CogSciSci2018/Amanda Fleck

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This presentation will be looking at the language and literacy demands of KS3 and KS4 Science and the implications of this on the accessibility of assessments in science. 🐤 @ajtf71


Some students haven't even heard of brocolli.


  • A small room,
  • A group
  • Biology etc


  • Toilet roll

Weight vs mass

Language and Literacy in science education

Teachers need to ensure their language is appropriate for the scientific domain.

Scientific Keywords: 13000 words in William's Words in Science for scientific KS3 and beyond

Root words:

  • iso- same
  • cardi heart
  • chlor green

Photo-syn-thesis Putting together with light.

Can't learn 13000 words in isolation! Need to teach patterns.

Oxygen -- --> PhotoSynthesis --> Glucose


Decoding - Visual recall - Fluency

Phonic knowledge - polysyllabic words :

Flesch Kincaid reading ease scale: to read fluently need to be about 2 years lower than "reading age" - 100 - 90 Y6 50 - 60 Difficult to read. (14 year olds).

Textbooks are often higher than student's reading age.

Jaberwocky can be decoded and analysed by students yet not understood, because they don't know what the words mean. Correct answers don't necessarily indicate true understanding.


Literacy : not just about scientific literacy - and science definitions.

Writing at depth - gap fills are not enough.

Word level - spell accurately; sentence level - meaningful; text level - logical.

Legibility and structure.

Implications for assessments leading up to GCSE

End of topic test Y7-8 questions: not enough extended writing.

Cognitive load in GCSE papers is too high for Y9-10.

Word count in science papers is higher than all other subjects except than English. - Readabilty - 16-17

AQA science paper changes


Use keywords in context

Shared reading - annotate the text

Ditch the gap fills.

Model extended writing.

More open ended challenging questions. Reorganise the questions and add your own challenge to questions you find.

Check readibility.

Do the questions before photocopying.

Change and remove questions.

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