Reading and Writing in Science: Tools to Develop Disciplinary Literacy

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Help students access content in ways that foster understanding and critical thinking in science!

Science literacy goes beyond learning facts and concepts in a classroom. Rather, science literacy enables students to continue to learn, reflect, and communicate about science throughout their lives. Reading and Writing in Science provides an approach for building students' disciplinary literacy so they can learn from science texts, reflect on content, generate new ideas, and share content-based thoughts.

Written by a science educator and a literacy expert, this resource gives middle and high school science teachers specific strategies and tools for guiding students as they approach science texts and produce their own writing. The authors show teachers how to:

  • Build students' background knowledge and discipline-specific vocabulary
  • Develop students' science reading skills while they access content
  • Use writing frames, graphic organizers, writing-to-learn, and a writing protocol to get students started on science writing
  • Improve instruction and target specific needs through formative assessment

Help your students develop disciplinary literacy so they can learn about, think about, and write about science in school and beyond. \

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Editorial Reviews

Patricia L. Anders
"Science teachers, literacy coaches, and reading specialists will find this helpful book a great starting point for teaching the language of science—reading, writing, and speaking about science to engage the powerful ideas of the discipline. The tried-and-true, research-based practices explained in this highly readable and inviting volume provide many with the start they need to successfully support science literacy development."
Karen D. Wood
"Grant and Fisher’s book talks to teachers, not just sharing the current research but actually drawing connections between research and practice. The authors use their own extensive teaching experience to take the reader into the classrooms of exceptional teachers and present scenarios of how to teach science concepts in engaging, motivating, and research-based ways. At last we have a book that recognizes that science teachers are not reading teachers, but they are promoters of science literacy, communicators of their field whose ultimate goal is to inform, enlighten, and foster strategic thinkers who have the potential to take our society to even greater heights."
Julia Reynolds
"Finally, a book that uses real ideas about science literacy and shares those in interesting and informative ways. The idea that science teachers are teachers of language—instead of the usual argument of reading—brings literacy to the forefront in using instructional routines that fit the context of science. Grant and Fisher understand that there is more to science instruction than just the content."
Ellen Levy
"Students of science need both content knowledge and discipline-specific literacy skills to participate in rigorous science content. This book shows us how to use literacy strategies to improve student performance and participation in the secondary science classroom."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412956147
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 10/21/2009
  • Pages: 100
  • Sales rank: 974,116
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Maria C. Grant is a professor in the Department of Secondary Education at California State University Fullerton and a classroom teacher at Health Sciences High & Middle College. She works with both preservice and veteran teachers in the credential and graduate programs. Her work includes research and publications in the area of literacy integration into content areas, with a central focus on science education. In addition to her efforts at the university, Grant's experience includes over 19 years of teaching in high school science classrooms. She has taught physics, oceanography, coordinated science, chemistry, and earth science. Additionally, she has acted as a leader in curriculum development and professional development at both the school and district levels. Her current efforts include professional development work centered on formative assessment.

Douglas Fisher, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is the recipient of an IRA Celebrate Literacy Award, NCTE’s Farmer Award for Excellence in Writing, as well as a Christa Mc Auliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education. Doug can be reached at

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

About the Authors xiii

Chapter 1 The Role of Language in Science 1

Learning Is Based in Language 2

Using Language in Science 5

Chapter 2 Developing and Activating Background Knowledge 7

Why Background Knowledge Is Important 8

Determining Relevant Background Knowledge 10

Demonstrations: Understanding While Seeing 10

Anticipation Guides: Looking for Misconceptions 12

KWL: Using Knowledge to Generate Questions 13

Writing to Learn: Thinking Expressed Through the Fingers 15

Activating and Assessing Background Knowledge in Science 16

Bridging the Gap When Background Knowledge Is Scant 17

ReQuest: Teaching Apprentices to Question 17

DR-TA: Predicting as a Key to Scientific Reading 19

QAR: Connecting Questions With Answers 20

The Background Knowledge Big Picture 23

Chapter 3 Integrating Vocabulary Instruction Into the Science Classroom 25

The Importance of Vocabulary 25

Vocabulary Self-Awareness Charts 27

Content Area World Walls 28

Instructional Routines Useful for Developing Vocabulary 28

Semantic Feature Analysis: Assessing Relationships Between Words 29

Word Cards: Investigating Examples and Nonexamples 34

Semantic Mapping: Visualizing Word Relationships 36

Fostering Independent Word Learning in Science 38

Word Play Promotes Increased Vocabulary Knowledge 41

Vocabulary Helps Students Understand Science 42

Chapter 4 Reading Science Texts 45

Helping Students Read Science Texts 45

Read-Alouds Support Student Learning 46

Shared Reading Defined and Implemented 51

The Benefits of Shared Reading 52

Releasing Responsibility to Students 53

FacilitatingCollaborative Learning 54

ReQuest: Reading With Questions 54

Reciprocal Teaching: Practicing What Good Readers Do 56

Incorporating Independent Practice 58

Why Teach Reading in Science? 59

Chapter 5 Writing in Science: Scaffolding Skills for Science Students 61

Writing Like a Scientist Is Different 62

WebQuest: Collecting Data to Write 63

Writing Frames: Scaffolds for Scientific Writing 64

Teaching Scientific Phrasing 66

Writing Formats in Science 68

Why Learn to Write Like a Scientist? 71

Chapter 6 Assessing Student Learning in Science 73

The Purpose of Assessment in Science 73

Using Assessment Information 76

Identifying Specific Students' Needs 78

Creating Science Assessments 82

Types of Assessment Useful in Science 85

Final Thoughts About Assessment 89

References 91

Index 97

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