Language and Literacy in Inquiry-Based Science: Classrooms, Grades 3–8


Zhihui Fang, Linda L. Lamme, Rose M. Pringle & Sandra K. Abell

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    When my stepson, Matt, was nine years old, he was not particularly interested in reading as a leisure pursuit. He preferred to spend his free time setting traps in the back yard, endlessly hoping to capture some sort of animal. One summer, to capitalize on Matt's interest in animals, his dad helped him build an ant farm. As they puzzled over how to provide the best environment for the ants, something interesting happened. On our weekly trip to the public library, Matt, the child who never picked up a book by choice, asked, “Do you think they will have any ant books?” I seized this literacy opportunity and helped Matt find and check out every book about ants he could find. Matt “read” each book, at times skimming for the answer to a question, at times looking at photos and reading the captions, and sometimes even reading the book cover to cover. Matt had discovered how books might be useful to him. His interest in science led him to this discovery. I have known many children like Matt, turned on by the natural world but disconnected from the school-based world of reading and writing. I suspect many of you know children like Matt as well.

    Matt's story illustrates that science can be the entrée into reading and writing for many of our students. However, as Zhihui Fang and his colleagues make clear in this book, being motivated to read or write about science is only one part of the picture. Even motivated young scientists can be challenged by the language and discourse style of science reading and writing. These discourse challenges can make science seem difficult and inaccessible for all but the brightest. This is certainly not the message we want to send to our students about science. We want all students to believe that they can learn science, not just the elite few.

    By using the ideas in Language and Literacy in Inquiry-Based Classrooms, teachers can help all students build fluency with reading and writing science. The authors provide a thorough description of why science reading and writing are difficult. They also suggest a repertoire of strategies that teachers can use to help students become proficient with the language of science. Teachers who integrate these strategies into their practice increase students’ opportunities to learn science; improve student motivation and self-efficacy to read, write, and do science; and increase the potential of student success, in both science and literacy.

    We often think of the best science instruction as that which engages students in doing what scientists do—asking questions, collecting data, and formulating explanations from evidence. Yet reading and writing are also essential activities of scientists. As part of their professional community, scientists read the literature, write grant proposals, keep a science notebook, and present their findings. Therefore, it is not enough for the science classroom to be physically engaging. In addition to using hands-on instruction, teachers of science must engage students in reading, writing, thinking, and speaking like scientists. Knowing how and when to do so are keys to effective teaching. This book will support classroom teachers in carrying out this challenge.

    Sandra K. Abell Columbia, Missouri


    We would like to thank the many preservice and inservice teachers with whom we have worked over the years. It is through them that we shared, piloted, and received feedback on many of the ideas presented in this book. We are particularly grateful to Sara Charbonnet and Melissa Henkel, two science teachers at Westwood Middle School (Alachua County, Florida), who worked closely with us in 2004 and 2005 on a reading-science integration project supported by a Multi-University Reading, Mathematics, and Science Initiative (MURMSI) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. We also thank our graduate students (Charlotte Mundy, Rebecca Norton, Mary Ellen Oslick, and Jennifer Patrick), who read draft manuscripts of this book and provided helpful comments. Finally, we acknowledge, with appreciation, our acquisitions editor Carol Collins and her team at Corwin for their guidance and professionalism throughout the publication process.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Sergio Z. de Alba, Teacher

    R.M. Miano Elementary School

    Los Banos, CA

    Cynthia Ballenger, Early Childhood Specialist

    Chèche Konnen Center

    Cambridge, MA

    Linda Keteyian, Science/Math Teacher

    Priest Elementary School

    Detroit, MI

    Sarah J. Ramsey, Assistant Professor

    The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC

    About the Author

    Zhihui Fang (PhD, Purdue University) is Professor of Language and Literacy Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida, where he also coordinates the Reading Education program. He specializes in content-area reading and writing, language development, and teacher education. His recent research focuses on the role of language in construing disciplinary knowledge and in shaping students’ literacy development. He is particularly interested in exploring the use of evidence-based language and literacy practices to support science teaching and learning. Zhihui has authored over 70 publications that include books, book chapters, and journal articles. His Reading in Secondary Content Areas: A Language-Based Pedagogy (University of Michigan Press, 2008), coauthored with Mary Schleppegrell, describes a new approach to teaching reading in the subjects of science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts. He can be contacted at

    About the Co-Authors

    Linda L. Lamme (PhD, Syracuse University) is Professor of Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida, where she teaches courses in children's literature, including international literature, literature for the writing program, literature for the content areas, and multicultural literature. She conducts research on children's responses to literature, book analyses, and literature in the curriculum. Linda has served on the Notable Books for a Global Society Committee for the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association, the Notable Books for Language Arts Committee for the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Children's Literature Assembly Board. She can be contacted at

