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Connecting Literacy to Middle School Science

With the integration of the Common Core State Standards, the importance of teaching students to read informational texts, use textual evidence to support their thinking, and write in a variety of domains have become standard literacy practices across all classrooms. Science content and images are exciting for students and are often a great way to excite and motivate them to engage with tasks that deepen and hone their literacy skills.

The National Academy of Sciences held a workshop in 2014 to explore the intersections between the Common Core for English/language arts (ELA) Standards and the NGSS. Contributors agreed that both sets of standards require students to:

  • Attend to evidence with precision and detail.
  • Gather, synthesize, and corroborate complex information.
  • Make and assess arguments orally and in writing.
  • Make accounts of events and ideas.
  • Integrate, translate, and evaluate prose, graphs, charts, and formulas.
  • (National Research Council, 2014)

Contributors also agreed that oral and written language are two of the primary vehicles by which students gain knowledge in the science classroom. They identified the following themes related to the importance of literacy in science education:

  • Reading, writing, and speaking are important to making sense of scientific knowledge.
  • Science reading, writing, and speaking are uniquely complex, explicit, and precise, requiring students to use specific receptive and productive language skills.
  • Science texts have unique and challenging words, grammar, patterns, or representations.
  • Science teachers have an important role to help students gain disciplinary literacy.
  • Students need time to grapple with challenging text and concepts in order to derive meaning.

The teaching of science provides multiple opportunities for students to read, think, and write like scientists. With supports like those found in Discovery Education’s Science Techbook, students not only build their content knowledge, but they also develop and strengthen their literacy skills through robust resources and lessons that use research-based instructional reading, writing, speaking, and listening strategies.

Getting Started: The Literacy and Science Connection

Reading and comprehending informational texts, as well as informative, explanatory, and argumentative writing, are essential elements in growing the literacy skills of your students. These skills are also integral to their development as scientifically literate students. As the expectations for reading and writing proficiency toward college and career readiness have accelerated, students must grow in their ability to access and interpret informational text. With Science Techbook, students interact with different types of text, produce text, participate in discussions, and engage in research.

The Writing Process and Science

Writing is an important part of science because it is how real scientists document and communicate their ideas, activities, and findings. Our resources engage students in many kinds of writing, especially argumentation. Argumentative writing in science calls for evidence, often requiring students to read across several texts, watch videos and other media, and complete hands-on labs. The Explain section in Science Techbook serves as the catalyst for the integration of the writing process across these key science concepts. Using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning structure, students learn to use evidence as a natural part of writing like a scientist.

Building Academic Language for All Students

Reading and writing success in science depends on the ability of students to understand not only the definition of vocabulary words, but also how the academic language connects ideas, adds details, or organizes the text. An interactive glossary within the Core Interactive Text supports students’ learning of both Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary words through videos, animations, and images to supplement the developmentally appropriate text definitions at critical places in the learning process.

Language Proficiency

English Language Learners (ELLs) build knowledge about how the English language works in varied contexts. Digital search features give teachers and students access to an extensive array of media and text. Teachers can assign content and tasks matched to individual students or groups, and language and display options allow students to adjust readability and language preferences.

Read our Finding Success with NGSS whitepaper to learn more about the ways Discovery Education Science Techbook helps educators meet NGSS expectations and supports student learning in and out of the classroom.

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