Teaching & Learning in Science ISSUE 3 - January & February 2019


This month’s newsletter is a double edition, primarily because we have mid-year exams (marking & data drops) bridging January and February and I would like to have more time to relax during half-term to focus on my own wellbeing.

The newsletter will look at how we can further develop language across the sciences by sharing more great things seen and shared over the past few months by educators across the globe along with more #edtech tools to reduce workload.

Given that communication forms an essential part of everything we do as teachers and plays a hugely vital role in students communicating their learning, I felt that this was a natural starting point for 2019.

Language in Science

Within education, not only specific to Science, key terminology and literacy levels play a huge role. Whether it be the ability to extract information from a text, explain a process in detail, interpret an exam question or simply convey an idea; literacy is a key aspect of any curriculum.

Developing the use of scientific language to attain fluency, supporting students in reading and writing about science also formed Recommendation 6, page 32, in the EEF Improving Secondary Science Guidance Report. So it should be a constant thread in all lessons where we are explicit with our language and teaching of the correct terminology, while also having the highest expectations of our students and their use of scientific language. An ‘ethic of excellence’ as Berger would say. You can read the full EEF report here.

Get the EEF poster here.

The Staffroom had an excellent podcast where Alex Quigley disscussed the ideas and associated evidence in his book ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap.’ This podcast provides great insight into strategies that we can employ, and the rationale behind them, across subjects to not only develop learners but also send them out into the world with greater strategies to aid learning after their school days.

Listen to the podcast by hitting the button below!

Since language is one communication tool, developing oracy in our students in key.

Recommended Websites

The Confident Teacher is Alex Quigley’s blog which is packed full of his thinking, resources along with a raft of evidence informed information and links to wider reading. I highly recommend that you check it out, I especially liked his recent thoughts on ‘More than just Word Walls.’ Visit his site by pressing the button above and continue your learning journey.

The Association for Science Educators is the largest subject association in the UK and I would highly recommend joining, follow #asechat to find out more. You can read a brief, but thought provoking article, here on why we should be careful when considering schemes of work. I feel that this article ties in nicely with the focus of this newsletter when considering language within and across the sciences. Not to forget either that we should also pay homage to the language of mathematics in science when considering our schemes of work, you can read the teachers guide on The Language of Mathematics in Science here here.

“The child begins to perceive the world not only through his eyes but also through his speech” Vygotsky

Effective Writing

IES Research wrote a report on teaching secondary students to write effectively and while it was written back in 2002 there are many parts of the report that resonate still today.

From a science viewpoint the main areas of the document that serve us when thinking about extended responses in science would initially be using assessment of students writing to inform instruction and feedback (recommendation 3). However, in truth, the whole document is worth reading through and digesting as it also gives us some nuggets of wisdom as to how to develop critical and strategic thinking in our students, structure arguments, write for a target audience and more.

It highlights several strategies that we can employ to engage students in reflecting and evaluating their own work, and that of their peers, which is an extremely valuable processes to go through. Not only by building confidence in their skills, being ready to accept critique and also for students to know and produce good writing. Of course, underpinning this all, is the need to explicitly teach and model to our students what we expect to see from them.

Read the report by tapping the button below:

Google Translate

Google Translate, housed within Google Sheets, is an excellent #edtech tool that enables teachers to save time and provide students with key terms translated into their first language. This is currently not available in Excel! The add on translates to over 100 different languages and translates multiple words at once across multiple languages so you can provide all of your EAL/ESL students with lists of key words in unison, thus saving everyone huge amounts of time so that we can focus on the core business of learning.

The add on does require a small amount of code to be written however Jake Miller has made an excellent ‘how to’ animation, which you can watch here, that shows you exactly how to do it.

See his original tweet here.

Whilst not all of us use Google within our schools, but likely have a good working knowledge of Excel, this still proves to be a hugely time rewarding tool and definitely worth checking out as it will hugely benefit our learners. Cris Turple made a more detailed ‘how to’ video which you can watch below.

Amanda Fleck gave a fascinating talk at researchED Kent titled “Language and Literacy Demands of Secondary Science.” She has kindly agreed to share her presentation here.

Amanda’s work is a great analysis of the importance language plays in secondary science. Identifying common misconceptions, the complexity of language and a range of strategies we can employ with our learners to move forwards their understanding and use of language in the sciences.

Amanda’s presentation is broken down into four sections: language, reading, writing and assessment. Finishing with a plethora of suggestions, for each section, on how to improve language and literacy across science. I would highly recommend you read through her presentation and see the suggestions she makes so that you can move your learners forward and further understand the complexities of language in science.

In terms of additional sources of information and reading materials for educators, Amanda recommends the following two websites and book:

  1. Learn That Word
  2. Online Etymology Dictionary
  3. Closing the Vocabulary Gap

Biology Etymology Display

Jane Masters made a lovely etymology display which she has shared here, the biology team at my school love it and I’m sure yours will too!

Ellie Russell also made a great science key word (prefix & suffix) display that she shared here.

Chemistry Word Root Display

Suzyqzy made a chemistry word root display which she has shared for free on TES, find it here.

Physics Resource of the Month

I have not managed to find a word root display for physics, yet. If you see one, or happen to make one, please let me know so that I can share it! Therefore, I will suggest an #edtech tool that is fairly popular: Quizlet. Quizlet allows students to test themselves on key terms and definitions, teachers can produce small tests using it and you can use the Quizlet Live function to develop oracy when teams battle against one another to correctly match definitions - if you haven’t used Quizlet Live yet, please do give it a go!

While many students struggle to make their own flashcards, there are loads of teachers out there sharing their wares on Quizlet. So thank you to all of you who do this for the greater good and reduce workload for the rest of us! Special shout out to Matthew Benyohai for sharing all of his 9-1 Physics Core Knowledge Quizlet sets, and other resources, you can find his GCSE Physics sets here.

One of the most important things we do is teach students how to communicate

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This newsletter was written by Olly Lewis, Head of Science at The British International School of Abu Dhabi

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Olly Lewis


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