Learning to do science is about learning to think. Experiments, direct teaching,
group activities and discussions all have a part to play. So do science news stories.
Like other non-fiction texts, science stories contain different kinds of statements.
To get at the science behind the words - and to make reading them an active experience
- students should pull a text apart and explore the kinds of statement it contains.
We’ve met some of these in the later questions of the previous activity. Science
news stories usually include the aims of the research or reasons for doing it. They
often contain a hypothesis. Sometimes evidence for a hypothesis is given, or a hypothesis
is used to make a prediction. Towards the end of a story the direction of future
research the scientists are planning is often discussed, as well as outstanding questions
the research will be designed to answer.
All these types of statement occur in some science stories. Virtually all science
stories, however, will contain statements of the following four types:
new findings or developments;
the technology and methods the scientists used;
previous or accepted knowledge, which may or may not be supported by the new findings;
issues, implications and applications of the research.
So the next activity is designed to engage students with the latest science news
by exploring the meaning and structure of a story as revealed by the content and
balance of these four statement types:
Pulling it apart
In groups students should read through the story looking for new findings or developments.
Once they have reached agreement, or at least consensus, and have underlined all
the statements about what the scientists have just discovered or achieved, they can
compare their thoughts with ours.
In groups they should go through the story again looking for the technology and methods
the scientists used in their research. Once they have reached agreement or consensus,
and have underlined the statements that talk about the methods and equipment the
scientists used, they can compare their thoughts with ours.
They should repeat the activity for existing knowledge and compare their thoughts
Any areas of disagreement in these activities - whether among the students, between
teacher and students, or between their ideas and our own - should be regarded as
opportunities for discussion rather than errors to be corrected.
Having fully engaged with the latest science news through the above activities, students
will be far better able to talk and think about the science and its implications
than those who have simply read about it in a newspaper or watched a brief item on
Now it’s time for them to get to grips with the issues raised by the research.
Young people have opinions. But school science traditionally allowed little scope
for forming and expressing these - which is why it turned many of them off the subject
Putting it together again
In groups, students should read through the latest story looking for issues, implications
and applications. Once they have reached agreement, or at least consensus, and have
underlined all the relevant statements in the story, they can compare their thoughts
Having done all this the students should be well armed to explore the issues raised
by the story.
Further classroom activities
A set of activities based on the orangutans news story can be found here.