Are you looking for ways to increase literacy to your science curriculum? I know what you are thinking…. we want our kids to be able to read and write well, but we don’t have time to add novel studies.
I hear you. There is NO WAY I can squeeze an entire book into my units, and frankly I’m not an ELA teacher and I’m not trained on how to teach a book. So here’s my tip:
Drop the novel studies and do chapter studies instead.
There are quite a few books you can use that have stand-alone chapters that are GREAT for teaching science (I’ll share them below). By stand-alone, I mean you can assign chapter 9 of a book, and students will understand it just fine without having read chapters 1 through 8. As far as making copies and assigning the actual text, you have a few options:
- Do a Donor’s Choose project to fund a class set. The books stay with you, and students aren’t allowed to write in them.
- Print copies of the chapter you are assigning. Yes, that can add up to a lot of paper. However, you can use them year after year if you don’t have students highlight or annotate on them.
- Buy one copy of the book, and scan/upload the chapter to your learning management system. A few notes of caution here to protect yourself against copyright infringement: Make sure you are uploading it to a secure, password protected site. Also, to be considered “fair-use” you cannot copy more than 10% of the text.
- Check online for a free audio version of the book. This is a super great option for ELL students.
Ok, let’s dive in to some books! Note: links below are Amazon affiliate links.
Recommended Science Books
STUFF MATTERS: EXPLORING THE MARVELOUS MATERIALS THAT SHAPE OUR MAN-MADE WORLD by Mark Miodownik.
This book makes chemistry come to life! Each chapter covers a material and explains (in a very interesting way) how it was developed, how the atoms are arranged, and how it is used. Chapters cover materials like steel, paper, plastic, concrete, and even chocolate. Chapters are an average of 20 pages long, and are suitable for an on-level high school chemistry class. You can find the book here.
(If you enjoy this book, there is also a follow-up by the same author called Liquid Rules).
SIMPLY ELECTRIFYING: THE TECHNOLOGY THAT TRANSFORMED THE WORLD, FROM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TO ELON MUSK by Craig R. Roach.
This book is all about the evolution of technology used to produce and distribute electricity. Chapters in this book take the reader through time, with chapters covering things like the steam engine, the telegraph, the light bulb, the Hoover dam, coal, and renewable energy. The end touches on climate change and environmental policy. Chapters are an average of 18 pages long, and are suitable for an on-level physics or AP class. You can find the book here.
THE STORY OF LIFE: GREAT DISCOVERIES IN BIOLOGY by Sean B. Carroll.
I REALLY enjoyed this one (okay, I’m partial to biology since I have a biology degree…) I love that this book makes you feel like you are reading stories, not diving into non-fiction. Carroll tells stories of renowned discoveries, including: DNA, gene therapy, natural selection, climate change, and trophic cascades. The end of each chapter includes questions you can use for class discussions or have students answer outside of class. Chapters are an average of 12 pages long and are suitable for an on-level high school biology class. You can find the book here.
ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
In this book, Tyson strives to make a basic understanding of astrophysics attainable to the average reader with quick and short chapters. The book is even dedicated to “all those who are too busy to read fat books, yet nonetheless seek a conduit to the cosmos.” Chapters cover things like light, galaxies, dark matter, dark energy, and the planets.
Chapters are an average of 15 pages, but the book is small and there isn’t a lot of text on each page. This version is suitable for high school students, and you can find the book here. If you teach middle school or kiddos with a lower reading level, check out the Young Readers Edition.
EARTH SCIENCE RECOMMENDATION
THE STORY OF THE EARTH IN 25 ROCKS by Donald R. Prothero.
Students can learn about Earth’s geologic past with this book. Each chapter focuses on a type of rock (tuff, copper, coal, meteorites, etc) and explains what we can learn by studying them. Similar to The Story of Life, the author uses stories and discoveries of scientists to make the text more interesting. Chapters are an average of 12 pages long, and would be suitable for an on-level high school earth science class. You can find the book here.
(If you enjoy this book, the author has a similar book titled The Story of Life in 25 Fossils).
FORENSICS or ANATOMY RECOMMENDATION
THE POISONER’S HANDBOOK by Deborah Blum
This book is fascinating and I know your students will love it! Up until the early 1900’s, you could poison someone and easily get away with murder. In 1918, New York City established the first toxicology laboratory headed up by Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler. Together they developed the science of forensic toxicology and developed methods to detect toxins in human tissue. Each chapter covers a specific poison, ranging from chloroform to mercury and arsenic. Chapters in this book are a little longer than others, and average 25 pages. (Making copies? You could cut this down to 7 pages if you printed the pages 2 pages per sheet, back to back). You can find the book here. (You can also find supplemental resources from PBS here).
You might also be interested in checking out this blog post that has links to where you can find free non-fiction articles online.