    Rose M. Pringle (PhD, Florida State University) is Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida. Her areas of research include preservice teachers’ positionality as science learners and issues associated with learning to teach inquiry-based science. She is particularly interested in working toward increasing the participation of minorities, especially girls of African descent, into mathematics- and science-related careers. Rose is currently exploring the relationship between science teachers’ and counselors’ expectations and African American girls’ self-perception as science and mathematics learners. She can be contacted at

  • Endnotes

    1. National Research Council (1996); Rutherford & Ahlgren (1990)

    2. Grigg, Lauko, & Brockway (2006)

    3. Gonzales, Williams, Jocelyn, Roey, Kastberg, & Brenwald (2008)

    4. Osborne, Simon, & Collins (2003)

    5. Lemke (2001, p. v)

    6. American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993); National Research Council (1996, 2000)

    7. Hand, Alvermann, Gee, Guzzetti, Norris, Phillips, et al. (2003); Saul (2004); Wellington & Osborne (2001); Yore, Hand, Goldman, Hildebrand, Osborne, Treagust, et al. (2004)

    8. National Research Council (1996)

    9. American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993)

    10. National Research Council (2000, p. 13)

    11. Chiappetta & Adams (2004)

    12. Crawford (2007, p. 614)

    13. National Research Council (2000, p. 13)

    14. National Research Council (1996, p. 22)

    15. Colburn (2008); Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn (2007); Shymansky, Kyle, & Alport (1983); Wise & Okey (1983)

    16. Wilson, Taylor, Kowalski, & Carlson (2010)

    17. Chang & Mao (1999)

    18. Dalton, Morocco, Tivnan, & Mead (1997)

    19. Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn (2007, p. 104)

    20. Bell, Smetana, & Binns (2005); Crawford (2007)

    21. Abd-el-khalick, F., Boujaoude, S., Duschl, R., Lederman, N., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., et al. (2004); Anderson (2002); Crawford (2007)

    22. Hudson, McMahon, & Overstreet (2002); Weiss, Pasley, Smith, Banilower, & Heck (2003)

    23. Bybee, Powell, & Trowbridge (2007); Minstrell & van Zee (2000); National Research Council (2000); National Science Foundation (1999)

    24. Bunce (2002)

    25. Crawford (2000, p. 933)

    26. Bell, Smetana, & Binns (2005, p. 33); Fay & Bretz (2008, p. 41)

    27. Flanagan (2000)

    28. Chasek (2000)

    29. Kittinger (1997)

    30. Symes (2004)

    31. Horenstein (1993)

    32. Zim & Shaffer (1985)

    33. Johnson (2004)

    34. Baldwin (2004)

    35. Oxlade (2002)

    36. Hand, Alvermann, Gee, Guzzetti, Norris, Phillips, et al. (2003); Saul (2004); Yore, Hand, Goldman, Hildebrand, Osborne, Treagust, et al. (2004)

    37. Norris & Phillips (2003)

    38. Halliday & Martin (1993); Martin & Veel (1998)

    39. Norris & Phillips (2003, p. 226)

    40. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 117)

    41. Glynn & Muth (1994); Rivard (1994); Yore, Bisanz, & Hand (2003)

    42. Palinscar & Magnusson (2001)

    43. Wellington & Osborne (2001)

    44. Yore, Hand, & Florence (2004)

    45. Fang (2005, 2006, in press)

    46. Craig & Yore (1995)

    47. Perie, Grigg, & Donahue (2005)

    48. Cervetti, Pearson, Bravo, & Barber (2006); Fang & Wei (2010); Fellows (1994); Gaskins, Guthrie, Satlow, Ostertag, Six, Byrne, et al. (1994); Guthrie, Van Meter, Hancock, Alao, Anderson, & McCann (1998); Key, Hand, Prain, & Collins (1999); Mason & Boscolo (2000); Morrow, Pressley, Smith, & Smith (1997); Rivard & Straw (2000); Romance & Vitale (1992)

    49. Hand, Alvermann, Gee, Guzzetti, Norris, Phillips, et al. (2003, p. 614)

    1. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 59)

    2. M. Brown (2004, pp. 174–177)

    3. Sands (2006d, p. 4)

    4. Kintsch (2004)

    5. Gee (2001)

    6. Veel (1997)

    7. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000b, p. 584).

    8. Halliday (1998)

    9. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000b, p. 674)

    10. Halliday & Matthiessen (2004)

    11. The classification of clause types used in this table is based on Schleppegrell & Colombi (1997), who based their work on Halliday's (1994) functional grammar. For the sake of simplicity, traditional grammar terms “subordinate clauses” and “coordinate clauses” are used here in lieu of the less familiar functional grammar terms “hypotactic clauses” and “paratactic clauses,” respectively. For a more fine-tuned distinction of these clause terms, please refer to Schleppegrell and Colombi (1997).

