Teaching students to write like scientists
People tend to think of themselves as either a “science person” or an “arts person.” But for science students today, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Writing and communicating are essential parts of being a scientist, which is why they’re also essential parts of a science curriculum.
A science teacher is uniquely qualified to expose students to science writing skills, which can in turn improve their writing skills overall. It’s a win-win! And even though writing styles may vary across the two disciplines, we bet ELA teachers will notice the improvement in students’ writing abilities.
Integrating science and writing skills
The science classroom and the ELA classroom are partners in developing student literacy. The following five principles can help teachers make the most of that partnership.
- Science writing is more than fill-in-the-blank. Science writing involves critical thinking, analysis, and the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively—in research, proposals, and more. To develop those skills, teachers can ask students to create presentations and lab reports, and to read journals and each other’s work.
- Technical writing goes beyond the technical. It’s important for students to learn to vary their writing styles for different audiences and purposes. Practicing technical writing (even instructions for making a sandwich) can help students learn to write—in all disciplines—with clarity and precision.
- Writing takes phenomena-based learning to the next level. Writing about a phenomenon encourages students to communicate hypotheses, arguments, and opinions. They need to provide detailed evidence for their assertions and explain why they matter—just as they would in an essay for ELA.
- The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are designed to support science instruction that’s rich in writing. Here are just a few places where the NGSS connect to common core writing standards: grades K–2 storyline PDF, grades 3–5 storyline PDF, middle school storyline PDF, and high school storyline PDF.
- Integrating writing into science encourages science and ELA growth. The more students practice writing out their thoughts, arguments, and opinions, the more adept they will be at forming arguments both in and out of the science classroom. When science and ELA teachers use similar strategies, they’ll reinforce the learning across classrooms and create even stronger writers.
- Science Connections: S1-03: Ways to integrate literacy skills into a K–8 science classroom: Rebecca Abbott
- Amplify Science encourages students to write like scientists
- Amplify Science: The research behind the program, including the proven Do, Talk, Read, Write approach