British Columbia Science Teachers' Association

Literacy Supports in Science- For FREE

One of the questions that I often get asked is, where do I find text that meets the reading level of all my students? There are 2 go to websites that I frequently use to support literacy learning in Science classes:

  1.  Newsela: is a resource out of the states that takes contemporary news articles form major new outlets and rewrites them at multiple reading levels (some as low as grade 2). As if that isn’t helpful enough, you can also access text sets (collections of articles on a topic) that students can then read online, in PDF or print out.
    • My favourite strategy:
      • Find a few articles on the topic you are currently addressing in science.
      • Print (so they can be marked up with all sorts of literacy strategies) each of the articles, making sure that one of the articles is in the lowest reading level suitable for your class and that one of the articles is at the highest reading level for your class.
      • Incorporate reading strategies: predict what the article will be about based on the picture/title; identify the tricky words; summarise the main idea and find supporting details using sticky notes…
    • Draw backs:
      • There is a lack of Canadian specific news- unless it hits the world stage (eg. wildfires in Fort McMurray)
      • Newsela has a “PRO” side and many of the embedded features (eg. assessing students’ progress)are only available through a paid account.
  2. Wonderopolis: is a web based resource that has articles searchable by subject. This site is nicely targeted at intermediate students with its ability to stretch into early middle years. Some of the features that I really like are:
    • Wonder words: highlighted words in text
    • Simple read aloud: by highlighting text and clicking the speaker icon that appears, students can hear that piece of text read to them.
    • Try it out: a section at the end of the text that asks questions, suggests activities and explorations you can do that are related to the article.

What are some other places, resources, and ideas you have to integrate literacy learning and supports in your science classroom? Please leave your comments below.

PSA Superconference Reflection

I hope that many of you were able to attend the PSA Superconference that took place in October at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and at Science World. Planning it was a monumental undertaking by all accounts and there may have been a few hiccups along the way. But, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Not in all my 25 years of teaching have I seen so many high-quality workshops and opportunities for networking with colleagues from across the province. I felt a new connection to the education professionals in this province and a new excitement for all the great work that is going on in classrooms across the province. We talked about how to improve student engagement or improve our assessment practices. Our colleagues shared their personal experiences with trying new approaches to student inquiry, or their first brave attempts at wading into the new curriculum.

I collaborated with a team of great teachers from Abbotsford as we shared our experiences transitioning to Project Based Learning at the Rick Hansen School of Science and Business. The journey has been challenging and eye-opening. But, it was so encouraging to hear how others were trying renew their classroom practice as well.

All of this made me wonder. In what ways could we keep this open-conversation about our professional practice going? Are there some ways that we can maintain the networking that started at the Superconference? We at the BCScTA are eager to learn about ways that we can work with science teachers across this province. If you have an experience, an idea, or a problem to share, we’d love to hear about it. Will you accept my challenge to keep the conversation about science education going?

John Munro, BCScTA President

BCScTA Roots Grants

The BCScTA is really excited to be offering grants for grassroots projects that inspire our membership. This year, the BCScTA introduced the Science Roots Grant to support collaborative groups in quality science education initiatives.

The funding for these projects are targeted for TTOC costs as the successful applicants collaborate with one another during school time. In our first intake, we received six applications for the grant. A sub-committee reviewed these applications and have awarded up to $2500 towards two projects.

The first project involves a group of elementary teachers collaborating in a book study which will lead to the development of more inquiry opportunities for students in kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 5. The book our members are reading is Totem Pole Carving by Vickie Jensen.

Using the concepts and ideas in Jensen’s book, the project team hopes to connect students to the environment around them and to understand that environment from another perspective. More specifically, their goal is to have their students build an understanding of the importance of cedar trees to Salish communities. Essential questions for these grades will be created to inspire and guide students in their inquiry of First Nation scientific concepts and relating them to established concepts within the scientific community.

The second project involves the science department of a secondary school. This group has found that they have had little time to implement meaningful and thoughtful ways to address and assess the curricular competencies at the Grade 8 and 9 levels. This very collaborative science department plans to use release time to create useful resources that they will use collectively as a whole. They are working towards creating meaningful and useful assessment tools, such as rubrics, of those curricular competencies. The assessment tools are meant to be customized and used with all labs and inquiry activities that students already perform. Further to the assessment tools, they are planning on looking at the new resources available for inquiry activities and build those into their repertoires and pair them with the correct assessment tools.

The BCScTA values the sharing of ideas and looks forward reviewing their documentation of their experiences. We plan to read a short report and images of their initiatives that could be shared on the BCScTA website. We hope that these successful applicants’ experiences will inform and inspire other members of our science community. In addition, these successful applicants will be invited to present the outcomes of their initiatives at a future Catalyst conference and/or participate in a future Twitter chat.

Canada 2067


Canada 2067 is a national initiative to shape the future of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning, focusing on Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Using the perspectives and opinions of Canadians, Canada 2067 will develop an action plan and a national vision for STEM learning that will ensure young Canadians are prepared to compete, thrive and contribute in the rapidly changing world of tomorrow.

We’re going nation-wide in search of perspectives and opinions on STEM learning. Join us and share yours!

More about Canada 2067’s goals and the action plan for STEM learning.


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