    12. Halliday & Martin (1993)

    13. Christie & Derewianka (2008)

    14. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000b, p. 401)

    15. Fang, Schleppegrell, & Cox (2006)

    16. Fang (2005, 2006, in press); Fang, Schleppegrell, & Cox (2006); Fang & Schleppegrell (2008)

    17. Urban (2007, p. 160)

    18. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000a, 2000b)

    19. Piddock (2008); Pobst (2008)

    20. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000a, p. 36)

    21. Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin (1990)

    22. Norris & Phillips (2003)

    23. Veel (1997)

    24. Lemke (1998, 2000, 2002); Kress (2003); Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn, & Tsatsarelis (2001); Unsworth (1997a, 2001); O'Halloran (2004, 2005); Prain & Waldrip (2010)

    1. Anderson (2004); Hirsch (2006)

    2. Kintsch (2004)

    3. Yager (2004, p. 95)

    4. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 112)

    5. Cervetti & Barber (2009, p. 39)

    6. Perera (2005)

    7. Straits & Nichols (2006)

    8. Creech & Hale (2006)

    9. King (1990)

    10. Hadaway, Vardell, & Young (2001)

    11. King (1990)

    12. Zales & Unger (2008)

    13. Daniels (1994)

    14. Straits (2007, pp. 33–34)

    15. Fang, Lamme, Pringle, Patrick, Sanders, Zmach, et al. (2008)

    1. Halliday & Martin (1993)

    2. Halliday & Martin (1993)

    3. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 139)

    4. Duke (2000)

    5. Fang (2002); Moss & Newton (2002); Moss (2008)

    6. Duke (2004); Young, Moss, & Cornwell (2007)

    7. Derewianka (1990, p. 66)

    8. Fang (2008); Kamil & Bernhardt (2004)

    9. Craig & Yore (1995)

    10. Yore & Treagust (2006, p. 296)

    11. Ivey & Broaddus (2001)

    12. Wade & Moje (2000); Wellington & Osborne (2001)

    13. See, for example, Fang, Lamme, Pringle, Patrick, Sanders, Zmach, et al. (2008) for a detailed description of procedures for managing a home science reading program within an inquiry-based science curriculum.

    14. P. Robinson (2005, p. 443)

    15. P. Robinson (2005, p. 443)

    16. Fang (2006)

    17. Fang (2006)

    18. Fang (2006)

    19. Fang (2006)

    20. Schwartz & Raphael (1985)

    21. Haggard (1986)

    22. Fisher, Brozo, Frey, & Ivey (2011); Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz (2011)

    23. Lambert (1997, p. 36)

    24. Oldfield (2002, p. 94)

    25. Miller (2004, p. 423)

    26. Unsworth (1997b)

    27. Fang (2006)

    28. Sands (2006d, p. 13)

    29. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000a, p. 579)

    30. Halliday (1998); Halliday & Martin (1993)

    31. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000a, p. 495)

    32. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000b, p. 510)

    33. Walker (2003, p. 35)

    34. Parker (1992, p. 8)

    35. Pobst (2008, p. 31)

    36. Gallant (1998, p. 10)

    37. Unsworth (1997b)

    38. Fang (2006)

    39. Scott Foresman (2000, p. C67)

    40. Oldfield (2002, pp. 16–17)

    41. Murphy (2003, p. 137)

    42. Wellington & Osborne (2001); Yore, Hand, Goldman, Hildebrand, Osborne, Treagust, et al. (2004)

    43. Schleppegrell (2004)

    44. Fang (2006)

    45. Wellington & Osborne (2001)

    46. Walker (2003, p. 38)

    47. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000b, p. 400)

    48. Barnitz (1998)

    49. Lemke (1989)

    50. Unsworth (1997b)

    51. Miller (2004, p. 239)

    52. Halliday (1998)

    53. Reif & Larkin (1991, p. 756)

    54. Yore & Treagust (2006, p. 292)

    55. Halliday & Matthiessen (2004); Halliday & Martin (1993)

    56. Fang & Schleppegrell (2010); Schleppegrell, Greer, & Taylor (2008)

    57. Veel & Coffin (1996, p. 225)

    58. See, for example, Alvermann, Phelps, & Gillis (2010) and Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz (2011).

