Agriscience Reading and Comprehension Sets

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Agriscience Reading and Comprehension Sets Spring 2008 Agricultural Science Teachers, Thank you for considering the use of these materials to help your students read and comprehend more effectively in
Agriscience Reading and Comprehension Sets Spring 2008 Agricultural Science Teachers, Thank you for considering the use of these materials to help your students read and comprehend more effectively in your agriscience courses. Ours is a slightly difficult and immensely compelling task. We offer a unique opportunity to help our students develop key skills for lifelong learning: the ability to READ. We are the last opportunity for many students. We are the most interesting context for many students. We attempt to incorporate comprehension instruction into an already busy schedule. We know our students better than any other teacher in the school. Thus, we are likely the teachers who are best positioned to help our students. What follows are 11 disciplinary reading passages and assessments within the context of agriscience. These assessments should be used as formative assessments. They provide the teacher with information about students reading abilities. They also help students in agriscience learn about the format of standardized tests. They are not intended to be summative assessments. First, immediately following this opening section is a one-page piece about the need for literacy instruction in agricultural science courses. This is background information providing justification for this endeavor. Hopefully you will find the information useful and relevant. Next, we present the diagnostic features of the texts. The table presents information that should help you select passages to use with your students. Most pertinent are the following features: (a) total words, (b) percent passive sentences, (c) Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level score, (d) Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (McLaughlin, 1969, SMOG) readability score, and (e) major vocabulary. The passages range from words. Normal students read about 250 words per minute, so the passages may require some students nearly five minutes to read the passage. Readability is a relatively complex feature of texts (actually, the reader has as much to do with readability as the text, but we ll stick with features of the text). Readability is affected by things such as the vocabulary, sentence structure, and cognitive weight of words. Passive sentences are generally more difficult to read, so a range of passive structures are available with this material. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level and SMOG reading level scores are one indication of grade level of text. There is much debate about the value of these scores, because they derive their calculations from syllables and word length. Thus, these give us an idea about the reading level, but are not the sole determinant of grade level reading (in other words, USE WITH CAUTION). Vocabulary is highlighted in the final column because of its importance in reading and comprehension. If you have students who struggle with reading, highlighting the key vocabulary before giving the assessment should raise their scores. 1 We wrote the assessments with varying levels of readability, ranging from 8.7 to 12.3 on the Flesh-Kincaid scale. This provides you with the ability to scaffold the use of the assessments with your students. You could start with a lower readability passage and then move to a more difficult set with your students. While our target grade level was grade 10, many of the sets are written somewhat above the tenth grade. This provides the opportunity to challenge your students. If when practicing using these assessments, students read material that is written at the upper end of their zone of proximal development, a.k.a. the upper range of their abilities, then they should be ultra prepared for grade level reading that is characteristic of standardized tests. (By the way, this first piece is 10.5 on Flesh-Kincaid, and the next section is 15.9). These texts were written to coincide with the Illinois Agricultural Education s Core Curriculum Clusters. Some of the topics will overlap with a couple of curricular areas. This was intentional so that teachers could experiment with a couple of areas. The passages were selected to present information and ideas in an agricultural context, but one that teachers may not have taught to students. With this type of learning tool, we try to balance familiarity with novelty. When we read familiar texts, we tend to measure core knowledge about a topic. When we read novel texts, we tend to measure reading and comprehension skill. Each assessment contains a mix of literal, inferential, and extension questions. Literal questions are those whose answers are found directly in the text. Inferential questions are those whose answers are found by combining pieces of information from various parts of the text. Extension questions are those whose answers