Science Anchor Charts – Non-fiction Text Structures

This year marks the first year that I have to demonstrate that I am teaching the Common Core standards for science literacy.  After reading over the standards, I’m pretty sure it’s something I’ve been doing over the last few years anyway.  Now it just has to be explicit that students are reading and analyzing at the appropriate level.

The previous principal at my school strongly encouraged all of us teachers to complete our Reading Endorsements.  I completed my endorsement a few years ago, and feel like it was worthwhile.  It gave me a lot of strategies to help students understand a sometimes-difficult science course.  I remember reading an article recently that proposed that many students read non-fiction the same way they read fiction:  they start at the beginning and read straight through.  They don’t stop to look up unfamiliar words (and, honestly, in science students encounter a lot of unfamiliar words), they don’t look at the diagrams and pictures, they don’t read the captions, and they don’t stop to ask themselves.  By reading their science textbooks in a fiction-like manner, is it any wonder that they don’t learn much from their reading?  This is especially true of my biology students.  Many of them are barely reading at grade level (10th grade), and a too-large number are still reading at middle school levels.  About 1/3 to 1/2 of my students are ESE, meaning they may have other learning issues that make it doubly hard for them to make solid meaning out of what they are reading.

Thanks to Pinterest, I learned about anchor charts over the summer.  Even though many of them are geared to an elementary school audience, I can see the value of using them when I essentially have to teach or re-teach non-fiction reading skills.  I found an example that had been pinned and repinned, which means that I have not been able to find the original poster so I can properly credit my source.

I’m the first to admit my handwriting, while neat, isn’t beautiful, so I found a font I liked and printed out my headings (150-size font, in case you’re interested).  I traced around the letters onto my posterboard, then used pencil to follow the indentations. Image


But outlining was pretty tedious, so I decided to just cut out the rest of the headings and glue them onto the anchor chart.  Then I copied samples of each of the text features from our current textbook and added them to my poster.  Finally, I wrote a description of each text feature.  When we get back to school for pre-school teacher work days, I’m going to have the poster laminated so it lasts longer.


I haven’t really started lesson planning for school yet, but the ideas are bubbling around in my brain.  This will most likely be a lesson in the first week or two of school, when we usually cover basic science skills such as scientific method, graphing, and lab safety.  The textbook publisher didn’t make a textbook scavenger hunt for this book, but I may do that to help the kids get familiar with these nonfiction text structures.


Orlando, here I come!

I’m very excited to be attending the College Board’s AP Annual Conference this year!  My department chair and I both went to the conference last year in San Francisco.  I learned so much – who ever thought that I would be excited about attending an hour-long seminar on El Nino/La Nina?  But it was one of those subjects where I wasn’t very confident in my knowledge, and that probably came across to my students in my AP Environmental Science class.  After attending the seminar at the APAC, I felt like I did a much better job of explaining El Nino and La Nina to my students in a way they understood.

If you teach AP courses and have never attended an Annual Conference, I recommend going.  The down side:  it ain’t cheap!  Registration and hotel and travel adds up to over $1000.  I am amazingly lucky in that my principal is happy to use a portion of the AP money that the school receives to pay for teachers to attend the conference.  Last year he paid for four of us to travel (my DC and I, and two of the foreign language teachers) to San Francisco.  I probably would not have asked to attend this year again, except for the fact that this conference is just 3 hours up the road from me.  I was actually surprised that more teachers from my school didn’t ask to attend since it’s so close.

The College Board AP Annual Conference in Orlando, FL




One reason it’s so helpful is in the opportunity to talk with other AP teachers.  I’m the only person teaching AP Environmental at my school.  Occasionally on a PD day, my school district will hold an AP Roundtable so all the AP teachers can work together and share ideas.  At the APAC, there are many APES teachers from all over the US and all over the world, so it offers a lot of different perspectives on teaching APES.  Last year I came away with so many lesson ideas and resources that it took me a long time to sort through them.

One of the workshops this year is on Climate Change and Global Warming.  These topics make up 10-15% of the Topic Outline for AP Environmental, so it’s crucial for me to understand these concepts.  I expect to learn a lot!  I also can’t wait to attend the session on flipping prelabs.  If you aren’t familiar with flipping, it is the process of using students’ out-of-class time (aka homework) to have them learn some of the basic concepts.  Many teachers use podcasts or videos (a la Khan Academy, but usually recording their own lessons) to introduce content.  Class time is then freed up to answer questions, discuss in more detail, or, in this case, have students come in to the lab PREPARED to do the lab.

I’m not taking my laptop with me, so I’ll update when I return.  Now I’ve got to go pack!