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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Engaging Students with High Quality Science Tradebooks

Eric Brunsell

Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh

The newly released Common Core Standards for Mathematics and Language Arts included a set of standards for literacy in science and social studies.

For example, these literacy standards state, "Students must be able to read complex informational texts in these fields [science and technical fields] with independence and confidence because the vast majority of reading in college and workforce training programs will be sophisticated nonfiction." These standards are intended to be in addition to normal "content" standards in science.

To see how the draft Framework for New Science Education Standards incorporates literacy as a key science practice, go here.

The following project illustrates one successful way to engage students with a variety of high-quality science tradebooks.

Mock SB&F Prize Election

Each year in late October, Science Books and Films (SB&F), a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, identifies finalists for their "best book" prize (update: these will be released on Oct 05 this year). In January, the top book in each of the following categories is awarded the SB&F Prize.

  • Children's Science Picture Book
  • Middle Grades Science Book
  • Young Adult Science Book
  • Hands-on Science Book

Here are the 2010 finalists and award winners.

In 2008, Tim Gerber, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, and I decided that we wanted to increase the number of high quality science books that our elementary science pre-service teachers read. To do this, our pre-service teachers read all of the finalists in the children's picture book and middle grades categories. They evaluated these books using the actual SB&F judging criteria. At the end of the semester, we held a Mock SB&F Prize Election. Since 2008, Mock SB&F Prize Elections have been held in elementary and middle schools in Wisconsin, Illinois and Washington D.C.

Results from the Mock SB&F Prize Election include the following top books:

Interestingly, Where in the Wild is the only book chosen by participants in the Mock SB&F Prize Election that actually won the official SB&F Prize.

Hosting a Mock SB&F Prize Election

To host a Mock SB&F Prize Election at your school, you need to acquire at least one set of finalists for the appropriate category (e.g. the 4 finalists in the Children's Science Picture Book Category for elementary students). Provide each participating student with evaluation rubrics and determine a schedule that will allow each student to read and evaluate all of the books. After students have read the books, bring them together to discuss their evaluations and vote on the books that they think deserves the SB&F Prize.

Resources, including multiple evaluation rubrics and two articles describing our implementation of the project, are available from UW-La Crosse Murphy Library.

Have you done something similar? Or do you have other techniques for engaging students with science tradebooks? Please share your thoughts.

Additional STEM Community Notes

Don't forget about the #scichat challenge. Connect your students to a STEM Expert!

Do you blog about teaching science? Consider submitting a post for the Science Inquiry Blog Carnival.

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