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General Resources in Science DL

Overview and Links to Sections

This page lists external resources that can support disciplinary literacy in science along with more general literacy strategies. Notably, there are limited resources online for true disciplinary literacy in science, most are more properly considered as literacy supports for a science context. This page shares resources in the following categories:

General Resources or Articles

What Is Disciplinary Literacy? - Short and concrete blog/article by Timothy Shanahan, notes that using literacy strategies in a science context and engaging with text like a scientist are different things. It's not just a new name for reading in the content areas

Teaching Disciplinary Literacy to Adolescents - A more in-depth article by Shanahan & Shanahan on disciplinary literacy from Harvard Education Review 

Science BEST Practices - Linking Literacy and Science Learning - "Science and literacy learning make a dynamic duo, the perfect tag-team.” Inquiry-based science requires students to use literacy skills to create explanations within their investigations of real-world phenomena. From the Minnesota STEM Teacher Center

Wisconsin DPI Disciplinary Literacy Suitcase - full-day professional learning resources (applicable K-12, but most relevant for secondary) 

Science Argumentation Resources from Kate McNeill - a collection of resources and links from Professor Kate McNeill, one of the architects of the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning approach 

Webinar - Connections between Practices in NGSS and Common Core - free 90 minute webinar from NSTA, supporting productive student discussion is the strategy discussed most

Literacy for Science - National Academies report summarizing a 2013 workshop that focused on linking literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards, particularly the practices. 

Multimedia Science Texts - Wisconsin Media Lab has many non-fiction science resources available, though they're only available to Wisconsin educators.

Specific Literacy and Disciplinary Literacy Strategies

TERC Talk Science - professional development resources to support teachers in facilitating effective science talk. There are many videos to see the ideas in action. While the site says grades 3-5, the ideas are clearly modifiable for younger and older students. 

Tools for Ambitious Science Teaching -  specific tools to support quality science instruction. Several have direct literacy connections, for example, "Claims, Evidence, Reasoning Sentence Starters" and "Scaffolds for Writing Explanations." The site also includes videos showing disciplinary literacy practices in action and PD. 

Teaching Kids to Support Claims with Evidence - This page provides a couple graphic organizers and describes an activity to engage students in this skill. 

Integrating Literacy Strategies into Science Instruction - presentation from Terri Sessoms and Carolina with several ideas for literacy strategies. It includes a comparison of science skills with reading and writing strategies, and ideas for notebooking. For example, the idea of using a particular perspective or lens to read a text is compelling.

Disciplinary Literacy in the Context of the Next Generation Science Standards - scholarly article by Gillis et al. showing the connections between ELA standards and science practices and crosscutting concepts

Asking Powerful Questions - Rhode Island Dept of Ed article with teacher learning activities on asking powerful questions. 

Essential Questions - article on asking students good questions and then giving them the opportunity to find the answers, from Scholastic

Scientists at Work - Sunday Cummins emphasizes reading about the lives and work of scientists to pull out and understand scientific practices. 

DPI Text Complexity Resources - This livebinder includes information on text complexity, a K-12 Guide for creating text sets, and a webinar. As one example of a resource provided, there is a table of graphic organizers describing text structures.  

DPI Building Academic Vocabulary Resources - This livebinder includes professional development to support teachers w/ academic vocabulary strategies. 

Books/Resources on Connecting Nonfiction Texts and Science Investigations (Elementary)

Picture-Perfect Science - this series of books by Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry links engaging non-fiction texts w/ science lessons using the 5E model of instruction - NSTA Press link to Picture-Perfect Science materials. 

Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers - book by Jessica Fries-Gaither and Terry Shiverdecker that shows “teachers how to teach science using a variety of nonfiction text sets (such as field guides, reference books, and narrative expository texts) and replace individual lessons with a learning-cycle format (including hands-on investigations, readings, directed discussion, and problem solving).” DPI and WSST will be supporting a book study with this book during early 2016. 

Seeds of Science, Roots of Reading (designed for grades 2-5) - They connect science lessons with non-fiction texts; useful articles and descriptions of their approach available on the website. Their curricula has to be purchased. 


We couldn’t find videos showing effective disciplinary literacy strategies in science and would welcome your ideas and examples. So, the videos below generally focus on applying literacy strategies to science, or content-area literacy, not disciplinary literacy. Often, the videos show students reading absent a real investigative or phenomenon-based purpose for that reading. To be more than a literacy lesson, students need to be reading like a scientist, which moves beyond basic comprehension. 

Close Reading of Informational Text - San Bernadino City Schools - This video shows an 8th grade classroom using close reading for informational text.  The video includes clips from the teacher explaining the process, as well as student conversations and thoughts during the activity. Unfortunately, this video does not clearly connect these literacy strategies to students doing scientific investigation. The “anticipatory set” could have included a presentation and discussion of a problem or phenomenon that students would be investigating in conjunction with this close reading.

Close Reading in Chemistry - Fisher and Frey - This video follows a high school chemistry teacher as she reviews prior learning about ocean acidification, and links that to close reading of a speech by President Obama on climate change. Importantly, she describes “carbon” as the culprit for ocean acidification and climate change, where she really means carbon-based pollution such as carbon dioxide or methane. Don’t let this common shorthand lead to misconceptions! It seems the teacher could have structured the class to have more student thinking and argumentation. 

Literacy in Physics: Reading a Primary Source - The Teaching Channel - In this video you see a high school physics teacher helping students use strategies to read a primary physics document, with commentary from the teacher. While it’s great to use primary documents related to units, the purpose here seems to be learning how to read primary documents, not to gain specific understanding in relation to their investigation. For example, students could have been asked to use evidence from the article to build an explanation for how they’ll refine their bridge designs. Article on her approach.

Common Core: Close Reading in Science (w/ Pre & Post Coaching) - Rashieda Gantt - This video shows a teacher implementing the “close reading” strategy in her classroom with an emphasis on vocabulary learning in a new topic. Many teachers use this type of vocabulary approach, but it seems that starting with meaningful phenomenon to engage and provide context works better. Why are students doing this reading? What is engaging them? What lens or crosscutting concept are they using to focus their reading to understand a phenomena? How are students connecting the learning from the reading to something more concrete?

Nonfiction Student Books and Book Lists

Women’s History Month - resources from Scholastic that includes books about women in science

Salt Marsh Secrets, an e-Book from the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) - most applicable grades 3-7

Literary Science for Grades K-5, Mentor Texts by Science Subject - bibliography from the Cooperative Children's Book Center at UW-Madison

Literary Science for Grades 6-12, Mentor Texts by Science Subject - bibliography from the Cooperative Children's Book Center at UW-Madison

Eco-Reading: Selected Books for Children and Teens about Our Earth and the Environment - bibliography from the Cooperative Children's Book Center at UW-Madison, most books are in the upper elementary and middle school range (a few below/above) 

Related ELA Standards

The Wisconsin State English Language Arts Standards include significant connections to literacy skills across the content areas. These ELA Standards for Literacy in Science & Technical Subjects connect to specific skills that scientists use in approaching text and using language, though they do not represent the full range of disciplinary literacy skills in science. While the Literacy in Science & Technical Subject standards are only called out at grades 6-12, they are embedded within the K-5 standards. 

Literacy in Science & Technical Subjects: 

Standards for Writing in History, Science & Technical Subjects: 

Reading Informational Text ELA standards are useful to reference, though they’re not disciplinary literacy:

Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9-10, Grade 11-12

Speaking and Listening ELA standards are also useful to reference, though they’re not disciplinary literacy:

Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9-10Grade 11-12


For questions about this information, contact Kevin Anderson (608) 266-3319