National Writing Project

A Conversation with the Authors of Composing Science: A Facilitator's Guide to Writing in the Science Classroom

Date: January 19, 2017

Summary: We discuss teaching writing, teaching science, and how to create classrooms in which students use writing to learn and think scientifically with Kim Jaxon and Leslie Atkins Elliott, authors of the new book Composing Science. Kim and Leslie talk about concrete approaches for engaging students in practices that mirror the work that writing plays in the development and dissemination of scientific ideas, rather than replicating the polished academic writing of research scientists. They also address a range of genres that can help students deepen their scientific reasoning and inquiry.

 

Excerpt from Show

Leslie Atkins Elliott on using the ubiquitous scientific notebook the way scientists use it:

For me, when I was in K12 and perhaps even beyond, they were very formulaic. You would need to start with your hypothesis and then list your materials, and then take your notes, and it was pretty rigid in what had to be in there, which is not what scientists' notebooks look like. It's pretty easy online now to find examples of really famous scientists' fascinating notebooks. One of my favorites is Linus Pauling who, he's scribbling in the middle of the night saying how he's been thinking about this problem forever and it just came to him that he's been doing it all wrong and now he has to go back and change the last few weeks of work, and how excited he is....Students are often surprised to see this...to see that they're not following any kind of rigid procedures....So we start by showing students what scientists' notebooks look like, and then develop our own rubrics for our own notebooks out of that. The idea is I want to be able to look at your notebook and know you were doing science, what should then we be looking for in your notebook."

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