18th March 2016
Cornerstones’ expert in primary science, Dr Fran Barnes, shares her tips for teaching primary science.
In the previous science curriculum there was an over emphasis on fair testing. However, the new science curriculum now places equal importance on five different investigation types:
This broadening of investigation types means that not all practical science has to be resource or time heavy.
Be consistent with your use of terminology, especially with regards to the scientific method. Also display a list of key scientific vocabulary connected with your theme or investigation and encourage their accurate use in the children’s report writing and explanations.
You could even start a scientific glossary that the class can add to over the year.
Have a go at all, or elements of, an investigation yourself before letting the children loose. This way, you can make any necessary tweaks to the investigation, identify any potential pitfalls and have an idea of what the likely result is going to be.
In our rush to get started on an investigation we can often forget that children may not be secure with the relevant skills or knowledge to actually carry it out effectively. Try to take the time to lay the groundwork before they begin.
In each investigation in Love to Investigate there are a series of short pre-investigation tasks to ensure children are well prepared for the investigation ahead.
Children often struggle making predictions as they don’t want to be wrong. Make it clear to them that a prediction doesn’t need to be the right answer – it is simply their thoughts about what ‘might’ happen based on what they already know.
The method is the cornerstone of any investigation. Make sure any instructions you give are clearly laid out in a way that children understand and can become familiar with.
In Love to Investigate we use a ‘game board’ approach as an engaging and consistent way for children to follow the method step-by-step.
Recording is essential but many children dislike recording due to the formal approaches used. Sometimes a formal recording method is necessary but many investigations can be recorded in more creative ways such as drawing, note taking, video, photographs and audio recording.
An important part of any science investigation is the analysis and interpretation of results. This is where a lot of teachers are anxious that their own knowledge will let them down. Don’t worry!
This final stage is all about encouraging children’s joined-up thinking, relating what they have seen or done to ‘real’ life. The best way to do this is by effective questioning, starting with simple questions about what they have done and why before delving deeper. Some children’s ideas will blow your mind, so be prepared!
Ask any scientist and they will tell you that many of their investigations don’t work as expected. Keep in mind that a negative result is still a result and that some of the world’s greatest discoveries were made accidentally.
So, if an investigation doesn’t go the way you hope, don’t be disheartened. Use these occasions to discuss why it hasn’t worked and what you would do differently next time.
Use science statements such as, ‘All planets are spherical’ or ‘All smoking should be banned’, to prompt research and debate. This can be really useful for some of those tricky-to-cover programmes of study.
Also use what is happening in the news to inform your scientific discussions. The 2015 phenomena ‘What colour is this dress?’ was a fascinating opportunity to discuss differences in our perception and great for a quick bit of data collection and handling. Gold and cream or blue and black?