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Blog / 5 Fun Ideas to Enhance Reading and Writing Skills in Biology Class
A banner image with writing on the left that reads, “5 Fun Ideas to Enhance Reading and Writing in Biology Class.” On the right, there is an image of a student completing a writing activity and smiling.

5 Fun Ideas to Enhance Reading and Writing Skills in Biology Class

I don’t know about you, but my biology students seem to forget that they need to write in complete sentences. Yet in their English lessons, they are able to write pages of beautiful essays!

We need our students to be able to understand scientific texts, and to be able to communicate complex ideas.

This isn’t just so they pass their exams – scientific literacy will prepare our students for life. This could be understanding a diagnosis from their doctor and asking appropriate questions. Or it could be reading about scientific developments in the news and thinking about how this will affect them.

To create well-rounded and scientifically literate students, we need to integrate reading and writing skills into our biology curriculum. 

While it is important to incorporate reading and writing into science classes, the reality is that many students HATE it.

“But this isn’t an English lesson.”

“Ugggh, this is LONG.”

<Insert any other student response when faced with a long reading text>

In this blog post, we’re going to explore five FUN ways to enhance reading and writing skills in biology class!

These will improve our students’ literacy skills, while keeping them engaged with the fascinating world of biology.

1 – Start a science book club

An image showing the laps of 4 students all reading the same book.

Hear me out…

Science. Book. Club. 

Do you realize how many exciting books there are about Science? 

Why not combine the joy of reading with the excitement of scientific discovery? 

Create a biology book club where students choose and read science-themed books! These can include both fiction and non-fiction. They could even be chosen to relate to the topics you’re covering in class.

Why not let your students choose from a selection, or submit their own book suggestions? In my opinion, having choice is important for your students to buy-in into this. 

Whether it’s a novel about genetics, a biography of a famous biologist, or a science thriller, encourage students to thoroughly read it, discuss the scientific content, explore new ideas, and share their insights in group discussions. You will be amazed at the discussions between your students!

Book ideas for your science book club:

  • Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
  • Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures, by Merlin Sheldrake
  • Empire of Ants: The hidden worlds and extraordinary lives of Earth’s tiny conquerors, by Susanne Foitzik and Olaf Fritsche
  • Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, By Matthew Walker
  • Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA, by Neil Shubin

You can also add in some scientific magazines or short news articles to make the club more accessible.

Tips to help make your science book club a success:

  • Make sure you have read the book beforehand, to determine if it is suitable for your students. Write down discussion points as you read.
  • Take student input on books they’ve read or would like to read. Getting student buy-in will really help your book club flourish!
  • Incentivize students to join. Create laminated bookmarks for members! Tell your classes about it (and how it will look great on a college application). You can even create a display of student book reviews to entice others to join.
  • Work with your school librarian to try to have copies available in the library. Find out if there is any budget available for purchasing books.

Besides having group discussions about the book, you can have students complete a project. They could act out a skit of a favorite scene, or create a presentation to share with the group. 

2 – Creative science blogging

An image showing a portion of a computer keyboard with one of the keys saying “blog.”

Everyone reads blogs, whether or not they even realize it!

Food blogs, fashion and beauty blogs, travel blogs – they are all over the internet.

And now they can be in your classroom! Getting students to write a scientific blog is an amazing way to improve their writing skills in a fun and interesting format.

Once a month, set aside class time for your students to create their own science blog post where they write about biology-related topics. This can be directly from the content of the lesson. Or you can let them write it on a topic that intrigues them.

If letting students choose the topic of their blog post, I recommend setting this as homework. That way, when they come to class they are ready to get started.

The blog posts can be created on a template, e.g. in Canva or Google Docs, or by using an actual blogging platform like Blogger. I mention Blogger because it is free, and fairly straightforward to use.

