My favourite books for using to teach primary science

I’m often asked for recommendations for books to help teachers with science. Here I’ve created a document for you to download with a few of my favourites that are great for ideas, subject knowledge or to have in the classroom for children to read. Click here for 18 useful science books

Basically, there are many books out there for primary science, and these are just a few of my favourites.  In my estimation you can’t go wrong with a DK, an Usborne or a National Geographic!

Happy reading!

A Visual Guide to the New OfSTED Framework

Visual Guide to the New OFSTED Framework 1.pngFor those of you who are expecting OfSTED, or who just want to get your heads around the new OfSTED framework, I’ve produced a visual guide of the ‘Good’ grade descriptors. I did this for three reasons:

  1. For those of us who like documents to be more visual, and who use shapes and colours to help us take in information, you should find these grade descriptors much easier to read than the way they are currently laid out in the OfSTED handbook.
  2. This “mind map” style representation would make a really great display in the staff room/training room as part of CPD. It would even be possible to add Post-it notes, documents and photos to it, to build up a picture of how your school meets the criteria (both formal and non-formal observations). Used in this way, I would encourage anybody to add to it – teaching staff, lunchtime staff, governors, visitors – as well as SLT.
  3. It’s a really useful tool for when you are doing a book scrutiny or learning walk, or as a quick reference guide for leadership conversations.

Visual Guide to the New OFSTED Framework 2Some things to note:

  1. I have written this as the Primary version, and as such haven’t included references about Secondary schools
  2. Some of the OfSTED handbook statements have been shortened to capture their essence, so please always make sure to refer back to the original for the full picture
  3. I have numbered each box to make it easier to facilitate conversations around the document, and to make it easier to collect and label evidence following a book scrutiny, learning walk etc

I hope you find this useful – I have had positive feedback from schools that I have trialled this with, and would love to hear from you too if you implement it in your school. And if you want any support with reviewing, revamping or re-energising your curriculum, please do get in touch.

Click here to download the Visual Guide to the New OFSTED Framework

11 things I learnt from listening to Mary Myatt

Earlier on this term I had the pleasure of attending a conference to listen to the rather marvellous Mary Myatt.  Not only does she have concise, pertinent and incisive things to say about education, she is easy to listen to and has a fab style.  Oh, and lest I forget, she loves the Archers…we did manage to have a quick chat about it over coffee 🙂

Image result for mary myatt

As a big fan of simplicity, here is a list of 11 things I learnt that day from Mary.  (I learnt a lot more too!)

  1. People and kindness come first. Your school should respect the humanity, dignity and integrity of everyone who enters it.
  2. “Writing floats on a sea of talk” – James Britton (1970).  Therefore, we need to get the children doing lots of talking, especially before they write, and we need to teach oracy.
  3. Children want more demanding work. We need to make them think – prioritise thinking over the completion of a task?
  4. Stories are powerful.  Enough said!
  5. We need to do fewer things in greater depth.  And we need to recognise that we can’t do everything.  We should encourage our colleagues to ask ‘So what are we going to stop doing?’
  6. Activities must not be proxies for learning. Ask “I have taught it. Have the children got it, how do I know?”
  7. Ask “What gifts do these people bring?” Beware of falling into a deficit model.
  8. Be grateful. Say to yourself, your children and your colleagues “How lucky I am to work with you.”
  9. Big ideas act as holding baskets for knowledge. E.g. Big ideas in Science → What are the big ideas in other subjects?
  10. Etymology is really useful – teaching children the origin of words helps them to understand things and apply that understanding.
  11. Progress is not linear! “Every data conversation should be a curriculum  conversation”. Progress or mastery develop over time – not in single lessons.
Follow these links to Mary Myatt’s blog and website to learn more about her philosophies on school improvement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daffodils – the simple joy of observing over time

daffodilsThe primary science National Curriculum says that children should ‘develop their understanding of scientific ideas by using different types of scientific enquiry to answer their own questions, including observing changes over a period of time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out simple comparative tests, and finding things out using secondary sources of information.’

