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For Teachers

What are PLOSables?

PLOSable stories summarize primary scientific research articles in short, non-fiction stories written for high school or middle school students. Though research is a great way to capture student interest, research articles are often only written for academics, making them difficult to understand. But PLOSables simplify this information to help create a bridge that will encourage students to read more primary literature.

Which of these titles would capture your students' interest?

Gustatory Perception and Fat Body Energy Metabolism are Jointly Affected by Vitellogenin and Juvenile Hormone in Honey Bees." or "Giving Bees a Sweet Tooth".

The researchers' article "Linking Human Diseases to Animal Models Using Ontology-Based Phenotype Annotation" or the PLOSable story "Choosing Words Wisely."

In this way, PLOSable stories are designed to capture the interest of students and to get them thinking about science and the scientific process. Each story introduces a scientific study's main concepts in a relatable way. These stories are also directly linked to the primary research paper so students have quick access to real-world science. Teachers will appreciate the wide variety of subjects that the stories cover and the discussions that the stories will spark. You can assign each student to their own story or have groups pick apart a single story to come up with discussion points and questions.

Why kids don't read scientific papers

What Topics are Available?

PLOSables cover recent interesting biology research. The stories are written for high school and middle school students, but can also be good materials for advanced grade school students. We have over 50 articles available and our PLOSable section is constantly growing. You or your students can explore our PLOSable story lists to find articles of interest.

Why Should I use PLOSables?

PLOSables are a great way to spur student interest in scientific research and the field of biology. When students understand current research occurring in the STEM fields, they may find it more engaging. However, PLOSables are also helpful to meet your teaching standards. You can use our search box to find materials on specific subjects you need to cover for state-specific teaching standards. The PLOSables are also particularly helpful if your state or school has implemented Common Core Standards. As non-fiction reading needs to be increasingly integrated into the classroom, these engaging non-fiction articles are a great resource. They can also be easily printed for use in the classroom if computers are not available.

Quick link to primary research artilce directly from PLOSable story

How Can I use PLOSables?

You can use PLOSables as a part of several different activities. Many are ideal for homework assignments. Here are a few ideas to get you started. If you have other ideas, please share them with us using our Feedback Form.


Suggestions for homework assignments or classroom activities:

Common Core Non-fiction Reading: Analysis of Non-fiction text (for 6th through 12th grades)

Materials:

Computers with internet access or printed copies of chosen PLOSable stories.

Time Required:

~1 hour per story

Directions:

Give one story to each student to read (this can be individually assigned for independent work in class or as homework, or it can be a group activity). As students work through the article, they should identify the purpose of the study, how the researchers completed the experiment(s), what the researchers found, and why it might be important. If students are working on separate articles, they should write out this information as a summary of the PLOSable article to turn in. Make sure students note where in the text they learned this information. If students are working in groups, they should discuss their thoughts on the purpose, methods, findings, and importance of the study. They should identify whether the author of the article included any information that wasn't based on fact, but that was instead speculation. Students should then write their own summaries of the factual information in the article. Make sure that summaries are based solely on the text and do not incorporation outside opinions.

Extension 1:

Students should make an outline that displays how the author of the PLOSable organized the text. They should also point out how information in graphics (pictures) and captions contributed to the overall story.

Extension 2:

Students should identify any areas of the text that were difficult to understand. They should try to create an accurate version that is easier to understand. They might also want to make suggestions for images that would be helpful to the understanding of the article.

Extension 3:Students should record the key phrases or terms from the text and outline how the terms and underlying concepts relate to one another.

 


Critically Thinking through Experimental Design (for 9th through 12th grades)

Materials:

Computers with internet access or printed copies of chosen PLOSable stories.

Time Required:

~1.5 hours per story

Directions:

Give each student the main question behind a PLOSable story (this can be individually assigned for independent work in class or as homework, or it can be a group activity). For example, "What spots are best for putting wind turbines?" is from "A Win-Win with Wind." Or "How do different yards attract different birds?" is one of two main questions from "Foraging in the City." Ask students to come up with an experimental design for how they might test this question. Students should record a summary of how they would design the test. After students have recorded their design, show them the PLOSable story associated with their question. Students will read through the article and compare how they wanted to test the question to how the researchers tested the question. They should record what they learned from this process.

Extensions:After students understand how the scientists tested the question, they should try to think of ways to improve upon the scientists' design. Students should also look for related information in other sources to support or contradict the scientists' design and/or findings. If they would like to run these ideas past biologists, they can submit their suggestions through Ask A Biologist's Ask A Question feature. Please limit submissions to the top two or three proposals in class.

 


Comparing PLOSables to Additional Research (for 11th and 12th grades)

Materials:

Computers with internet access or printed copies of chosen PLOSable stories.

Time Required:

~2 hours per story

Directions:Give one story to each student to read (this can be individually assigned for independent work in class or as homework, or it can be a group activity). As students work through the article, they should identify the purpose of the study, how the researchers completed the experiment(s), what the researchers found, and why it might be important. Then, they should research the subject under study to gather background information that will help them understand the process, phenomenon, or concept the scientists were studying. They should write a short report of what they found, explaining their findings in detail. If they found any conflicting information, they should note it and try to find additional sources that will help them resolve the conflicting information.

Creating PLOSables from Primary Literature (for 12th and higher grades)

Materials:

     

Computers with internet access or printed copies of chosen PLOSable stories, PLOSable template or simplified classroom PLOSable starter writing guide (provided by Sheila Macfie).


Time Required:

 

 ~10 - 20 hours total, usually over the course of several weeks or a couple of months

 

Directions:

 

 See starter writing guide example or more advanced PLOSable template

 

Publishing Option:

 

 If your students are interested in making PLOSables for the site, make sure to submit a volunteer form to get in contact with Ask A Biologist. Only "Research" category articles will be considered for publication and it is good to check with us before hand to make sure a specific article has not already been assigned to a PLOSable writer. If your article is of high enough quality so we can consider publishing it, authors often still go through up to ~3 editing rounds with our editing team before the article is ready for publication on the site. More details on writing PLOSables and tips on kid-friendly writing can be found on our Author & Artist Notes page.

 

 


Common Core Teaching Standards

Each PLOSable story covers a different subject or experiment, so we will not be listing subject-specific teaching standards at this time. However, all of the PLOSables are non-fiction reading. If students work through the texts carefully, these articles should help your class meet Common Core Standards:

Grades 6 to 8

Key ideas and details

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.1
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.5
Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7
Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8
Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Grades 9 and 10

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.1
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.4
Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.5
Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.9
Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.10
By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Grades 11 and 12

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Craft and Structure

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.5
Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.8
Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9
Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.10
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Student sleeping with book

Why is it hard to get students to read primary research papers? Image by Pink Sherbet Photography / Creative Commons.

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Student sleeping with book

Why is it hard to get students to read primary research papers? Image by Pink Sherbet Photography / Creative Commons.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.