How MU is developing middle school lesson resources combining science, math and literacy – Columbia Daily Tribune

University of Missouri professors are using a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop resources to help middle school teachers combine literacy, science and math for their students.
Previous versions of the grant combined literacy and science, but math is the new component of the grant.
Jeannie Sneller, a middle school teacher in the South Callaway School District in Mokane, has used the existing resources for the past four years and piloted the math component with a math teacher.
“Our students need help understanding graphs and understanding the scientific data,” Sneller said of the inclusion of math.
They developed a series of math lessons that require students to use science, literacy and math skills to examine evidence related to claims that are made, Sneller said.
The students looked at evidence of harmful effects of vaping and the conflicting claims of manufacturers in advertising, she said.
“One thing my students took away from this is how we can be wiser consumers,” Sneller said.
MU provides resource “scaffolds” around an anchor text, Sneller said. She can select among the resources that help students understand the anchor texts. She described in terms of choosing from a box of chocolates.
The resources may include infographics, videos, music, podcasts, art, cartoons or other choices.
“I meet them where they are and take them from there,” Sneller said.
As for writing, she said students who previously wrote a sentence or less now write several paragraphs and ask to write more.
The resources allow her to reach students no matter their level of ability, she said.
“It’s not boring,” she said. “It’s a variety of cool things. When students are engaged, they learn.”
There are more than 30 teachers like Sneller using the resources developed through the grant, said Amy Lannin, MU associate professor of English education and director of the Campus Writing Program. She’s in the College of Education and Human Development.
MU hopes to recruit a total of 70 teachers over the four years of the grant.
The professors start with a complex scientific text, which they rewrite to be better understood by an eighth grader, Lannin said. The teachers then use the “scaffolds” of resources to design lessons for students.
“It’s not prescriptive,” Lannin said.
The texts centered around the effect of vaping on the health of middle school students is connected to the NIH involvement, she said.
“I don’t think we’ve done a good job helping students with complex texts,” Lannin said. “This gives students comfort and confidence to say, ‘I can read this.’ That can make a real difference for a student.”
Delinda van Garderen, professor of special education in the College of Education and Human Development, said the resources are effective for students with special needs.
A goal is to establish a range of resources for different learning situations, she said.
Teachers shouldn’t avoid complex texts, but instead find ways to help their students understand them, she said.
A third person involved at MU is William Folk, professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources as well as the School of Medicine.
All of the resources developed through the grant are online and without any cost to teachers. They can be found at
Roger McKinney is the education reporter for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He’s on Twitter at @rmckinney9.