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Science and Literacy

Grades: 5-8
Author: Tess Ewart


Module Description

As a result of the presenter-conducted in-service, participants will become familiar with a strategy for improving the technical reading and writing skills of their students. Participants will design a lesson that will use this strategy in their classroom.


  • Participants will discuss the merits of using inquiry lessons in the classroom.
  • Participants will discuss strategies for improving student communication skills.
  • Participants will design and implement in their classrooms a lesson using inquiry that incorporates a strategy for improving student communication skills.


Constructed object (see preparation) stored in a paper bag

Corresponding bags of building components for each constructed object (see preparation)

Paper and writing utensil for each participant



Have a set of Tangrams or instructions to build a small toy using only pictures with something like Legos®, Mega Bloks® or Kinex®. Ask the participants if they have ever been frustrated while trying to make the patterns with the Tangrams or build the model? (the majority of the participants will probably say yes) Have you ever put something together and have too many/few parts? (the majority of the participants will probably say yes) What made these activities frustrating? (the lack of written instructions, clear instructions, etc.)

Assessment: Participants' discussion


Grouping for this phase will depend on how many participants are in the session. It would be best to have a corresponding bag of materials for each participant. This allows every participant to be able to work through all parts of this activity without any "down time".

  1. Inform the participants of the "rules" for this activity. They cannot talk, pick up the constructed object or look on anyone else's paper. They may only observe the constructed object.
  2. Set a bag that contains a labeled (letter or number) constructed object in front of a group of participants. One participant or facilitator can remove and set the object so that the entire group can see it. Have each participant write their own step-by-step instructions for building their constructed object using only their observations to guide them. (Having the participants use only words or numerals when writing their instructions would be best at this point. However, the presenter may choose to allow symbols, drawings and diagrams to be used.)
  3. Have each participant record the label of their constructed object at the top of their completed instructions paper or on the back of the paper depending on what the presenter prefers.
  4. Put the constructed objects back in the bags, collect the bags and instruction sheets.
  5. Distribute an instruction sheet and a bag of building materials that go along with the specific directions to each participant. The participants should then attempt to recreate the constructed object following the instructions they were given.

Assessment: Participants observing, recording, following directions, etc. while working with the constructed objects.


Show the participants the constructed objects the participants should have copied. Have them evaluate how successful they were in their constructions. The participants should come up with reasons why they were / were not successful in recreating the constructed objects.

Assessment: Participants' ideas on what makes good instructions and how closely aligned their constructions are to the original objects.


Have the participants discuss in a small group the following:

  1. How could they use the previous instruction strategy with an exploration of circuits in the classroom?
  2. What are the benefits of using inquiry in conjunction with the writing activity?
  3. Brainstorm some ideas from their curriculum where this strategy may be used to improve student communication skills.

After a period of time, have each group share their ideas for the above questions.

Assessment: Participants' discussion of implementation ideas and benefits of using inquiry.

Classroom Implementation

  1. Complete a lesson plan template for an inquiry lesson that addresses grade level content indicators and uses the communication strategy from this session for use in the classroom. See Teacher handout.
  2. Further and on-going collaboration among participants should be encouraged.


From "Capitalizing on Literacy Connections" February 2004 pp. 35-36 Science and Children By Karen Worth, Robin Moriarty, and Jeff Winokur:

To make meaningful connections between science and literacy, it's important to first recognize the role of language in science. Reading, writing, and oral discourse-important literacy skills-are critical to science inquiry. Consider these obvious skill overlaps:

  • Scientists read related literature before they embark on investigations of interesting phenomena.
  • Scientists write continuously.
  • And, when enough work has been done, scientists present their ideas, backed by evidence, for others to read and critique.

Through scientific inquiry, students have opportunities to use language in the context of solving meaningful problems and, as a result, engage in the kind of purposeful, communicative interactions that promote genuine language use (Truebal, Guthrie, and Au 1981). In addition to engaging in direct investigation of scientific phenomena, students make meaning by writing science, talking science, and reading science. At the root of deep understanding of science concepts and scientific processes is the ability to use language to form ideas, theorize, research, share and debate with others, and ultimately, communicate clearly to different audiences.

One critical component of inquiry-based science is the discussion that supports students in developing meaning from their direct experiences. Oral language is also a critical foundation for literacy. As students discuss their ideas they are learning to listen to others; interpret the meaning of their words; and use detailed, meaningful, and clear language to express their own ideas.

More information on inquiry can be found at:

Science Standards

Content, Technology, and Professional Development:

NSES Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry.

NSES Professional Development Standard A:

Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry.

NSES Professional Development Standard B:

Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching.

NSES Professional Development Standard C:

Professional development for teachers of science requires building understanding and ability for lifelong learning.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Inquiry
  • Using writing in science class

Time Frame

2-3 hours depending on the objects to be constructed.


For the Exploration activity: Have different combinations of objects built with something like the following: Legos®, Mega Bloks®, Kinex®, Tinker Toys®, straws, push pins, paper cups, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, paper clips, clay, marshmallows, cotton balls, etc. For every constructed object, have two corresponding plastic bags with the needed parts to assemble the object. (In order to save time, the presenter may want to have more than two corresponding bags per constructed object. However, it would be best not to have more than four bags per object.) Label the corresponding object and bags with the same letter or number. The constructed objects do not have to be a specific design (such as made following directions for a model) and can range from simple-to-make to complex depending on the needs/ability of your group.


Depends on building materials used in the activity.


Assessments are given after each part of the learning cycle in the procedures. If possible, visit the classes when the participants are using the simulations developed at the professional development.

Overall assessment for the session could be any of the ideas under the extensions tab.

Explanation of Science

This professional development session deals with scientific literacy more so than specific science content.

From "Capitalizing on Literacy Connections" February 2004 pp. 35-36 Science and Children By Karen Worth, Robin Moriarty, and Jeff Winokur:

In science, both the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS 1993) and the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (NRC 1996) call for meaningful science education that demands more than acquisition of the scientific facts and skills. The NSES state: "Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately,. . . constructing a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments" (p. 176).


None available for this module.


Some suggested ideas are the following: write a manual on how to use a specific devise, write instructions for an elementary student to do a task, write a recipe for someone to make something, give directions from your school to a specific location, write directions to solve one of the Tangrams problems under the Geometry 6-8 tab from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website (

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Issues to consider are the following: seating so everyone can see the display and make sure every person participates in discussions. Classroom implementation of this simulation would include the above issues as well as grouping with diversity in mind.


None available for this module.


"Capitalizing on Literacy Connections" February 2004 pp. 35-36 Science and Children By Karen Worth, Robin Moriarty, and Jeff Winokur

Write It Do It Science Olympiad event 2005

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (

K. Owens, University of Akron