Teaching language through thinking in science

Teaching Language through thinking in Science

Academic literacy is a key skill for all learners.  The project has developed new ways to enable teachers to support and challenge advanced bilingual learners in Science through a focus on how we teach language and thinking.  Creative and critical thinking approaches are increasingly widely used in Science with new flexibilities in the curriculum allowing engagement with science in real world contexts. Using these approaches as opportunities to explicitly teach both formal and scientific language can be a significant influence on the likelihood of high achievement.

The project brought together expertise from the fields of science education, gifted education and EAL. It builds on the REAL Project to develop a positive approach, working on the assumption that:

  • all learners are entitled to be stretched and challenged
  • high challenge learning can be made accessible to EAL learners without negating the possibilities it offers
  • classroom teachers can use a range of strategies to teach thinking and language together
  • how we do this can raise the achievement of all learners, not just those who are learning with EAL

Formal English can arguably be regarded as a second language for most children. Our experience shows that those for whom language is an issue will underachieve unless their needs are explicitly addressed.

In science with the requirements for clarity of thought, precision of expression and individual thinking the language issue can become a highly significant barrier to engagement with learning. It may effectively block access to thinking and leave the student highly dependent on their teacher to simplify the thinking, to scaffold out the challenge and to provide them with pre-digested chunks of science to be regurtitated without the complications associated with really having to think like a scientist.

This project and the materials contained within these pages present the issues and practical perspectives on how teachers can enrich and extend the learning of all students, whilst paying specific regard to the teaching of scientific and formal language.

This project has been generously funded by the Astra Zeneca Science Teaching Trust. We are most grateful to the Trust for their support of this work.