must be found beyond the text. Students use their own background knowledge and/or information from agriscience courses to answer the question. Often these questions are an application of concepts from within the text. In the answer key section on of the reading set, we designate which questions are literal, inferential, and extension. As you score the test, you may want to score these types of questions separately. Most of your students should answer the literal questions correctly. Then, progressively fewer students should be able to answer the inferential and extension questions correctly. Inferential and especially extension questions require additional cognitive and literacy skills to answer successfully. After giving the assessment, if you want to re-read the passage with your students, you could talk through how you, an expert teacher, would attempt to understand the passage and answer the questions. Show them how to identify the kind of information needed to answer the question, as well as how you read and think about the ideas in the passage. Even though reading/thinking aloud is difficult, embarrassing, and seems elementary, much research suggests that struggling readers benefit immensely from this practice. This is probably the most powerful use of these assessments. (HINT: before reading/thinking aloud to your students, preview the passage and practice. It s not as easy as you d think.) What can you do to help your students read and comprehend prior to giving one of these assessments? There are literally hundreds of reading strategies. I m not sure that any one strategy is the silver bullet, or fool-proof, for that matter. Rather, as agriculture teachers I surmise it s best to think about what we want to accomplish with our reading and strategy use. If we re problem-solving, then using a strategy that triggers question generation is appropriate. If we re teaching something new, but related to what students may already know, then a strategy that activates background knowledge is most effective. 2 In general, we want to help students (a) develop relevant purposes for reading, (b) activate background knowledge, (c) generate questions, (d) organize information, and (e) determine how to fix lapses in comprehension. I ve not forgotten summarizations or discussions; it s just that we agriculture teachers tend to help students with those aspects of reading pretty effectively. And, if we don t help students prepare to read and monitor their reading, then the summary or discussion is almost a final attempt to help them learn or an attempt to tell them that they didn t read, which they already know. Further, as agriculture teachers, we have the whole application of concepts, ideas, and reading at our disposal. Students studying Romeo and Juliet will never stand on a balcony and earnestly say, But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? But, agriculture students studying IPM will likely apply mechanical, biological, and/or chemical measures to control aphids in a greenhouse. If you have any questions or concerns about these materials, please feel free to contact me. We re all on the same team that helps students learn about agriculture. I m learning, too. Finally, as I tell my future teachers, these are but tools to use wisely as a professional teacher. You may not use all of them all the time. But, judicious use of the tool at the appropriate time can create a masterpiece. Sincerely, Travis Park Assistant Professor Agricultural Science Education Cornell University 420 Kennedy Hall, Ithaca, NY, t: , 3 Significance of Disciplinary Literacy in Agricultural Science Education Today s demands on students literacy skills are more intense than at any other time in history (Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999; National Governors Association (NGA), 2005; Snow & Biancarosa, 2004). The consequences of illiterate graduates are severely detrimental and often limit individuals from full participation in society (National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), 2005; National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), 2006). High school graduates need proficient literacy and reading skills in order to succeed in school, participate in our democracy, navigate the information age, and make informed decisions about food, fiber and natural resources (Kamil, 2003; Meltzer, 2001; Snow, 2002; Vacca, 2002). Even our brightest students, those pursing further education, lack the necessary literacy skills for success. A bare majority of high school students completing the ACT are ready the type of reading needed to excel in college (ACT, 2006). American students compare poorly with students in other countries where disciplinary knowledge and literacy are central to the curriculum, let alone when they need to comprehend other sources of text, propose solutions, and make decisions (National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), 2001; Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2004; Wirt, Choy, Rooney, Provasnik, Sen, Tobin, 2004). In order for students to succeed in