My tips for a science blogging lesson:

  • When introducing this lesson to your students, create a mock up blog. Highlight the sections that need to be included in their blog posts – this will act as a model for students
  • Give students a set time frame to compile their research, along with links and references. Make sure to discuss credible sources in your introduction to the lesson!
  • Halfway through the lesson, have students swap devices in pairs and read each other’s blog posts. They should provide feedback to use to improve and finish the blog post.
  • Print and display student blog posts – they will be so proud, and curious to read each others’!

Having students write scientific blogs is a fun alternative style of lesson that really supports learning while improving literacy skills.

Try it out and see if students enjoy it. If it is a success, you can do this activity monthly as a fun and low prep lesson!

3 – Combine science and creative writing

An image showing a completed portion of my Doodle Notes on the topic of evolution by natural selection.

Do you want to blow your students’ minds?

Tell them that scientific writing doesn’t have to be limited to research papers and lab reports. 

They simply won’t believe you until you show them. 

Have them write a fictional story that involves biological concepts. Or perhaps task them with writing a poem that captures the beauty of the natural world!

One time, I tasked my students with writing a letter to a friend about something they learned in the previous lesson. One of my favorite pieces was when a student wrote from the perspective of Charles Darwin. They explained his discoveries on the Galapagos Islands from a first-hand perspective. Genius! 

You can also ask students to write and draw a comic strip. These can be hilarious, and still scientifically accurate. These are an amazingly creative way for students to express their knowledge of biology.

And yes – all of these methods get students to WRITE ABOUT SCIENCE without even realizing it!

One way I love to prep students for a creative writing assignment is with Doodle Notes. Doodle Notes are an engaging and interactive way to give students the background knowledge needed to complete their writing. 

For the letter and comic strip, I gave students my Evolution Doodle Notes as their pre-activity. The results were better than I could have ever imagined. 

By embracing creativity, students can deepen their understanding of biology while honing their writing skills in an unconventional and enjoyable way.

4 – Use peer review

An image showing a hand pointing to 5 filled out stars, indicating a 5-star review.

Your students have probably engaged in peer review, but not in science class. 

Peer review isn’t just reserved for English class – it can also be a fantastic exercise in the high school biology classroom. 

After students write essays, lab reports, or a creative writing piece about biology, have them exchange papers with their peers for review. This promotes critical analysis, allows students to see things from different perspectives, and encourages constructive feedback.

It also sneakily gets them to read! Somehow reading their partner’s work is way more exciting than reading from a textbook!

Peer review not only strengthens writing skills but also teaches students how to communicate and collaborate effectively in a professional setting.

5 – Use videos to develop writing skills 

An image showing someone writing on papers on a table.

There are a ton of engaging educational videos about biology. 

But … What do you have students do while they watch these videos?

Here is what I have done to incorporate more writing pieces into my classroom.

As students watch the videos, I have them write bulleted notes about what they just watched. Once the video is over and they have their list of notes, I challenge them to write informative summaries of the videos. Within these summaries, students need to make sure their writing flows, are grammatically correct, and have correct sentence structure. 

This exercise helps students synthesize information, extract key points, and communicate complex concepts in a clear and concise manner – all essential skills in both reading and writing.

You could even incorporate peer review into this activity.

Once students have written their summaries, have them switch papers with a classmate. They should analyze each others’ writing and suggest improvements.

If you need some great biology videos, check out My Top 10 YouTube Channels for Biology Lessons.

Psst. I have my own YouTube channel – check it out here!

Reading and writing in biology class can be fun!

A young student has her head on the desk with a book open on top of her head and a stack of books beside her.

Enhancing reading and writing in biology is important, and can be fun for both you and your students!

Whether through a biology book club, science blogging, creative writing, peer review, or video summaries, these engaging approaches will not only promote strong reading and writing skills but also foster a deeper appreciation for the fascinating world of biology. 

So, I have a challenge for you today…

Reflect on how you promote reading and writing skills in your lessons. Pick one strategy from this list to incorporate into your lessons!

I hope you have a fun day,

Emma The Teachie