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Thursday, July 4 • 2:15pm - 2:55pm
Semantic profiles in chemistry texts: How Reading To Learn pedagogy enables literacy development

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In comparison to other school subjects, the subject(s) of science and the language of science is particularly abstract (Edling, 2006). There is also a presupposition that teachers and students “mean” the same thing when they talk about concepts (Blackie, 2014). Science text book texts are characterized by few shifts in levels of abstraction and “in a society where specialized knowledge is necessary, the access to specialized texts is important. A democratic view of education and school mandates that children and adolescents have the opportunity to encounter and learn to encounter specialized language in school” (Edling, 2006 p.4). The subject(s) of science is to a large extent based on oracy, and normally the function, form and user of science texts are not discussed in the classroom (af Geijerstam, 2006). Students’ science texts produced in the classroom are often characterized by copying, legitimized by the teacher (af Geijerstam, 2006).

We argue that students need to learn to master the specialized language of science to build knowledge cumulatively, enabling movement between stronger and weaker semantic gravity and density (e.g. Maton, 2014a, b). The pedagogy of Reading to Learn (R2L) focus the form and function of texts. Its overarching purpose is to decrease the gap between high and low achievers by developing teaching to more effectively meet the literacy requirements of all subjects (Rose & Martin, 2012). Language two learners in Swedish schools particularly lag behind. Due to increasing school segregation R2L has been introduced in some schools to decrease inequalities through teaching literacy across the curriculum. R2L pedagogy consists of curriculum genres in which teachers and students are engaged during classroom work and knowledge genres, which relate to the characteristics of texts used in the classroom for reading and writing (Rose 2015a; Rose 2015b). Curriculum genres are designed to emphasise learning as a social activity in the classroom, guided by expert teachers (Martin & Rose 2013, p. 24). One curriculum genre is detailed reading, when teachers provide strong reading support through different strategies, focusing on for example sentence structure; i.e. participants, circumstances and processes.

Object of study and research questions
This study aims at exploring how curriculum goals in primary school chemistry are enacted when teachers apply R2L pedagogy and how R2L provides affordances for cumulative knowledge building through “semantic waving”? Focusing on the R2L curriculum genre of detailed reading, our research questions are:
• What does a semantic profile look like in a model text?
• What does a semantic profile look like in a teacher detailed reading text?
• What does a semantic profile look like in student texts?
• How do these texts relate to the knowledge code of primary school chemistry (expressed in the national curriculum/syllabus)?

LCT concepts used and why
We use the dimension of Semantics and Specialization (Maton, 2014 a, b). Semantic density is the foremost used analytical tool in our study, as it illuminates the sometimes dense concepts of chemistry (Blackie, 2014), abstractions (Edling, 2006) and how these are, or are not, used, unpacked and repacked, in texts. The semantic density of a model text, the teacher text for detailed reading and students independently constructed texts are analysed using semantic profiling, in order to explore what aspects of model and teacher texts appear in the student text. Specialization is used as a backdrop to understand how the teacher recontextualizes the chemistry syllabus.

We analyse student example texts about atoms, teacher planning of detailed reading and the model text (from secondary school science), which the detailed reading is based on, along with syllabus writing on models in chemistry, and the particle model in particular.
Preliminary results

Using the model text, unpacking it through detailed reading we will see how and if R2L and detailed reading provide a good opportunity to students to learn the knowledge code of primary school science and whether it affords cumulative knowledge building.

This paper adds to the research body of genre pedagogy, in particular Reading to Learn, by illustrating how the strategy of detailed reading creates waves between the model text, the preparation for reading and the execution of detailed reading.

Thursday July 4, 2019 2:15pm - 2:55pm SAST
Room B47

Attendees (4)