Most teachers are very familiar with the notion of carrying out fair tests, but I wonder how many of them plan for observing over time, or do it anyway without realising it.  In their very helpful book ‘It’s not fair – or is it? a guide to developing children’s ideas through primary science enquiry’, Turner et al, share the following pointers for observing over time:

  • Observing over time helps us identify and measure events and changes in living things, materials and physical processes and events.
  • Observations may take place over time spans from minutes or hours, to several weeks or months.
  • Observing over time provides opportunities for children to be actively involved in making decisions about what and how to observe and measure, and the best ways to record the changes that occur.
  • These types of enquiries provide rich contexts for children to learn about the importance of cycles, systems, growth and decay, and other types of changes.

As the signs of spring are getting stronger everyday, and because I do love a daffodil, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a little bit of observing over time with a 99p bunch of daffodils from the local supermarket.  We watched these little beauties changing over a period of 12 days, taking 1 photo a day, and using PicCollage to put our timeline together.  I think the result is great!  It really shows how the daffodils have changed over time.  It would be interesting to continue to watch what happens after day 12 if they were placed on the compost heap.

As science week draws ever closer and teachers are rushing to find things to do, why not suggest this simple little activity?  It provides for a multitude of scientific skills e.g. observing, describing, comparing, measuring (if you want to), predicting, explaining and communicating, all for the price of 99p, and the effort of buying some daffodils and sticking them in a jam jar at the front of the class.  Take one picture a day, get the children to tell you what they notice, write it on the IWB alongside the photo, and make a class big book at the end of the week/fortnight.

Why not make a whole school project of it and show progression in science across school?  It would make a great display to have pupil paintings of daffodils, alongside photos, comments, predictions, descriptions and explanations.  For a bit of secondary research, why not find out more about daffodil growing in the UK?

And don’t forget, a bit of Wordsworth is always good…

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What if…

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Those of us who find it easy to access the creative sides of our brains often use that creativity for positive ends, but sometimes we can turn those talents to worry and anxiety.

For example, a recent leak in the roof of my house started out in my mind as…

– Oooh, that roof doesn’t look right…I’d better keep an eye on it.

– Hmm…there’s water coming down the inside wall.  Better mop that up.

Then panic and anxiety snuck in…

– What if we can’t get a builder?  What if the roof blows away in the wind?  What if I can’t afford to fix it?  What if the plaster gets too wet to support the window?  What if the window falls out (why would it)?  What if the house falls down?

Quite quickly I’d used my creative brain and its fairly constant supply of curious ‘what if’ questions to send myself into a downward spiral of panic, anxiety and sleepless nights.

During one of these sleepless nights, I got thinking about using my ‘what ifs’ for good, rather than negativity.  As educators, parents and human beings, what would it be like if we asked ourselves some alternative ‘what if’ questions.  Here are some to get you started:

  • What if my children (either your own or in your class) were perfect exactly as they are?
  • What if my children/colleagues are doing the very best they can, given the resources/experience/expertise etc. that they have?
  • What if we talked to our children/colleagues about the things they are doing well?
  • What if we assumed that inside each and everyone of us we have everything we need to be amazing? Inside a tiny acorn lies a great oak, so why not in us?
  • What if I was kind to myself today and acknowledged just how great I am?
  • What if I only said positive things today?
  • What if I trusted my children/colleagues?
  • What if I allowed myself to have fun today?
  • What if I just gave it a try?
  • What if I went with the rhythm of my children today?
  • What if I dared to be different?

So far, I’ve been playing with this idea and seeing where it takes me.  It’s fun, refreshing, sometimes a bit scary, but always full of possibilities.

Have a play with ‘what if’ and see where it takes you.

 

 

 

Another bloomin’ Christmas…so spruce it up with some science!

Grumpy Santa by Richard Elzey

As the Christmas season is drawing nearer, I decided to use it as the focus for some recent science CPD.  From there my Christmas science ideas have snowballed (oh dear…), so I thought I’d present (get it?) them to you here so that you can have a go with your class.

Ways to use Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo and the Waitrose Christmas Advert

1. Observing and describing

the_art_noticing

  • Watch the advert once – just for fun and for getting an overview
  • Watch the advert a second time and ask the children to note down what they ‘notice’ e.g. robin in a kettle, mountains, boat, bird table, waves
  • Watch the advert for a third time and ask children to add detail to their original notes e.g. Robin peeping out from an old-fashioned kettle; Bird table with a welcoming mince pie feast; vast crashing waves almost drown the exhausted bird.
  • Your list of ‘noticings’ should read like a poem.
  • Edit and refine as necessary.
  • NB: if you’ve never used the ‘Art of Noticing’ before you will need to teach your class how to do it, or write one together for younger/less experienced children.

