I've worked on it all summer. I'm sure I could keep working for the rest of my life.
What does it mean for a middle schooler to be scientifically literate? Big words. Ambitious. At a time in life when students aren't necessarily interested in being literate about anything, finding a way to push them to want to know more is really the key. Student engagement. Making it all about them.
Pretty much I think, for middle schoolers, that has to revolve around scientific argumentation. They love to champion one side or the other. The trick is to find relevant topics where I can find opposing views----that relates to my content area. It's the last part that makes me yearn to teach life science or space science. Both are overflowing with topics that easily tap into 11-13 year olds interests. Physics and chemistry is a bit harder.
But I'm committed to trying and continuing to try. One of the magic tricks I need to perform is how to find controversial topics where I won't offend my parent community. It does me no good to try and explain I have no "horse in the race" and I don't care which side students take as long as they can defend their position with evidence. Parents can still feel like you have some secret hidden agenda if their child picks a side opposite what the family thinks....so I have to find topics that won't offend.
My research this summer has centered around 3 books.
The first one is called "Teaching argument writing" by George Hillocks. He has some beginning writing exercises that emphasize thinking, using clues about what students see in pictures, to solve mysteries. The teacher talk pages really helped me think through how I could be a better faciliatator of this in my room.
The other book I've poured over is called "It's Debatable: Socioscientific Issues to Develop Scientific LIteracy" This book has taught me less but it gave me ready-made units that my virtual science team can work on together. Here what I want to do is to work with the whole science department and figure out what science literacy looks like 6-8th grade in our building....and then act as a unified team.
And then a real jewel...which was a PDF called "They Say, I Say" written by a U of Illinois professor about how to transform what I believe into writing that will generate a conversation. His idea is that no one really cares what you say....it's all about what you have to say about what they say.
When I taught earth science, I solved this problem by tying my own instructional framework to current events. Students were interested in natural disasters and that was my hook. I'm trying to find a way to build background knowledge using Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week idea....hoping that from something here, I can find topics that will lead into argumentation.