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Challenging ideas through practical work

Challenging misconceptions can be most successful when children are given the time to explore and challenge their own thoughts and ideas. In this video, children are testing materials to see which are magnetic and which are not. You will notice that the children find it difficult to accept that some of the metal objects are not magnetic, and repeatedly return to them to test them again. Some children come up with alternative explanations for why, only in this case, a metal is not magnetic, such as ‘its because it is bent’.

Having a practical session will allow children a chance to explore any misconceptions they may have. However, it is important to also follow this up with a plenary where new concepts can be discussed and explained. This helps the new ideas to become intelligible (understood) and therefore a valid plausible explanation.


Have a think about where you could next use exploration to challenge children’s thinking in your planning. Give it a go and let us know below how it went.

Perhaps you’ve already tried this method. Tell us below how you did it and how successful it was.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre