2006 Conference General Sessions

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Presenter #1
Robin Hurd
AAC Institute
7283 Autumn Lane
Fairview PA 16415
Day Phone: 814-474-4889
Email: hurd4kids@aol.com

This presentation will discuss the application of science notebooks and inquiry based learning to children with language delays, including those who use AAC.

Research suggests that using science notebooks and inquiry based learning can improve students’ language abilities as well as increase their science literacy.  This presentation will discuss the basics of this approach and provide specific suggestions for using science notebooks, inquiry based learning, and core vocabulary to support children who have language delays, including children who need to use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies.

The basics of an inquiry based, science notebook approach can be summed up in 4 words:  read, ask, do, write.  Students read to introduce the topic, ask themselves questions about the science topic, do something to collect data to answer their question, and write about their data, what they want to know, and what they found out.  Assessment comes from the science notebook, as well as tests over the concepts taught in the unit.

This language based approach lends itself well to students who have language delays and can benefit from added practice working with words.  Students write using words they already know and use and combine them to make meaning based on their current skills. With practice and with language learning supports, students will increase their skills throughout the school year.

Data from research in districts with a high population of students for whom English is a second language shows that using science notebooks increases test scores in language areas.  This suggests that such an approach will also have benefit for students with other language delays.

For some children with language delays, research shows that combining visual supports with words can help improve literacy and language learning.  Such symbol supports are added to things such as the Scholastic News, which is used in many classrooms.  

By selecting a symbol set which provides visual support plus the ability to visually see how different words have the same role in sentence building, the ability to see how language is constructed increases.  The Minspeak set of symbols is able to provide just such support, because parts of speech are identified by one of the symbols that combine to represent a word.  In addition, the use of Minspeak symbols may help children who use AAC to more easily find new vocabulary words on their AAC system.

With my husband, astronomy professor and planetarium director David Hurd, I am in the process of designing a series of book and activity sets about the moon which make the science notebook concept even better able to support children with language delays within the inclusion classroom.

Using easy reading books that focus on core vocabulary and incorporating Minspeak symbol supports, the materials introduce children to a science topic via a question children often ask about the moon.  Follow up activities include sorting the symbol supports from the book and displaying the words and symbols on the word wall, using word wall words to ask questions about the moon, observing or experimenting about the moon, group discussion, and writing for the science notebook.

Our moon series will include materials for varying levels of knowledge and skills, starting with kindergarten/1st grade and increasing in complexity with each additional set in the series.  The moon was selected because NASA’s current push to continue moon exploration will make the moon a topic of conversation for the next several years, but the adaptations discussed in this presentation can be done for any science topic to increase language, literacy and science literacy skills for all children, including those with language delays, even those children who must rely on AAC.

Aschbacher, Pamela R.; Alonzo, Alicia C.  Using Science Notebooks to Assess Students’ Conceptual Understanding.  CAPSI California institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

Klentschy, Michael; Garrison, Leslie; Amaral, Olga Maia.
 Valle Imperial Project in Science, 4 year comparison of student achievement data 1995-1999.

Valle Imperial Project in Science Makes Case for Inquiry Based Science,  National Science Resources Center, Vol. 12, No.1, spring/summer 2001

Ruiz-Primo, Maria; Li, Min; Shavelson, Richard J.  Looking into Students’ Science Notebooks:  What do Teachers do with Them? CSE technical report 562 , CRESST, Stanford University.

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