Writing the science register and multiple level of language: Implications for English learner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter highlights the critical function that the multiple levels of language play in scientific writing in general and, specifically, in the thinking, development, and expression of scientific literacy by all students, and in particular ELs. Writing is a sociocognitive and sociolinguistic behavior that serves as the medium of expression through which concepts are translated into written language. Despite its central role in the communication of ideas, writing has received minimal attention in the literature on how students learn to do science and even less notice in how English learners (EL students) learn to employ writing effectively in scientific activities. Among other requirements, effective writing in any disciplinary domain requires sensitivity to the multiple levels of language. The chapter is organized by five topics: 1) the implications of the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, 2013) for learning to write in the science register; 2) the concept of multiple levels of language (Abbott, Berninger, & Fayol, 2010) as integral to an understanding of science literacy; 3) a description of science as a specialized academic language register that all students, but especially English Learners (EL students), must acquire for attaining scientific literacy; 4) a model of writing as instrumental for effective recruitment and utilization of the multiple language levels comprising the science register as illuminated with a classroom-based chemistry report; and 5) a roadmap to best practices that have the potential to meet the individual writing needs of EL students in learning science. The chapter suggests best practice approaches for teachers to learn to orchestrate multiple language levels in scientific writing and address the needs of EL students who are learning to navigate the science register for three pragmatic purposes: "when using science in their lives, interacting with science information, and making decisions related to science" (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM; 2016, p. 2).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLanguage, literacy, and learning in the STEM disciplines: How language counts for English learners
EditorsAlison Bailey, Carolyn Maher, Louise Wilkinson
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)978-315-26961-0
ISBN (Print)978-138-2849-6
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • EL students, STEM, language literacy


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