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What the Researchers Are Saying

Below you will find several recent observations about the relationship between reading and science process skills.

  • Significant improvement in both science and reading scores occurred when the regular basal reading program was replaced with reading in science that correlated with the science curriculum (Romance and Vitale, 2001).

  • Teachers should help students recognize the important role that prior knowledge plays and teach them to use that knowledge when learning science through reading (Barton and Jordan, 2001).

  • Most students arrive at the science teacher's classroom knowing how to read, but few understand how to use reading for learning science content (Santa, Havens, and Harrison, 1996).

  • The same skills that make good scientists also make good readers: engaging prior knowledge, forming hypotheses, establishing plans, evaluating understanding, determining the relative importance of information, describing patterns, comparing and contrasting, making inferences, drawing conclusions, generalizing, evaluating sources, and so on (Armbruster, 1993).

  • The skills in science are remarkably similar to those used in other subjects, especially reading. When students are doing science, following scientific procedures, and thinking as scientists, they are developing skills that are necessary for effective reading and understanding (Padilla, Muth and Lund Padilla, 1991).

  • Students engaging in hands-on activities are forced to confront currently held cognitive frameworks with new ideas, and, thus actively reconstruct meaning form experience (Shymansky, 1989).

  • Because hands-on activities encourage students to generate their own questions whose answers are found by subsequent reading of their science textbook or other science materials, such activities can provide students with both a meaningful purpose for reading (Ulerick, 1989) and context-valid cognitive frames of reference from which to construct meaning from text (Nelson-Herber, 1986).

  • Reading and activity-oriented sciences emphasize the same intellectual skills and are both concerned with thinking processes. When a teacher helps students develop science process skills, reading processes are simultaneously being developed (Mechling & Oliver, 1983 and Simon & Zimmerman, 1980).

  • Research indicates that a strong experienced-based science program, one in which students directly manipulate materials, can facilitate the development of language arts skills (Wellman, 1978).

  • Science process skills have reading counterparts. For example, when a teacher is working on "describing" in science, students are learning to isolate important characteristics, enumerate characteristics, use appropriate terminology, and use synonyms which are important reading skills (Carter & Simpson, 1978).

  • When students have used the process skills of observing, identifying, and classifying, they are better able to discriminate between vowels and consonants and to learn the sounds represented by letters, letter blends, and syllables (Murray & Pikul ski, 1978).

  • Science instruction provides an alternative teaching strategy that motivates students who may have reading difficulties (Wellman, 1978).

  • Children's involvement with process skills enables them to recognize more easily the contextual and structural clues in attacking new words and better equips them to interpret data in a paragraph. Science process skills are essential to logical thinking, as well as to forming the basic skills for learning to read (Barufaldi & Swift, 1977).

  • Guszak defines reading readiness as a skill-complex. Of the three areas within the skill-complex, two can be directly enhanced by science process skills: (1) physical factors (health, auditory, visual, speech, and motor); and (2) understanding factors (concepts, processes). When students see, hear, and talk about science experiences, their understanding, perception, and comprehension of concepts and processes may improve (Barufaldi & Swift, 1977 and Bethel, 1974).

  • The hands-on manipulative experiences science provides are the key to the relationship between process skills in both science and reading (Lucas & Burlando, 1975).

  • Science activities provide opportunities for manipulating large quantities of multi-sensory materials which promote perceptual skills, i.e., tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual (Neuman, 1969). These skills then contribute to the development of the concepts, vocabulary, and oral language skills (listening and speaking) necessary for learning to read (Wellman, 1978).

  • Studies viewed cumulatively suggest that science instruction at the intermediate and upper elementary grades does improve the attainment of reading skills. The findings reveal that students have derived benefits in the areas of vocabulary enrichment, increased verbal fluency, enhanced ability to think logically, and improved concept formation and communication skills (Campbell, 1972; Kraft, 1961; Olson, 1971; Quinn & Kessler, 1976).


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