading.
  • During-reading activities intended to help students monitor their comprehension, make connections, and read and understand important science vocabulary in context.
  • After reading activities intended to help students reflect on their learning and connect their reading to their firsthand science investigations.

Nonfiction and informational text. The Amplify Science program is designed to help students gain familiarity with the structures and functions of nonfiction and informational texts by extending students’ exposure to these texts in a rich learning environment. The program uses nonfiction and informational texts because it is an important component of content learning in school; it helps build knowledge of the natural and social world, and it provides students with a purposeful context for learning key concepts and vocabulary. Nonfiction and informational text are also engaging and motivating as it answers genuine questions and capitalizes on student interests and background knowledge. Reading a wide variety of texts have been shown to affect students’ interest in reading overall (Duke 2004). Nonfiction and informational genres are also the genres students are most likely to encounter when reading and writing inside and outside of school. For adults, nonfiction and informational texts are read more often than other genres (Duel 2004; Smith 2000). In order for students to become successful information gatherers as adults, we need to provide opportunities for them to engage with nonfiction and informational texts in school.

Reading comprehension. Reading instruction in Amplify Science is designed to promote students’ capacity to read for meaning. Guided instruction and a supportive classroom context help students learn to employ powerful comprehension strategies that are critical for gaining a better understanding of text and becoming skilled readers (Duke and Pearson 2002). Comprehension strategies included in the Amplify Science program include posing questions, making inferences, setting goals for reading, summarizing, synthesizing, and using text features. Across units, students are guided to use these strategies flexibly as they read and make sense of a wide range of nonfiction and informational texts. Students also gain critical experience with understanding texts and experiences in relation to one another as they make connections between the books they read and the science they do. These connections then extend their growing conceptual understanding. Reading instruction in Amplify Science also encourages students to reflect on the utility of comprehension strategies, including when, why, and how these strategies helped them. One important way students make connections is through sustained classroom discussion of text with their peers (Nystrand 1997). Students regularly discuss both content and comprehension use before, during, and after reading, learning more about both as they engage in discussions with their peers. The Amplify Science approach also draws on research that demonstrates the benefits of instructional coherence (connected reading, writing, listening, and talk), particularly in the content area of science (Romance and Vitale 2001; Cervetti et. al. 2007; The Directed Reading Model supports reading comprehension before, during, and after reading. Cervetti et. al. 2006). Reading comprehension is enhanced as students connect what they read to what they are investigating and learning in science. The Amplify Science student books provide many opportunities for students to practice their developing reading skills in context, engage in authentic discourse around text, make connections, and support their understandings with textual evidence.

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