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CAST Science Writer

Screenshot of the

When asked to write in a specific genre, students often get lost in the details, especially when it comes to writing science reports. With support from the NEC Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Texthelp, and an anonymous donor, CAST developed Science Writer, an interactive, web-based instructional learning tool, to support middle and high school students throughout the process of writing a science report.

Utilizing the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and research-proven, evidence-based best instructional practices for improving the written language performance of students, Science Writer provided:

  • A breakdown of the report writing process into manageable components
  • Response spaces for each step of the science report writing process (e.g., methods, results, conclusion)
  • An organizational structure for report writing
  • Sentence starters to help initiate responses in writing
Screenshot of the editing checklist in CAST Science Writer

In the revision and editing sections of the tool, checklists helped students spot content and grammar errors. In addition, Science Writer included a journal, in which users could write notes, track data, or include questions.

Science Writer provided myriad opportunities for practice — a critical element to successful reading or writing strategy instruction. The tool used animated characters — Max, Sam, and Eko — to provide tailored support and keep learners engaged. Max and Sam gave students a model and the reasoning behind it, and Eko offered specific hints on how to progress.

To incorporate UDL, Science Writer provided students with many choices and levels of support for learning. It offered each student the ability to make decisions about how much or how little support they required while they developed the report. Embedded text-to-speech allowed students to listen to their writing and any of the directions and instructional material. The text-to-speech tool also included a built-in dictionary and translator.

For more information about Science Writer, contact Tracey Hall.

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