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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsSPEAKER 1: I'm going to test materials to see if they are strong and hard. Now I'll test for hardness. If a material is hard, it doesn't easily scratch or dent permanently. I'm going to test this by trying to scratch each material with a nail. I could then sort the materials from hardest to softest. I could record this in a table.

Skip to 0 minutes and 32 secondsI'm now going to see how strong materials are. If a material is strong, it won't break easily under a heavy load. We're going to test the strength of different papers. Attach each type of paper to a table, and attach masses to the bottom until the paper rips. I can then sort the different papers from strongest to weakest, and then complete a table.

Learning by exploring materials

As the video demonstrates we can help children to correct vocabulary misconceptions through carrying out a practical activity which relies on children continually returning to correct vocabulary definitions. In this case, we saw how exploring different materials’ properties helps to gain an understanding of the terms hard and strong.

To test a material’s hardness we may test to see how resistant it is to being scratched by running an iron nail along it.

To test a material’s strength we may see how much mass it can hold before it breaks.

This could be taken further to then consider which materials would be best for different tasks, based on their properties. This reasoning task makes the new concepts seem ‘fruitful’ as they are being used in a different context.

For example:

Job/purpose Suitable material Reason based on properties
Kitchen countertops Granite Granite is hard and won’t scratch easily. A kitchen countertop will have people using knives to chop food so the top needs to be hard otherwise it would become scratched


To embed the descriptions of scientific words further, we could also play some vocabulary games. For example, SPLAT! where a caller describes a word and the players have to be the quickest to ‘splat’ the matching word with their hand on a list in front of them.

Look through the chemistry topics in your scheme of learning and identify words which may cause misconceptions. Can you think of a vocabulary game which could help to clarify their meanings?

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre