Updates to Biology Reading Days

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A while back, I wrote a blog post about my Biology Reading Days. When I started this project, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with it. I now love it. You can read the original post here.

I will admit, not all my students share my enthusiasm for scientific literature. And that’s fine. What I really want them to get out of it is an exposure to this type of writing. Some of the books on the list are fictional stories (that are scientifically accurate). Some of the books are non-fiction explaining scientific ideas and events. Some of the higher level students actually struggle because they have never read something like this before. I don’t need them to have a Ph.D after reading the book, but just want them to come away with a greater understanding of the concept than they went in with.

So here are my updates:

1. Updated Book Lists: I now use this project with my freshmen bio and my jr/sr A&P….so two lists. I am always looking for new books to add, and taking off any I feel are too hard/boring based on student feedback. I post this for the students as a GoogleDoc, so I put positive student reviews in the comments.  AandPReadingList      BiologyBookList

2. Final Project: I still use the weekly reading sheets (found in the original post), but at the end they have to choose one of the following projects. This is a great way for me to see what their take on the book really was.  FinalBookProject

My final word of caution when doing this project: it is very much about you. This school year, I had a baby. I left reading days as a project for my sub thinking it’d be the easiest one. They pick a book, read it, and answer questions. Easy, peasy…. WRONG. I didn’t realize how important the conversations I was having with the students along the way were. When I returned the last week of the project, a lot of them were so confused, frustrated and bored with their books. They didn’t see the real world connections. And this is not a slam on my sub; she was great! But she hadn’t chosen and read the books (I’ve read about half). Those discussions about how awesome the author/story/concept is weren’t happening. Students weren’t getting productive feedback. And so a lot them felt lost. My point is don’t use reading days as a chance to catch up on grading/paperwork/endless other tasks we have to do. At least not the whole period. This is a chance to make real connections with your kids and get them excited about science (and maybe even reading!). I hope you AND your students love it as much as I (and most of my students) do.

Questions? Suggestions? I’d love to hear them n the comments! And don’t forget to Like me on Facebook!

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6 thoughts on “Updates to Biology Reading Days

  1. I sometimes do something similar. Some books I recommend are Alex and Me by Irene Pepperburg, The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, A Garden of Marvels by Ruth Kassinger, The Sports Gene by David Epstein, and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. One problem I’ve run into is parents who are concerned that books are too “adult” for their high schoolers (i.e., The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Emperor of All Maladies). I think the books are entirely appropriate for high school, but now I include a disclaimer on my assignment sheet instructing parents to preview books if they are concerned about adult themes.

    • The Ghost Map is on my list of ones I want to read. It recommended to me by a teacher who coteaches a disease & literature class. I will definitely look into the others, too!

  2. Pingback: Science Literacy for Modern Students | Refuse To Reinvent The Wheel

  3. Oh my gosh..this is fabulous! Thank you for posting this..and your book lists. I have my dual credit college bio and anatomy classes read a book..at least two a year(I have used ‘The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks’, ‘Death’s Acre’, and ‘The Hot Zone’)…But we all read the same one. I will use your book list and have them choose.

    I just read one this summer called ‘Being Mortal’ that you might want to look into.
    P.S. I want to read all the books on your list!😊

  4. Hello. I was looking for the weekly reading sheets and I didn’t see them on the previous post related to the Biology Reading Days. I would love to find out what you have students accountable for while they read the book they choose. Thanks in advance for any information.

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