Journal Club

One of the things I like best about science is that there’s always something new being discovered.  A couple of years ago, I decided to bring news of those science discoveries into my classroom.  I copied an idea from my former life as a research technologist in a cancer research lab.  Our department had a weekly lunch meeting called Journal Club.  Each of us was responsible for reading two or three journals to which the department subscribed and reporting on an article from a recent issue.  While it may seem that journals named Cell, Oncogene, or Academic Journal of Cancer Research are dry and uninteresting, I always found something of interest in my assigned journals and those of other team members.

Fast forward several years to my science classes.  The journals I provide for students today are Science News, Discover, Popular Science, and several online science newsletters.  My district provides Current Health and Science World.  With a few years of accumulated resources, my classes hold a monthly Journal Club, which we complete in two days.

On the first day, students are asked to browse through the binders and bins of magazines and journals for an article of at least ½ page that they find interesting.  The topic isn’t important, as long as they find it interesting.  Then students read and summarize the article on a form I provide for them.  One more requirement of the assignment is that students draft two questions they have about the topic that isn’t answered in the article.

On the second day of Journal Club, students present their articles to the rest of the class.  They can simply read their summaries if they like, or they can get a little more creative with their presentations.  I usually use each presentation as a springboard for questions to the class.  “Does anyone know someone with autism?  What could you do with that technology?  Do you think it’s right to do this kind of research on dogs?”  Again, it doesn’t matter what the topic is.  It’s just important to get students thinking and talking about science.

With the advent of Common Core Standards, students will be expected to more frequently read and interpret informational texts, as well as practice presentation skills, and this activity certainly satisfies those requirements.  That’s not why I do it, though.  I do it because I love hearing science news, and I can’t think of a better way to learn about it than to have students report on it for me!

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