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ile levels are related to schema building and learning. Probing for her thoughts on this relationship, I asked her how she learned to be a scientist at the Ph.D. level. Did she learn science content mostly from the lectures at the university, or did she learn from the hours and hours of reading and writing that she completed for her course work? My ques- tion was rhetorically answered.

Hands-on science and the Common Core I have no doubt that lessons must be rel-

evant for students at all levels. Hands-on sci- ence activities help to make science more in- teresting for children and create that sense of wonder and excitement that all of us desire in our classrooms. Excellent teachers have long sought strategies for breaking informa- tion down into understandable bits to create an ease of understanding for their students. These components of teaching and learning are very powerful tools and help students understand complicated material. But hands-on science and teacher lec-

tures do not offer the full course meal. The textbook is often missing. As we sit on the eve of the Common Core State Standards implementation, our students must have multiple opportunities to become inde- pendent in their ability to extract meaning from expository text in order to prepare for exams that will require them to read mul- tiple sources to extract meaning, as well as develop arguments and opinions regarding information presented.

Four startling facts The U.S. Department of Education

document “Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Prac- tices” (2008) reveals four startling facts to consider as we look at content area reading: 1. Sixty percent of eighth-grade students

fall below the proficient level in their ability to comprehend the meaning of text at their grade level. 2. Reading ability is a key predictor of

achievement in mathematics and science. 3. Many teachers report feeling unpre-

pared to help their students or do not think that teaching reading skills in content-area classes is their responsibility. 4. Some teachers adjust their assign-

ments or methods of presenting content rather than helping students learn the disci- pline-specific strategies needed for content- area work. In other words, by the time the majority

of the nation’s students reach eighth grade, they do not possess the literacy levels nec- essary to manage the information from

ments for the Common Core Standards, not only must our students be able to read ex- pository text proficiently, they must be able to present coherent arguments centered on themes that are justified by selected texts. Researchers have studied vocabulary

levels and rare word counts in written and printed texts versus the rare word counts of

By the time the majority of the nation’s students reach eighth grade, they do not possess the literacy levels necessary to manage the information from texts independently; therefore, students are spoon-fed information during their lessons by way of lecture or hands-on activities.

texts independently; therefore, students are spoon-fed the information during their les- sons by way of lecture or hands-on activi- ties. By the time the students are ready for the chapter or unit exam, many teachers present their students with a study guide that has extracted the important informa- tion from the text to help their students suc- ceed in the content. By and large, education has ignored the

need for students to become independent, literate learners in the content areas. This problem begins in the early elementary grades by not teaching with the text and ref- erence books as centerpieces for learning of science and social science material. As we prepare for implementation of the assess-

the spoken word. The difference between the two is astonishing. For instance, the rare word count in a children’s book is 30.9 per 1,000, whereas the rare word count from dialogue on Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street is only two per 1,000. The conversation between two college graduates is 17.3 rare words spoken per 1,000. Even the conversa- tion between college graduates bares consid- erably fewer rare words than the rare words found in children’s books. Talking about science or social studies and giving even our best lecture will fall short in preparing our students with the amount of schema neces- sary for them to read texts with increasing difficulty. So, you may ask how this plays out in the

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