    59. See, for example, Beers (2002), Keene & Zimmermann (2007) and Fisher, Brozo, Frey, & Ivey (2011).

    1. Alvermann & Moore (1991)

    2. Fang (2008); Hirsch (2006)

    3. Pressley (2004, p. 420)

    4. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 117)

    5. Alvermann & Moore (1991); Biancarosa & Snow (2004); National Reading Panel (2000); RAND Reading Study Group (2002)

    6. R. Brown, Pressley, van Meter, & Schuder (2004, p. 1000)

    7. Almasi (2002)

    8. Fang & Wei (2010); Gaskins, Guthrie, Satlow, Ostertag, Six, Byrne, et al. (1994); Griffin, Simmons, & Kameenui (1991); Romance & Vitale (1992)

    9. Harvey & Goudvis (2007)

    10. Frisch (2003)

    11. Hirsch (2006)

    12. Bean, Readence, & Baldwin (2008)

    13. Ogle (1986)

    14. Sands (2006b)

    15. Dole & Smith (1989)

    16. Smith (1996)

    17. Lyman (1981)

    18. Beck, McKeown, Hamilton & Kucan (1997)

    19. Jones (2006)

    20. This table was adapted from Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan, & Worthy (1996, p. 390).

    21. Palinscar & Brown (1984)

    22. Sands (2006c)

    23. Pehrsson & Robinson (1985)

    24. F. Robinson (1946)

    25. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (2000a)

    26. Palmatier (1973)

    27. Fang, Lamme, Pringle, Patrick, Sanders, Zmach, et al. (2008)

    28. Fang, Lamme, Pringle, Patrick, Sanders, Zmach, et al. (2008)

    29. Bedini (1984)

    1. Turner & Broemmel (2006); Wellington & Osborne (2001); Yore, Hand, & Prain (2002); Yore, Hand, & Florence (2004)

    2. Rivard & Straw (2000)

    3. Fellows (1994); Mason & Boscolo (2000); Warwick, Stephenson, & Webster (2003).

    4. Yore, Hand, & Prain (2002, p. 673)

    5. Yore, Hand, & Florence (2004); Yore, Hand, & Prain (2002)

    6. Yore, Hand, & Florence (2004, p. 339)

    7. Martin (1989); Schleppegell (2004)

    8. This table was adapted from Veel (1997, p. 172).

    9. Catherall (1990, p. 19)

    10. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, (2000b, p. 543)

    11. Sands (2006a, p. 4)

    12. Oxlade (2002, p. 20)

    13. Ellyard (1996, p. 20)

    14. Pobst (2008, p. 19)

    15. Veel (1997, pp. 173–174)

    16. Fang & Schleppegrell (2008); Schleppegrell (2004)

    17. Halliday & Martin (1993, p. 202)

    18. Derewianka (1990); Unsworth (2001)

    19. Bereiter & Scardamalia (1987); Myhill (2009)

    20. Hand, Prain, Lawrence, & Yore (1999); Hildebrand (1998); Prain (2006); Prain & Hand (1996)

    21. Prain & Hand (1996, p. 618). See also Hand, Prain, Lawrence, & Yore (1999)

    22. Prain & Hand (1996, p. 623)

    23. Bruning & Horn (2000)

    24. Calkins (2004)

    25. Fang & Wang (in press); Schleppegrell (2004)

    26. Bruning & Horn (2000)

    27. Prain & Hand (1996)

    28. Mesa, Klosterman, & Jones (2008)

    29. Klentschy (2005)

    30. McDonald & Domingez (2009, p. 48)

    31. Duplichan (2009)

    32. Duplichan (2009)

    33. McDermott (2010)

    34. Lemke (2002); Yore, Hand, & Florence (2004); Yore, Hand, & Prain (2000); Prain & Waldrip (2010)

    35. McDermott (2010)

    36. A. Robertson & Mahlin (2005)

    37. Monhardt (2005)

    38. Monhardt (2005)

    39. B. Robertson (2005)

    40. Straits (2005)

    41. Akerson & Young (2005)

    42. Dlugokienski & Sampson (2008); Guzzetti, Snyder, Glass, & Gamas (1993)

    43. Duit (1991)

    44. Glynn, Duit, & Thiele (1995); Orgill & Thomas (2007)

    45. Hand & Key (1999)

    46. Hohenshell & Hand (2006, p. 271)

    47. Hohenshell & Hand (2006); Key, Hand, Prain, & Collins (1999)

    48. Novak (1998)

    49. Hand, Prain, Lawrence, & Yore (1999)

    50. Tompkins (2009)

    51. Bean, Readence, & Baldwin (2008)

    52. See, for example, Prain & Hand (1996); Hildebrand (1998).

    53. Turner & Broemmel (2006)

    54. Resnick (1987, p. 38)

    55. Cervetti, Pearson, Bravo, & Barber (2006)

    56. Wellington & Osborne (2001, p. 138)


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    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK–12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

    The National Science Teachers Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's membership includes approximately 60,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

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