making decisions within our complex, information-based world, it is vitally important that they possess the ability to create knowledge from text, analyze arguments, propose solutions, and make decisions about real-world issues (Alvermann, 2006; NGA, 2005). With this emphasis on applied literacy across the curriculum, intentional and explicit instruction using texts as learning tools cannot be relegated solely to language arts courses. Helping students read must occur in all disciplines, including secondary agriscience. The powerful combination in instructional strategies with exciting and relevant agricultural content can enhance student learning about agricultural and life science issues, such as food production, renewable energy, biotechnology, and animal welfare. Agricultural science is an especially compelling context for reading because of the global nature and importance of its issues, the complexity of those issues, and the difficulty and diversity of text sources of information. As the world s population continues to increase, providing safe, abundant, and ethical supplies of food, fiber, and renewable energy to all people, while also maintaining the sustainability of our planet, is the nexus for all of agriculture. Students enrolled in agricultural science are the future decision-makers and problem-solvers of agriculture. Reading in agricultural science involves actual, relevant applications of the knowledge constructed from a variety of texts, including textbooks, Internet resources, popular magazines, technical reports, chemical labels, and other forms of text. As a student moves through school, literacy demands increase, especially in complex applied sciences such as agricultural science. Students must become more adept at meeting the challenges of more sophisticated disciplinary reading and information (Meltzer, 2001; NASBE, 2006; Snow, 2002; Snow & Biancarosa, 2003). This is vitally important when the topic is unfamiliar and the reading is demanding (Allington, 2002). The task is especially difficult when students attempt to make decisions about agricultural issues, because they must rely upon diverse texts for information and formulation of arguments. Additionally, making informed decisions about complex issues, such as global warming, food security, and sustainability, often involve gathering information from and evaluating the arguments contained in widely varying texts beyond the single textbook (Gartin, Varner-Friddle, Lawrence, Odell, & Rinehart, 1994). These factors challenge the incorporation of reading instruction in a vocational or career oriented context. 4 Diagnostic measures and major vocabulary. Title 1) Extinction of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Total Words Sentences per paragraph Words per sentence Passive sentences (%) Flesch Reading Ease Readability Grade Level Flesch Kincaid SMOG Major vocabulary extinct, habitat, old-growth, range 2) Animal Cloning animal model, clone, embryo splitting, monoculture, nucleus transplantation, ovum, somatic cell nuclear transfer 3) Plant tissue culture 4) Budgeting in Agricultural Operations 5) Hydroponic Plant Production androgenesis, anther, aseptic, auxin, cultivar, cytokinin, differentiated cell, embryo rescue, germinate, haploid, hardened off, hybrid, in vitro propagation, media, medium, meristem, micropropagation, plant tissue culture, protoplast fusion, recessive, totipotent, transgenic, translocated budget, fixed expense, partial budget, statement of cash flows, tangible expense, unit budget, variable expense aeroponics, aquaponics, arable, capillary action, coir, ebb and flow system, hydroponics, nutrient film technique, rafting, wick system 6) MIG Welding bead, direct current, electrode, inert, oxidation, Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, welding 5 Title Total Words Sentences per paragraph Words per sentence Passive sentences (%) Flesch Reading Ease Readability Grade Level Flesch Kincaid SMOG Major vocabulary 7) Vermiculture amend, decomposers, vermicompost, vermiculture, windrows 8) Eutrophication algae bloom, anaerobic, aquatic ecosystem, buffer zones, eutrophication, global positioning systems, growing season, hypoxia, precision farming, riparian zones, terrestrial ecosystems 9) Alternative Energy Sources from Agriculture 10) Invasive Plant Species 11) Maple Syrup Production biodiesel, biofuel, ethanol, fuel cell, geothermal energy, non-renewable energy, photovoltaic, solar energy competitive species, dispersal, emigrate, ground cover, habitat, invasive species, native species, predatory species, range, rhizome, weeds spile, sucrose, sugar house 6 Agricultural Science Reading and Comprehension Set 1 Travis Park, Cornell University Environmental Science. Extinction of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBW) became extinct in the mid-1940s. Hunters in old-growth forests no longer hear the unique kent-kent call. Hikers no longer hear the double-knock of the IBW searching for beetle larvae. The last IBW was photographed in the old-growth swamps of the southern United States in Today, because of a