Category Archives: Non-fiction Science Title for High School

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Bibliographic Information:

Hawking, Stephen (1998). A brief history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Plot Description: Brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking attempts to lay out, as the title implies, a brief history of time and our universe for the ‘average’ reader. He is taking on a difficult task, because his theories require a depth of scientific knowledge, not possessed by most people. Hawking begins with a look at our universe’s past and how our perception of it has been ever evolving throughout human history. He discusses the how and why of the beginning of our universe with the Big Bang and if, how and why the universe will end. Hawking delves into many fascinating aspects of time and space.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 1290L, ATOS Book Level: 10.5, Interest Level: Upper Grades (9-12)

Qualitative Reading Analysis: This book is written for people who are not scientists, but it is by no means an easy text to comprehend. All the scientific vocabulary and concepts are explained, but readers may still have difficulty understanding the explanations of concepts without a foundation in scientific knowledge and ideas. Knowledge of concepts related to space and time would be particularly helpful in understanding the book. The author does provide many analogies from everyday life situations to illustrate the basic ideas behind difficulty concepts. The text structure is exceedingly complex in that connections between an extensive range of ideas, processes or events are deep, intricate and often ambiguous and organization is intricate and discipline-specific. The text is very complex in its use of graphics. Tables, charts and graphs support understanding of the text. Vocabulary is complex, subject specific and academic in places and conversational in others. Sentences are composed of several subordinate clauses with transition words and are complex. The purpose of the book is clearly to educate people about the universe, but it includes many theoretical or abstract elements. The subject matter relies on extensive levels of discipline specific and theoretical knowledge, which includes a range of challenging abstract concepts. Many references are made to outside ideas and theories. The author attempts to explain these theories and concepts, but many students may have difficulty understanding, even with the aid of the author’s explanations and graphics.

Content Area: Science (Physics), Reading

Content Area Standard: California’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Grades Nine through Twelve

HS-ESS1-2. Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.

HS-ESS1-3. Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements.

HS-ESS1-4. Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6–12

CCSS RST.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students create a comic book to explain a concept from the book. Discuss or write essays on various topics from the book with textual evidence for support, such as examining the different dimensions of the universe or the possibilities of time travel.

Supporting Digital Content: 

https://www.ted.com/speakers/stephen_hawking

Character names/descriptions: None. It is about concepts, rather than characters.

Personal Thoughts: This book was a little too scientific for me in parts and I had difficulty with many of the concepts. I think this book would be difficult for most high school students. From what I understood, the ideas sound fascinating and I would be interested in reading the simplified or illustrated versions of the book and perhaps using those with students instead.

High interest annotation: Discover the complexities of the universe through the mind of a brilliant scientist.

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