2. Giving reasons/explaining

odd_one_out

  • Select objects from the video/book and make slides with 3 photos of objects on. E.g. robin, hawk, girl; mountain, sea, river; kettle, shed, bird table;
  • Ask the children to say which one they think is the odd one out and why. Insist that the children reply with a full sentence – I think the odd one out is_________because_______
  • This activity is great for AfL and also for getting children the children to use ‘because’.

 3. Collecting information to answer a question

true_or_false

  • Create a list of statements about the story and ask children to read/listen to the story and then say whether they are true or false
  • The back of the book contains information about migrating robins. Create statements and ask the children to use to text to find out which are true or false.
  • Find/write texts about any other aspect of the book/video and repeat the above!

7

Marvellous Mince Pies

What’s not to love about a mince pie!  Not only do they taste delicious, but they also contain a myriad of scientific opportunities.  Here are a couple of simple ideas to get you started.

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Observing, describing and comparing mince pies

  • Have your children become consumer advisors and do a mince pie comparison
  • You can use a simple comparison grid (see below) to collect their ideas and then write a piece of prose using all the connectives, comparative phrases etc. required of your by SPAG.

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Describing, sorting and explaining – mince pie dissection!

  • Get your children to dissect a mince pie and sort it’s component parts. Can they think what the ingredients list would be?  What were the ingredients like before they were baked?  How are they different?  Why?

Try downloading Kitchen Concoctions for further information on mince pie dissection.

Investigating Christmas

  • Which stocking holds the most presents?
  • Which stocking is the stretchiest?
  • Which is the best paper for wrapping our present?
  • How many paper chains can you make in 60 seconds?

Wishing you all a marvellous end to the term, and a very peaceful holiday.

11

No, I don’t want to sit on the carpet! (What makes me tick?)

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When I am planning a curriculum, unit of work or a lesson, I always like to think of myself as a disaffected 6 year old who doesn’t see the point of coming to school. I am sure that in your career you will have come across at least one of those children.

Why do I do this? Because if you can engage them, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to engage all the rest.

One simple way to engage your children is to find out what makes them tick.  What we are after here are those things, ways of being, or experiences, that make their eyes light up and bring them joy. Ask them what they love doing, or how they like to be when they are not at school, and then just sit back and listen. Talk to parents and ask them what makes their child tick – it’s a lovely thing to be asked as a parent, and a great way to increase parental involvement.

If you wanted to find out what makes me tick, whatever we did would have to be fun, creative, have some outdoor element and involve big bits of paper and felt tip pens!

Children I’ve listened to talked about Stars Wars, Lego, reading, dancing, words, climbing trees, sport, animals, crafts, pets, cycling, cooking and music, amongst many others, as the things which make them tick.

Once you’ve taken the time to find out what makes your class tick, you can use this information in lots of ways:

  • Building rapport
  • Guided reading texts
  • Basing your lessons around what interests your children
  • Simply adding to displays or worksheets to grab their attention
  • Doing science investigations that are interesting to them e.g. can you free Elsa/Darth Vader from the ice? (So much more exciting than watching an ice cube melt!)
  • Class novels/story books
  • Curriculum hooks and outcomes

I was once working with a group of Y3 boys who were really not keen on writing, and whose attainment was low. I listened to what made them tick, and learned they liked being outside, climbing trees, being with their friends, sport, wrestling and superheroes. Their topic was Ancient Greeks and the teacher wanted them to write Greek myths. After some discussion, the school bought in the services of an outdoor practitioner who designed an Greek Hero Day with lots of physical and mental challenges for the class. I went back a few weeks later to see the boys in question, and was astounded to hear them retelling Greek myths with great excitement, precision and clarity, and also to read their writing which they were now motivated and able to do after they had a real-life experience to refer to.  Amazing!

Finding out what makes your children tick is such a simple thing that can make a huge difference. Try it, because I am pretty sure that no child ever feels joy when they have to ‘sit on the carpet!’