Literacy through Science (Prim-Ed)

Let’s take two reasonably unrelated subjects – English and Science – and integrate them. Welcome to “Literacy through Science”, the brainchild of Tricia Callella and Marilyn Marks, who have written this series for Prim-Ed.  Does it work?   The answer is a definitive yes.  However, it really depends what subject you’re teaching, how you’re teaching it and how much you’re willing to spend.

The authors give their side of the story.  Their intention is for pupils to:

improve comprehension of non-fiction text and to understand scientific vocabulary and concepts.

Thank goodness for that.  This book is not intended to teach scientific concepts even though each of the 12 units does contain a “hands-on” section, which runs through a real science experiment.

Relevance to curriculum aims: 3/5

Unfortunately whoever listed the curriculum aims didn’t think about the author’s aims and listed several objectives of the the science curriculum which they purport are covered by the books.  This book is not intended to teach scientific concepts.  This series of books does not replace your English book or even your Science book.  Rather it supplements some of your non-fiction work in English through Science topics.  It does not really cover any science curriculum objectives.  It’s probably best to ignore the section in the book where it lists the science objectives covered and concentrate on the English ones which are accurate.

Teacher usability: 4/5

This set of books are very easy to use.  As the book concentrates heavily on comprehension strategies, there’s very little for the teacher to do except read over the Teacher Notes in each of the 12 units then photocopy the relevant pages for their class.  I think an accompanying CD or Interactive Whiteboard tool would further increase the learning opportunities for books like these.

The books themselves are aimed at 1st to 6th class level (Lower Primary = 1st/2nd, Middle Primary = 3rd/4th and Upper Primary = 5th/6th) and they manage to pitch them just about right even though the books were originally aimed at the UK curriculum.  Some of the Upper Primary units are a little difficult for Irish 5th/6th class pupils.

Value for money: 2/5

At €24.95 per book, these books will cost a school around €75 to cover a very very small part of their school plan for English.  I’m not sure if they are worth this investment.  Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here a little with this suggestion but I think it could work.  Wouldn’t it be a good idea to offer the individual lessons on a pay-per-download basis?  For example, I can really only see a school using one or two of these lessons ever.  If Prim-Ed were to charge €2-5 per lesson unit, a user could print off whichever lessons he/she needed.  This service works well for other companies such as but how it would transfer on to schools is another story.  I realise there’s probably very little Prim-Ed can do about the price of this series but I don’t think it justifies its price for the number of times it would be used in the classroom.

Extras: 0/5

Comprehension books don’t really allow for a lot of extras and there are none with this series.  I believe that accompanying CDs or weblinks are welcome additions to any programme as they cater very well for visual learners.  Perhaps PDFs of worksheets or links to relevant web sites (maybe videos to show the experiments) would be good.

These books are really good for teaching literacy through science.  I can see them motivating a bunch of science-obsessed kids.  However, they only cover a tiny proportion of the curriculum.  If the teacher was to use one or two of the lesson units in the books within a thematic approach to a topic, perhaps it might be worth a go.  Perhaps, it’s a book that you buy for the teacher who already has everything.  It’s a pity because they really are good books and it’s a shame they just don’t justify their price.

Score: 9/20

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