The development of scientific literacy: First-grade children's questions and comments during a shared-book experience

Barbara Jo Keckler, Fordham University


This study described the questions and comments of seven first-grade children during shared-book experiences using expository science big books. Eight shared-book experiences, each consisting of 3 half-hour sessions, were conducted over a period of 11 weeks. The sessions, entitled Reading, Rereading, and Responding, were video- and audiotaped and transcribed. The children's questions and comments were categorized through protocol analysis of the verbal interaction among the children and the children's spontaneous verbal reactions to the texts and illustrations. Analysis of the children's questions and comments indicated that the shared-book experience using science big books elicited a high frequency of children's language. The categories of questions culled from 335 questions in decreasing order of frequency were: Detail, Interpretation, Labeling, Inference, General, Prediction, Real World, and Meaning. In addition, the children's predictions were analyzed, and findings showed that science concepts accounted for 46% of the predictions. A frequency pattern indicated differences in the quantity of predictions among books and sessions. Book format, the interest level of the students in particular topics, and teacher prompts all influenced the frequency and type of the children's predictions. Children's thinking process skills and development of science concepts were revealed through the protocol analysis of 1191 comments. Sixty-four percent of the comments were within the broad category Focus on Information. The subcategories Labeling and Detail elicited the highest frequency of comments. Labeling demonstrated the children's ability to use conceptual thinking through their comments about the identity of items, features, and actions depicted in the illustrations and texts. Detail comments reflected the children's ability to elaborate and provide additional literal information about the books. Thirty-six percent of the children's comments incorporated first-grade science concepts identified as common to local, state, and national curriculum guidelines. Frequency analysis of the comments among books suggested that they were linked to the specific science theme of each book. In general, the greatest number of science concept comments occurred in the following categories: Animal Needs, Classification, and Families. Through a shared-book experience using expository science big books children can learn much of the information and concepts of the first-grade science curriculum. This study presents evidence that first graders use a variety of thinking processes which are important to the development of scientific literacy. The results of this study suggest that an integrated curriculum approach which includes teaching science through the shared-book experience can offer part of an alternative science program to first-grade teachers.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Science education

Recommended Citation

Keckler, Barbara Jo, "The development of scientific literacy: First-grade children's questions and comments during a shared-book experience" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9530952.