Writing a Scientific Explanation Using the Explanation Tool

Part of the Integrating Literacy Strategies into Science Instruction Curriculum Collection.

Students in science classrooms make sense of natural phenomena and develop explanations for those phenomena. These explanations are not based on opinions but on empirical and observed evidence, along with scientific reasoning. In order to teach students the components of a scientific explanation, and to support their writing, a writing scaffold can be used.

The Explanation Tool begins with helping students think through their investigation question, background information, and initial thoughts they already have. Students then carry out an investigation to gather the relevant scientific data to help them answer that question. Once students have gathered the data, and considered relevant science concepts, they can use the data as evidence.hey can then make a claim, which is the answer to the scientific question. The explanation tool also supports students with scientific reasoning, the way we make sense of the evidence using relevant science concepts— which will support and link back to the claim. In the final section of the Explanation Tool students put all the pieces together by writing their formal scientific explanation.

Teachers introducing the Tool for the first time should model how to complete it, perhaps completing it together as a whole class. Over time, as students get more familiar with process, they should be able to complete more of the Explanation Tool on their own, with the ultimate goal of removing the scaffolding entirely.

Resources for Writing a Scientific Explanation

These resources were developed with the generous support of The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation.