Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing in Science Class

A question posted recently on the National Science Teachers Association blog caught my attention:
We’re having a discussion in our secondary school science department. Some of us think our lessons should incorporate more opportunities for students to learn how to write, while others maintain there’s little time for writing and that’s the job of the English teachers. Who is correct?
I felt compelled to respond:
Communication in all forms is fundamental to science; therefore, writing should be a regular part of the science classroom. Teaching the writing process should not be the exclusive domain of just one teacher or department, but should be shared as part of school, grade level, and/or department goals and curricular expectations. Arbitrarily injecting writing exercises into the science classroom is neither the most efficient nor most effective approach to the task—common language among teachers and students as well as common writing strategies are needed to help maximize student progress in writing. 
Image courtesy of morgueFile
Including the process of writing into the science curriculum takes time, effort, resources, and collaboration—it’s tough to go it alone. It takes a shared vision and commitment to help students become better writers in all disciplines. 
While it may be (and is) daunting to add “one more thing” to the science classroom, better writers ultimately enhance all learning. Start small—incorporate one simple, manageable, and authentic strategy into your existing science repertoire, such as writing descriptive titles or writing scientific questions—then slowly build from there. The key to success is modeling and practicing the process until it becomes routine and comfortable to you and your students. 
As a science teacher, I shared the exact same questions and concerns as you when we first started emphasizing writing at our school many years ago. Now, writing (as well as reading, math, and other shared practices) is a regular and natural part of our everyday science experience, which is a source of pride and achievement for our students, our teachers, and our school.

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