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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsSPEAKER: In this concept cartoon activity, the children are presented with a photograph of an activity going on in the classroom and a question at the top. So in this instance, it was why is there water on the outside of the ice water glass? You can see that there are three blank speech bubbles for the children to complete. I would give this to the class and ask the children to put their ideas on. So they could write in the bubbles or put Post-it notes onto them to see what their understanding of why that concept is going on.

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 secondsWhen the children have completed the activity, I would then gather all their ideas and see which children were close to the concept and which had some very glaring misconceptions. In my example here, two of the children have written that they think the water is coming through the glass, which obviously is very far from what's actually happened, whereas the third child here has an idea that it's something about being cold, and maybe has that beginning idea about condensation and evaporation. And I know that I would need to take this child a little bit further, and the other two would need to start with some developmental work about the states of matter.

Eliciting misconceptions: Concept Cartoons

This video shows how concept cartoons can help to elicit misconceptions around the properties of a solid.

Concept cartoons are pictures which demonstrate a scientific idea and usually have up to four different statements about the idea. Usually one of the statements is correct and the other statements may be close to the correct idea or misconceptions. Sometimes concept cartoons are used where there is one statement completed and the others are left blank for the children to complete with their own concepts of the idea.

In Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh’s book ‘Science Concept Cartoons’ (2014) they state that concept cartoons allow you to:

  • Make the learners’ ideas explicit
  • Challenge and develop the learners’ ideas
  • Illustrate alternative viewpoints
  • Provide a stimulus for discussion and argument
  • Promote thinking and reasoning
  • Help learners to ask their own questions
  • Provide starting points for investigation and enquiry
  • Create a sense of purpose
  • Pose open ended problems

This is an example of a Concept Cartoon template:

A photo of four soft toys around a glass of water. One soft toy asks a question: why is there water on the outside of the ice water glass? Three toys have blank speech bubbles above them.

There are blank spaces to be completed with possible misconceptions children may have. An example of a completed Concept Cartoon for the image above is also linked in the Downloads below.

Creating Concept Cartoons

For this task, you are going to complete one of the templates. We’d like you to share your completed templates onto the Concept Cartoon Padlet. Padlet is a virtual pin board for uploading your photos. You do not need to register an account to post to Padlet, but please do add your name to anything you post. Guidance on how to use Padlet.

  1. Download and complete one of the Concept Cartoons from the links below.
  2. Complete it, filling in the blanks with possible misconceptions children may have.
  3. Upload your completed Concept Cartoon to the Padlet.

Have a look at other completed ones. Are they similar to yours?

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre