Bringing It All Together
Integrating Reading and Writing
The previous units highlighted ways in which reading and writing can be integrated into different aspects of science instruction. Because reading and writing form part of a broader literacy experience, speaking, listening, viewing/observing, and importantly thinking and inquiry are also essential elements. In this unit, the emphasis is on helping students become effective overall science communicators, to integrate their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills to foster critical thinking about scientific content. Too often, students encounter writing as a task that they have to do to “prove” that they’ve learned something, rather than writing as the natural product of their learning.
There is certainly a time to focus on reading skills—and independently on writing skills—but as students gain proficiency, the next level is for them to always be reading and writing. Cultivating a classroom norm where students easily and frequently move back and forth without really compartmentalizing reading and writing as separate literacies can have a powerful impact. Reading and writing are mutually supportive skills that develop in an iterative process that the most accomplished professionals use throughout their lives. Emphasize with students that the methods of close reading—marking up text, taking notes, forming questions—are writing and can be a precursor to more formal writing.
Apply: If you are currently teaching, consider assigning students a lengthier passage for close reading. Have them mark up the reading with the standard highlights, underlines, and marginal notes they typically use. Prepare a simple graphic organizer for them to transfer their markups. The organizer should have just a few sections, such as important passages I underlined, questions I wrote, unclear vocabulary I circled, and ambiguous passages I checked. Tell students that their close reading is the basis for an essay that they will write. Encourage, and give them time, to revisit their close reading. The essay could be on the meaning and importance of what they’ve read, or on what an interesting next experiment would be, or any number of other topics that would arise from their close reading. Be clear that close reading is part of the process of writing.