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Nevada, Pennsylvania researchers and teachers working on new science literacy tool

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University of Nevada, Reno
Dianna Townsend and her colleagues are developing a new way to teach science vocab to middle school English language learners.

A team of researchers and teachers from Nevada and Pennsylvania are developing a new science literacy curriculum for English language learners.

The goal is to better teach EL students science vocabulary in middle school.

Traditionally, vocabulary development occurs through exercises that require students to give definitions to words and maybe use them in a sentence.

That is not enough, said Dianna Townsend, a professor of literacy studies at the University of Nevada, Reno and the project’s co-principal investigator. The project wants to pair vocab with interesting science content.

“They’ll be doing language development that specifically will give them traction in their science classrooms,” she said. “So, they’ll be learning really important science words embedded in really compelling science contexts, but in ways that are really appropriate for an English learner, not a seventh grader native English speaker in a science classroom.”

Townsend and her colleagues just received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to carry out the four-year development process. A council of teachers from across the country will provide feedback on the curriculum throughout the process.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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