Science Threshold Texts in Key Stage 2

What is Disciplinary Science Writing?

At primary school, pupils spend a considerable amount of time learning to read and write both fiction and non-fiction texts. Often in primary schools, pupils write about their science, but are not taught what makes scientific writing distinctive from other styles of writing. Instead of writing:  “A butterfly travels from flower to flower, transporting pollen.” pupils might write, “While the iridescent butterfly glitters in the glorious sunshine, it transports pollen from one stunning flower to another.” At Paradigm we teach pupils the distinctive nature of scientific writing. 

How We Teach Scientific Writing

We have developed a science reading and writing week each half term in addition to our weekly science lessons. For the first half of the week, pupils read a scientific text based on a topic in which they are already secure (the study text). In the second half of the week they plan and write their own text on a similar but not identical question (the outcome text).

Example study and outcome texts:

Study TextOutcome Text
How plants are pollinated by insects.How plants are pollinated by the wind.
Describe the function of the heart.Describe the journey of blood as it travels around the body.
How does coastal erosion take place?How does river erosion take place?

The purpose of having similar study and outcome texts is that pupils can practise using the same vocabulary, sentence types and structure as they have just been studying, without the writing being a direct copy. 

We have drawn on the following books in developing our programme: 

  • Reading Reconsidered (Lemov, Driggs and Woolway);
  • Bringing Words to Life (Beck, McKeown and Kukan) and
  • The Writing Revolution (Hockman and Wexler).

Structure of the Week

We have five 90 minute lessons in our literacy week (this does not replace the usual science lesson). 

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5
Knowledge and Initial ReadsTeacher Read andClose ReadProsody andPlanningWritingEditing
On day 1 we ensure all of the pupils’ disciplinary knowledge and vocabulary  is secure. We then describe the outline of the text. The teacher reads the full text to the pupils and follows on with a deep dive into the author’s choice of vocabulary, sentence and overall structure. Pupils practice reading key sentences and sections of the text aloud. Pupils plan their outcome text using graphic organisers.Pupils write their text.Pupils edit and improve their text with peer and teacher support.

Assessing the Outcomes

Once per year (typically December) we scan the pupils’ writing before it is edited (on day 4). We use comparative judgement to grade each piece of writing. We use this grading to identify threshold outcomes for each year group. The December 2021 specimen texts are below.

Year 3

Threshold Between ‘Working Towards’ and ‘Expected’

Comments:Once you get past the handwriting and spelling, this is well-structured writing full of accurate knowledge, expressed clearly. The level of knowledge and understanding is higher than expected at year 3, but probably not at ‘greater depth’.
Comments: The knowledge expressed is accurate. It would be good to know whether the pupil understands what gases are (for the gas giants) and what it means for the Sun to be made of hydrogen and helium. 
Comments: Although this script was given the same score as the two above, the knowledge is at a lower level. The clarity of the sentences is also lower than the two above. 

Threshold Between ‘Expected’ and ‘Greater Depth’

Comments: The pupil has demonstrated a clear knowledge and understanding of the objects in the Solar System, though not necessarily at a deeper level than the script on page 2.   
Comment: this script shows a good understanding of the Solar System. There is some confusion between ‘orbit’ and ‘rotate’ (which is not unusual). It would be interesting to check the pupil’s notion of gases. 

Year 4

Threshold Between ‘Working Towards’ and ‘Expected’

Comments:  It isn’t clear that the pupil has understood the difference between rotate and orbit. The pupil’s meaning is not always clear – I would not judge this as expected for year 4. 
Comment: this pupil demonstrates an understanding of the basic conditions on the Moon – no atmosphere or water and a weaker gravity. The pupil seems to understand that rotation and orbiting are different, but hasn’t described the differences. The pupil has structured the writing effectively into paragraphs. At a sentence level, the pupil’s meaning isn’t always clear. This writing is on the threshold of working towards and expected for this point in the year (December Y4).
Note – this text and the text above it both have the same sentence starter. 

Threshold Between ‘Expected’ and ‘Greater Depth’

Comment: the pupil’s understanding of the relative motions of the Earth and Moon are clearly explained. The technical vocabulary is used very well. The additional knowledge is impressive! A clear ‘greater depth’ piece of writing for year 4. 
Comment: this pupils demonstrates a clear understanding of the Moon’s motion around the Earth, explaining the near and far side clearly. The text is well structured and vocabulary is used well. This is on the threshold of ‘expected’ and ‘greater depth’ for December year 4.

Year 5

Threshold Between ‘Working Towards’ and ‘Expected’

Comment: the pupil has explained the key ideas accurately using a clear number system. Question: does the pupils believe that the oxygenated blood is carried ‘to the red blood cells’? I think point three clarified that this was clumsy wording rather than a misunderstanding. This text is on the threshold between ‘working towards’ and ‘expected’ for December year 5. 
Comment: this is a clearly written and well structured text which uses terminology consistently and accurately. The sentences and writing style show features of non-scientific writing. This text is clearly at the expected level for December year 5. 
Comment: the pupil demonstrates a clear general understanding of the double circulatory system. The language is not sufficiently clear to be certain whether the details are well understood, or whether the pupil has misunderstood specific details. Thai text is on the threshold of ‘expected’ and ‘greater depth’.
Comments: the pupil understands the role of blood in transporting nutrients and oxygen around the body. No mention is made of blood cells, though this isn’t necessary at KS2. The text contains many non-scientific characteristics. We have judged it on the threshold of ‘working towards’ and ‘expected’.  

Threshold Between ‘Expected’ and ‘Greater Depth’

Comments: this text is clearly written using appropriate scientific style and technical vocabulary. It is on the threshold of ‘expected’ and ‘greater depth’.

Year 6

Threshold Between ‘Working Towards’ and ‘Expected’

Comments: although the pupil has not explained gas-exchange clearly, the understanding is there.   Technical language is used appropriately. The text is appropriately structured. The detail is superficial and therefore we have judged this text to be on the threshold of ‘working towards’ and ‘expected’.
Comments:The content and understanding in the text is probably better than the threshold of expected. Gas exchange associated with capillaries in the lungs. Clear understanding of the double circulatory system demonstrated.
Comments: Although the written English is at a lower standard than we would expect, the understanding demonstrated through this text is at the expected level. Correct use of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. No mention of the lungs – possible misunderstanding that the heart oxygenates the blood.  

Threshold Between ‘Expected’ and ‘Greater Depth’

Comment: the pupil has used scientific vocabulary clearly and accurately. The text is well structured. There are mistakes in the text (veins) which may have been corrected at the editing stage (day 5). This text is on the threshold of ‘expected’ and ‘greater depth’.
Last updated April 26, 2022