Faculty Publications

Scientific Concepts, Multiple Modalities, and Young Children

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Using Multimodal Representations to Support Learning in the Science Classroom

First Page


Last Page



The ability to use a scientific concept is intimately linked to the ability to “fluently juggle with its verbal, mathematical, and visual/graphical aspects, applying whichever is most appropriate in the moment and freely translating back and forth among them” (Lemke 1994). This translation across multiple modes of representation places a high demand on cognitive resources, particularly for young children. This chapter details a project that examines the effects of using an SWH approach with younger children (K-3rd grade). Most projects that have examined the effects of SWH have focused on older children (i.e., 3rd grade and older). As part of the project, a coding scheme was developed to better understand what modes of representation children this age used to represent scientific concepts, whether and how these modes were linked to one another, and how these modes and links varied by grade level. In addition to the examination of these child level outcomes, key indicators of teachers’ implementation of the approach were studied in another early childhood sample. In the second project, we explored the classroom environment conditions in relation to the use of language that can promote young children’s engagement in science when using the SWH approach. By using the framework of learning about language, through using language as you live the language of science the research was able to explore what are some of the crucial language features teachers engage with in promoting understanding of the science. In particular the study focused on the difference between teachers with 2 years of experience vs teachers with 3 years of experience using the SWH approach.


Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version