I have been spending much of this summer reflecting on the past year and thinking of new ways I can help my students understand that science is not an isolated subject, but that it is all around us, all of the time. I want them to recognize the science they see outside of the classroom, and I want them to use science skills they’ve learned in class, in other areas of their lives. I want them to make connections which will help them analyze and explain phenomena. Connections!
Years ago my staff did a book study on Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. One of the comprehension strategies they advocate for is called Making Connections. Harvey and Goudvis write that “When children understand how to connect the texts they read to their lives, they begin to make connections between what they read and the larger world. This nudges them into larger thinking about bigger, more expansive issues beyond their universe of home, school, and neighborhood.” I think making connections in science can do the same thing as making connections to texts. If we teach students to look for connections they will learn that science phenomena are bigger than just what is happening in an isolated investigation or lab. I also think, that by making connections it will help students more readily explore the Cross Cutting Concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards. Finally, I think it will help students as they construct arguments based on evidence.
Borrowing this reading strategy of Making Connections from Harvey and Goudvis, here are four Science Connections I am planning to teach my students so that we can use them throughout the year to deepen our thinking and our understanding.
As with reading, this strategy helps engage students in examining their prior knowledge and making the learning personal. For example, when studying sound perhaps students would be able to make a Sci-Self connection that they can hear someone even when they aren’t in the same room. This connection could lead to more student driven experiences and questions and then to an investigation to understand the phenomenon.
When I was teaching first grade we were doing a unit on light. We conducted some investigations about light, and then we read a trade book about the properties of light. While I was reading aloud one of my excited scientists exclaimed, “Hey! That’s what we saw happening in our investigation!” That is a connection! It is exciting for students to confirm their learning by reading about it in a text. However, sometimes what we read in a text conflicts with what we observed in class. Rather than start thinking that our investigation “failed” this is a powerful time to examine why this S-T connection is not in agreement. Perhaps we need to look at the source and determine its reliability, the authors of the text had more precise instruments, perhaps something “went wrong” in our in-class investigation and we will want to run the investigation again, or, perhaps your students have stumbled onto something new! Conflicting Sci-T connections should provide a path to deeper learning. When appropriate I will specifically find conflicting texts just so I can have these conversations with my students.
This strategy is similar to Science-to-Self, but we’re thinking bigger. The goal would be for students to connect the phenomena we were observing and studying to real-life application in the world around us. These S-W connections could be made based on our current schema, but I also see that this could turn into a research project, or with the application piece bring in more technology and engineering.
As students conduct an investigation, they will (hopefully) be able to make connections to other work they have done in similar investigations, whether it is in the current school year or past years. As I think about this strategy, my hope is that I can use this particular connection to pull in the Crosscutting Concepts. We should be able to make connections in our investigation to patterns, cause and effect, systems, energy and matter, structure and function, and stability and change.
Once we have learned each type of connection I would expect to start seeing students make connections independently throughout science investigations. I would have them write their connection on a sticky note and add it to their science notebook. Once we have made all of these connections, it will be important to use them in our writing. As we finish an investigation or unit, students should be able to use these connections as pieces of evidence to explain their reasoning. With their new connections students’ conclusions should go deeper to fully explain their understanding and thinking about why and how, and what the results might mean for other areas of science or its use in practical applications.
As you can probably tell, this post is helping me to do some brainstorming. I would love to get your thoughts on the idea of making these connections in science. Would you add anything? Do you think the strategy of making connections could help your students? Are there other tried and true reading strategies that might be able to help our students with their science thinking?
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