Teaching NGSS Literacy and Argumentation By Understanding Scarce Water Resources

Argumentation – or “Engaging in Argument from Evidence” – is one of the Science and Engineering Practices we should be embedding into our regular instruction as a way for students to develop a strong understanding of science content. But there are more ways to involve students in this Science and Engineering Practice than many teachers realize.  Argumentation is more than just writing C-E-Rs. 

In fact, if you haven’t checked out the following blog posts about argumentation, you definitely need to head over there ASAP!

Have you read these? 

Argumentation vs Explanation With The NGSS

Tools To Support Argumentation In Science

Claim Evidence Reasoning In Science

Moving Beyond C-E-R: Arguing From Evidence


Just to review — “argumentation is the process of forming explanations, and explanations are the final product.”  As such, argumentation is about diving into the data and using reason to draw out conclusions. Typically, in our classes, we ask students to construct claims and find evidence and argue that evidence. We don’t often have students consider and evaluate the claims and evidence of other students or scientists.  Yet this is a key part of argumentation, and in fact, it builds student’s ability to develop their own arguments.

Using scientific texts is a great way to engage students in so many Science and Engineering Practices — Asking Questions and Designing Solutions, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, and of course, Engaging In Argument From Evidence.

Literacy is an important science skill that we should all be included in our instruction. (Not sure how to do this? Check out this blog post!)


Using Scientific Texts To Develop Argumentation Practices

Using scientific texts that discuss “hotbed” issues is a great way to tie literacy and argumentation together. In my Organisms and Their Environments unit, my students investigate the impacts of resource availability on organisms.  They spend some time understanding the water cycle, and then they extend their understanding to issues related to water availability and human populations.  

Specifically, in Water Wars In The Mojave, my students examine two texts that present the same issue from different perspectives.  First, students identify the argument presented by the author and outline the evidence provided to support their argument. This can be a challenging skill, but it still only the base level. At the middle and high school grades, students need to be able to compare and critique different arguments and the evidence provided for each.  They need to recognize that when anyone is arguing anything, the evidence they provide might not be the full picture. 

After examining both texts, students answer questions like, “What is missing from the discussion?” “What questions are not addressed in each article?” “What evidence was not presented in each text?”  

It is interesting to see how students own opinions on issues develop and sometimes change based on the articles they read and the order they read them in.  Incorporating activities like this both builds literacy skills while also helping to develop argumentation practices. Students are forming a stronger understanding of the ideas of relevant and sufficient evidence; they are discovering how even data and evidence can be manipulated.  And when you choose a “big issue” with real-world repercussions for real people, students can see the role of science in society as well. Water Wars In The Mojave does just that.


While this was just a snapshot of one way to integrate literacy skills while practicing argumentation, I hope it’s given you a few ideas to get started. The links below provide some additional resources for finding and using scientific texts in your classroom.


Resources For Science Texts

If you are looking for resources for science texts, check out these sites:

Newsela Science

Science News for Students

Science Journal For Kids

Frontiers For Young Minds

Data Nuggets