On Writing in Science

  • File Type: Text
  • Selected Literacy Topics: Content Area Literacies, Writing
  • Content Areas: Science
  • In this article from Science and Children,  Sandra K. Abell reflects, "Why use writing in science? Many teachers use writing in science as a recording tool (science notebooks) or to find out what students have learned (constructed response tests). Yet writing experts Judith Langer and Arthur Applebee (1987) tell us that writing to evaluate knowledge and skills is only one of several purposes for writing. According to their framework, writing in science classrooms can also: 1) draw on prior knowledge to prepare for new activities, 2) foster new learning, 3) consolidate and review ideas, and 4) reformulate and extend knowledge."

    This article was published by the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA, December 2006).

    Download this article in PDF form below.


    Access to this resource has been provided by the National Science Teacher's Association, an NCLE Stakeholder Organization.





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    Writing technical papers (labs) in science

    In science classes, prior to doing a lab, I encourage and involve my students to go over vocabulary for discussing the concept or topic, keep a journal of writing on topics related to the lab,listen to a think-aloud modeled by the teacher doing a similar lab, and produce an independent lab report.
    Students use notebooks and develop ownership, build understanding, and organize their content in a personalized and achievable fashion. Students develop interest, purpose, and excitement as they go to text to support their interest in the scientific phenomenon. Science builds engagement; engaged readers learn more. Students learn to write reports, ask questions, conduct group and online inclass research, gather relevant information, create graphics, do oral and visual presentations; all is done in the context of science learning. Students understand the importance of the conventions of written and spoken language, just as they learn the conventions of scientific investigation. Some strategies and tools that assist students with reading comprehension and writing are:
    • double entry journals in which students post questions, make observations about the text, summarize and make connections
    • KWL- a graphic that helps students identify prior knowledge , establish a purpose for reading and summarize or synthesize what they have learned (K = what I know, W = what I want to learn, L = what I learned)
    • graphic organizers that help students understand the texts' structure and/or to map out relationships of semantic knowledge needed to understand vocabulary
    • anticipation guides that help students identify key ideas and reasoning in the text
    • coding or annotation of texts to pose questions, mark main ideas, make predictions, mark reactions
    • posing questions of the text (Lee & Spratley, 2010)

    Lee, C.D., & Spratley, A. (2010), Reading in the Disciplines: the Challenges of Adolescent Literacy. Carnegie Corporation of New York, 17-18.