potential rediscovery in Arkansas, major efforts are underway to find the IBW. Once called the Lord God Bird, the IBW is the largest woodpecker north of Mexico. It is the third largest woodpecker in the world. It stands nearly 20 inches tall. In flight, the IBW s wings span 30 inches. Large patches of white feathers on the trailing edge of the wing and the ivory colored bill define the male IBW. The IBW s range once included the American South from eastern Texas to North Carolina, and from southern Illinois throughout Florida. Like many woodpeckers, the IBW s main food source is insects. Beetle larvae is its favorite food. Beetle larvae are scavenged from recently dead but still standing trees. To find the beetle larva, the woodpecker pecks holes in trees and strips these recently dead trees of their bark. Typically, the IBW prefers swampy bottomland hardwood forests. These old-growth forests provided a smorgasbord of insects from dead, but still standing trees. Several factors contributed to the extinction of the IBW by the mid-1940s. Habitat destruction is believed to be the major factor in the extinction of the IBW. Large paper and lumber companies bought huge tracts of land within the IBW s range. Logging destroyed the habitat by removing the nesting trees and dead standing trees that were the sources of insects for the IBW. The last remaining known habitat of the IBW was the Singer Tract in Louisiana. The National Audubon Society s efforts to stop logging of the land only accelerated the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company s cutting and destruction of the old-growth forest in this area. Today, less than 20% of these old-growth forests remain in the South, especially in the Mississippi Delta region. The IBW as not able to adapt to the habitat destruction like other animals. IBW could not simply move to new habitat. The oldgrowth forests were uniquely qualified to support the IBW. The dead, standing trees provided nesting places and beetle larvae for food. 7 A second contributing factor to the IBW s extinction was the drainage, damming, and altering of the courses of swamps and rivers within its range. Draining and damming swamps provided vast agricultural fields after the trees were cleared. The remaining tracts of old-growth forests suffered from the lack of water to nourish and regenerate the trees. Those forests that do remain are located in isolated pockets surrounded by agricultural lands. By creating isolated islands of old-growth forests, the wildlife that previously inhabited the area either died out or migrated to other habitat. As the areas of swampy old-growth forests diminished, so did the forests ability to support larger animals such as wolves, panthers, and IBW. In smaller patches of forests, with the ebb and flow of water altered, water quality becomes an issue. Sediments, fertilizers, and chemicals from surrounding agricultural lands, lawns, and roads wash into the remaining swamps and creeks. This alters the water quality and impacts life in the water. Gone are the riparian buffers with which to filter these pollutants out of the water. Bird collecting also contributed to the IBW extinction. In the late 1800s bird collecting was one of the main fads of the day. As the IBW numbers began to decline in the late 1800s, bird collectors sought to add the rare bird to their collections. Thus, collectors and preservationists captured and stuffed IBW in large numbers to add to their personal collections. In February 2004, Gene Sparling observed an IBW while kayaking in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Since 2004, several other sightings have been documented by ornithologists, those who study birds. The Nature Conservancy, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are conducting ongoing searches. However, no actual photographs or sound recordings have proven conclusive. Thus, large disagreement exists as to whether or not the IBW has been rediscovered. Oftentimes, ensuring that one species is not confused for another requires careful documentation and analysis. The IBW closely resembles the more common and smaller Pileated Woodpecker (PW). The PW inhabits much of the same territory as the IBW. The PW peals the bark from trees in search of beetle larvae. One difference between the two woodpeckers is that the PW has a black trailing wing edge. Skeptics of the recent sightings have indicated that the rediscovered IBW is really a PW. To date, no further conclusive sightings, photographs, or recordings have been found. 8 Please select the best answer from the choices provided for each question. 1. The passage asserts that the major cause of the ivory-billed woodpecker extinction was a. hunting IBW for bird collections. b. DDT and other petrochemicals. c. habitat destruction. d. global warming that caused the loss of the IBW s range. 2. What is a plausible explanation for why the IBW was called Lord God Bird? a. This name is a translation from the bird s Native American name. b. Because of its large size and uniqu
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