Reading, Writing, and Science

By Metz, Steve | The Science Teacher, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Reading, Writing, and Science


Metz, Steve, The Science Teacher


Reading and writing have always been fundamental to science--for scientists, teachers, and students alike. But authors of science textbooks often overlook the importance of reading and writing. When describing the "scientific method," they almost always fail to note that the first step is not "state the problem and make careful observations" or "formulate a hypothesis" but rather "search the literature." Similarly, the final step in scientific inquiry is not "analyze results and make a conclusion" but "communicate your results to others." Reading and writing both begin and end the scientific process.

Science teachers sometimes believe that teaching reading and writing skills is tangential to an already overcrowded curriculum and should be left to English Language Arts (ELA) teachers. The good news is that incorporating reading and writing in science doesn't have to be another "add-on." Traditional writing tasks--such as laboratory reports, notebooks, and research papers--are already in place, and textbook and supplemental text readings are central to all good science teaching.

A look at the new Common Core State Standards for language arts and A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2011) reveals that ELA teachers share goals with science teachers. For example, the Common Core State Standards suggest that students should "demonstrate independence," "build strong content knowledge," "comprehend as well as critique," "value evidence ... and use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking," and "use technology and digital media strategically and capably" (Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association 2010, p. …

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