Literacy in Science

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend training on literacy in Science. Being a first year Science teacher, I didn’t understand the whole argument that students should be reading and writing in Science.   This class opened my eyes to a whole new way of teaching Science in the classroom. From my experience and education in Science, we would learn a chapter, go to lab, and take a test. It seemed simple enough until I was the one teaching. Today’s tech savvy students read and watch videos on everything under the Sun. Therefore, I found myself teaching to a classroom full of students who had already watched several videos online about the subject material I was teaching. However, when it was time to take the test, they couldn’t understand the questions of the concepts taught.

Texts enriched in Science concepts that relate to real world scenarios seem to not only hold my students attention, but it explains the Science of those real world scenarios in a way they can understand and relate too. As I began to introduce more and more articles, I noticed the students related the Science concepts learned to the real world relations of the materials read. Next, I had to tackle the problem of getting my students to write about what they read. My students constantly asked, “Why do we have to read and write in Science?” I typically answer with, “it will help you become a better student in all of your subjects not only Science.”

Why is pairing science and literacy instruction important?

“In an age fueled by information and driven by technology, understanding the concepts and process of science is as indispensable as knowing how to read, write, speak, and listen…Adults in the twenty-first century…will need to be scientifically literate-to possess a set of skills that marries knowledge of science concepts, facts, and processes with the ability to use language to articulate and communicate about ideas” (Thier & Daviss, 2002).

Research supports that:

  • Reading to explore science topics, combined with firsthand investigation and discussions, can help students acquire reading strategies even better than direct instruction in those strategies can.
  • Science inquiry is a powerful motivator for learning to speak, write and read effectively. Students find compelling occasions to use writing in the context of scientific inquiry.
  • Science texts offer numerous opportunities to expand student vocabularies, an important benefit given the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading achievement.
  • Content-oriented instruction and writing yield higher gains in reading comprehension than does most strategy-oriented instruction.
  • Class discussions, writing, and read-aloud opportunities increase students’ skills in using science vocabulary and in describing and understanding science concepts.
  • An inquiry approach to informational science texts helps students learn to question and be critical of texts rather than to always defer to the text or use texts simply for finding answers. (Hapgood & Palincsar, 2007)

As a Science teacher, I hope that all of my students will learn and remember each and every concept taught, but I really hope they can remember some of the interesting articles we read that related to the Science concepts to share with others who are interested. I plan to continue providing interesting Science reading materials and assigning writing prompts related to such material because I truly believe it makes our students better academically.

References and Resources

Hapgood, S., & Pallincsar, A.S. (2007). Where Literacy and Science Intersect.. Education Leadership, 64 (4), 56-60.

Thier, M., & Daviss, B. (2002). The New Science Literacy: Using Language Skills to Help Students Learn Science. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Mrs. Ferrell – 7th Grade Science


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