ED 656 Week 6 Reading Response

Science in and of itself is a language of its own. When individuals think of literacy or writing instruction in the content area, specifically in science, they may think it is as simple as an educator telling students to do a “close reading” of the text where they identify vocabulary, main ideas, and supporting details. Or they might think that literacy in science is simply a teacher introducing students to vocabulary and then have students use them in sentences. Although these strategies are useful they are not science specific and can be used in all content areas. Disciplinary literacy should never be reduced to or seen as and reading and writing in a specific content area.

If we want out students to be literate in the content areas we have to provide them with resources and tools so that they can read, write, speak, and think like a mathematician, an author, a historian, and a scientist. All of these professions possess a unique way of working with text and communicating ideas. According to the article “Using Argument as a Tool for Integrating Science and Literacy” written by Washburn and Cavagnetto, scientists in particular, “use language to do science” (2). Scientists and consumers of science deepen their understanding of science by “communicating inquiries and procedures”. Washburn and Cavagnetto reference the idea that science is an extremely social content area, they state “scientists use speaking and listening to present ideas as well as make, negotiate, and justify claims in both public and private domains with all types of people” (2). If we want students to write like scientists we have to lay the foundation for students to understand what writing like a scientist looks and sounds like.

In my classroom, about one to two times a semester we have very heated debates about hot topics in science including ethics in medicine and climate change. I provide opposing views about these topics and students are able to choose which side they agree with. Students have to conduct research and write papers to indicate that they can pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately. After the papers have been written students are then placed into debate teams where they structure their opening statement, rebuttal, and closing statements based off of the papers they have written. It is important that students can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically informed.

Writing like a scientist also involves students understanding their revision process. When scientists are presented with new information or their hypothesis doesn’t yield the results they were expecting scientists have to go back and make the necessary revisions. Possessing the ability to understand and reflect on your revision process makes your end product all the better and it also a key component to literacy development especially within science. Students too often focus on the end product that they bypass important aspects of the writing just to get it done. As educators we have to teach students to revel in the process and to provide them with resources so that they don’t see the process as an uphill battle. Writing in terms of process means compartmentalizing each portion of what it is that you’re trying to convey and allowing for those different parts to flow and complement one another. The best way for students to do this is providing them with an outline for their writing or even a graphic organizer to help facilitate this process. According to the article “Writing in the 21st Century” written by Kathleen Blake Yancey, “invention, drafting, peer review, reflection, revising, rewriting, and publishing” started to be introduced into the classrooms by way of he curriculum, however, this process of constructing a well written paper was lost to standardized exams (4). A large component of focusing on process rather than the product is being able to effectively reflect on your work in order to enhance your final product. In summary, disciplinary literacy in science is the combination of science content knowledge and skills paired with ability to read, write, listen, think and speak in order to effectively discuss scientific phenomenon.

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