Read All About It: Science News for your Class

Written by Theresa Schwerin & Cassie Soeffing, IGES

NASA science can provide students of all ages with a front-row seat to some of the most exciting, important and breaking news about our Earth system, Sun, solar system and universe. These science stories can range from events that happen seasonally and cyclically to breaking news on unexpected or surprising science discoveries from the latest NASA missions. Cyclical events may occur every year, or several times a year, and can be integrated into your lesson plans well in advance. These include events like the equinoxes and solstices, or the yearly ozone minimum. Breaking news events can be brought into the classroom to show the living character of science. New discoveries about planets or moons in our solar system, to the latest stunning images from Little SDO are always happening at NASA, and can serve as an inspiration for dialogue and critical thinking.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recognize the critical importance of literacy skills to building knowledge in science. In fact, connections to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts are included in NGSS across all grade bands and disciplines.

NGSS and CCSS also affirm that reading in science requires an "appreciation of the norms and conventions of the discipline of science, including understanding the nature of evidence used, an attention to precision and detail, and the capacity to make and assess intricate arguments, synthesize complex information, and follow detailed procedures and accounts of events and concepts. Students also need to be able to gain knowledge from elaborate diagrams and data that convey information and illustrate scientific concepts." (Next Generation Science Standards, Appendix M)

NASA science stories can easily be used to support STEM instruction and literacy in science. Here’s how.

First, find a story appropriate for your class.

Sources for NASA Science Stories
NASA Earth Observatory
Earth Right Now
NASA Visualization Explorer (iOS app with multimedia science stories)
NASA Press Releases
NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day
NASA Science News
Star Witness News
NASA Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet
Eyes on the Earth interactive (use the “Latest Events” feature to explore geo-located satellite images of recent Earth events, e.g., algal blooms, super storms and wildfires)

Once you’ve selected the science story, try using one of these strategies to engage your STEM classroom

Selected Teaching Strategies*

Take a science story or article and ask students to work on their own to write down three main points of the text. Then they compare their three points with the person sitting next to them and discuss which is the most important point. The pairs are then to combine or alter their original three points into a single main idea. As an extension, you can then expand by asking them to share all the single points with the class and decide as a class what is the main idea of the text.

Reading Questions
Have students read the story and then respond to 3-5 questions. Following are 12 reading strategies that can be used to craft these questions:
• main idea
• facts and details
• understanding sequence
• recognizing cause and effect,
• comparing and contrasting,
• making predictions,
• word meaning in context,
• drawing conclusions and making inferences,
• fact and opinion,
• identifying author's purpose,
• figurative language
• summarizing

3, 2, 1
One middle school teacher has used NASA science stories from the NASA Viz Explorer App as an engagement tool since 2011. The 3,2,1 strategy works like this: have your students work in small groups and write down
• 3 New things they learned from a given story or image
• 2 Things they found of interest
• 1 Question about the subject

Above: Image of the Day from the NASA Earth Observatory. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the region where the Niger and other rivers flow out of the wetter, more vegetated Sahel into the Sahara Desert.

Group Discussion
Because the NASA Viz Explorer App images are up to date and current, they can be used as year-round discussion starters. Select an image and consider asking the following questions:
• How would you describe what you are seeing?
• How do you think this data was collected and why?
• After reading the accompanying information, what would you like to learn more about?

Common Core Tips: Literacy in Science
Educators Guide to NASA Earth Science Images and Data: Educators Toolbelt

How do you use reading strategies for science literacy? Use the comments to share your stories!

Discussion's picture

Thanks for sharing. College students also need to be reminded how to actively read and faculty should give them explicit guidance on reading strategies.

Tschwerin's picture

Great point that this is also important for college students.

Another strategy is concept mapping, which would certainly be appropriate for college students and gets students thinking about complex topics in nonlinear ways. For ideas on how to use concept mapping, check out the article we reference at the end of the blog post - Common Core Tips: Literacy in Science.

A very cool (and free) online tool for concept mapping is from the Center for Ocean Science Educational Excellence – Concept Linked Interactive Media Builder (CLIMB) at Anyone can create a free account, create and share concept maps, attaching links and resources to any of the concepts in their map. While the topics for maps created are ocean-centric, this tool can be used for any science topic.