and phrases that unpack the defined
term nurtures their sense of agency
and their identity as a member of a
community that’s making meaning.
During one minilesson, I put three
students’ written responses to their
texts on the document camera for the
class to view and consider as mentor
texts. I asked students to find details,
words, or phrases from these responses
that we should add to our anchor chart
definition. One student, for instance,
said we should add the phrase “asks
multiple questions.” This practice
affirms students’ identities as critical
thinkers—both the student who wrote
the model response and the student
who suggested the term to add.
5. Develop minilessons.
As I mentioned earlier, when the 5th
graders’ pre-lesson written responses
about what scientists do included
vague language about how scientists
and engineers investigate something
(“they find,” “they figure out”), I
created minilessons to help close these
gaps in students’ understanding.
For instance, I wrote my own
response to an excerpt from The
Tarantula Scientist that included
sketching and labeling the investigative methods Sam Marshall used.
I sketched a ruler next to a segment
of a tarantula’s leg, illustrating one
way Marshall measured a tarantula’s
growth. During the minilesson, I read
this excerpt aloud and shared with
students my response to it. They then
created labeled sketches showing specific methods the scientist or engineer
they were reading about employed to
Because pre-assessments revealed that
these particular students needed to
understand what it means for scientists
and engineers to investigate phe-
nomena, I chose texts and lessons
focused on that concept. But I could
have highlighted many other aspects of
these texts—and many other practices
scientists and engineers engage in. In
addition to helping students learn
about STEM skills through hands-on
projects, there are endless ways we can
strengthen their understanding of
STEM concepts through reading, con-
versation, and writing. EL
1National Research Council. (2012). A
framework for K– 12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas.
Committee on Conceptual Framework for
New K– 12 Science Education Standards.
Board on Science Education, Division of
Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National
Sunday Cummins ( Sunday.cummins@
gmail.com) is a literacy consultant and
author of Close Reading of Informational
Texts: Assessment-Driven Instruction in
Grades 3–8 (Guilford Press, 2013). She
writes about teaching with informational
text at www.sunday-cummins.com.
Resources for Creating Text Sets
Book Series Focused on the Work of Scientists and Engineers
The Case of the Vanishing . . . : A Scientific Mystery Series (Millbrook Press).
Sample titles (all by Sandra Markle):
America’s Animal Comeback series (Bearport Publishing).
n Gray Wolves Return to Yellowstone by Meish Goldish
n Black-footed Ferrets Back from the Brink by
n California Condors: Saved by Captive Breeding by
The Scientists in the Field series (HMH Books for Young
Readers). This series also highlights the work of engineers.
Sample titles (all by Elizabeth Rusch):
n Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
n The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures
of Spirit and Opportunity
Online Sources of Texts and Videos
n Science News for Students ( https://student.society
n National Geographic STEM Education (http://education
n Super Science Top News (http://superscience
For more on how to
connect reading and
science, read the online-only article
“Literacy and Science: Better
Together” by Terry Shiverdecker and
Jessica Fries-Gaither at www.ascd