Accelerating learning in science with the Science of Reading

Science helps us understand how kids learn to read. And the Science of Reading helps kids learn science. Here’s how.

By Amplify Staff | December 18, 2023

The Science of Reading: it’s not just for Language Arts.

As host Eric Cross and expert guest Susan Lambert discuss in this Science Connections webinar, the Science of Reading also provides a powerful foundation for science learning.

Here’s what they had to say about bringing evidence-based literacy strategies into the science classroom.

The role of literacy in science literacy

Strictly speaking, the Science of Reading refers to the vast body of research we now have—and put into practice—on the systematic, explicit, and cumulative instruction required for students to learn to read.

“There is a misconception that when we're talking about the Science of Reading, we're just talking about reading.”

—Susan Lambert, Amplify’s Chief Academic Officer for Elementary Humanities

In fact, we’re talking about comprehensive literacy, which encompasses all the essential—and interdependent—components of literacy, including background knowledge, vocabulary, and both comprehension and expression.

In other words, it’s the listening, speaking, reading, and writing that scientists do in the real world—and that students do to engage with and connect to science learning. As we discussed in this post, developing students’ literacy in science helps them develop scientific literacy. And science literacy allows students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and strategic questioners—in science and beyond.

Integrating science and literacy in the classroom

What do these literacy strategies look like in practice? Eric puts them to use regularly—and here’s how you can, too.

  1. Use phenomena to activate and gauge prior knowledge. The more you know, the better you comprehend text and the faster you learn—so exploring familiar observable events (frying eggs, seeing your breath on a cold day) can engage students and accelerate their comprehension from the jump.
  2. Provide multilingual resources. “Being intentional about providing access to resources in the languages our students speak is critical,” said Eric. “The data shows that the more proficient students become in their native language, the more proficient they become in a new one.”
  3. Get students writing (and speaking, and editing). Eric has his students document their experiments and observations in (digital) notebooks and online portfolios. They also share with and present to each other, he said, “so they’re seeing other students’ writing styles and syntax and what details they include, and they can go back and update their own.” And, since it’s a year-long process, “by the time they’re done, they have this beautiful website that showcases their work.” (Amplify Science’s Student Investigation Notebooks also fit the bill!)
  4. Work across subjects. The Common Core recommends that, by 4th grade, 50% of texts read should be non-fiction. That’s why Eric coordinates with ELA teachers to read one text about metabolism, for example, each examining it through different lenses. “When you’re able to work together with another content teacher, it’s like magic,” he said. (And in elementary school, you’re the other content teacher!)
  5. Run science seminars. Students use evidence to explain their thinking. “For students who need extra support, you can have pre-written sentence frames so that they’re able to participate,” Eric said. “Even when they’re listening to other students speaking, that’s helping them develop language skills. You watch them be able to listen, speak, engage in debate, and disagree without being disagreeable, which we know as adults is a valuable skill.”

For more of Eric’s strategies, watch the webinar: Science Connections: Accelerating Learning in Science with the Science of Reading.

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