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Using real objects

In the video in the previous step you saw children interacting with a picture, a model and a real heart. You will have picked up on lots of different ways the children interacted with these resources and how they will have impacted their learning.

Providing children with the opportunity to explore ‘real’ objects allows them to create their own learning and pose questions they can answer as they explore.

The group that had a photograph of the heart posed questions but had to guess what the correct answers were. Equally, the children who had the model were less likely to ask questions or engage in the hands on exploration that could lead to a better understanding of how the heart works. Both resources required children to draw on prior learn and regurgitate facts as the teacher asked questions in an attempt to facilitate independent discussion.

The real heart elicited a lot more free discovery and the children were very keen to be involved. They asked questions of each other, engaged in a more child led discussion and were able to consolidate prior learning through a truly multisensory experience. One child who explored the real heart was very interested in the ‘tubes’ he found. Through continued exploration he was able to answer his own question about what it was he had discovered.

Case study

A Year One teacher (age 5-6) shared this experience of using resources in their class:

‘This is an example of an activity that didn’t go as well as I had planned. It was a sorting and classifying activity with my class of 5 year olds in which I wanted them to sort a bag of animals. The animals were all soft, fluffy toys, including a soft toy penguin and a bear. In my head the children would be able to sort these, as penguins have feathers and bears have fur. However, the children were not able to, as they saw them both as fluffy and had not yet had the experience of penguin feathers. I’m not suggesting that you bring bears or penguins into the classroom, the risk assessment forms would be terrible, but you do need to be aware of potential misconceptions that your children may have when not using real objects.’

Very young children develop their understanding of the world through exploration using all their senses. We should provide as many opportunities for this as possible and think carefully about the resources we provide.

Have you used real objects in your classroom?

In the discussion below comment on any successful activities you have experienced where you used real objects as a teacher or as a student. Why were they successful? What impact did it have on learning?

Or, can you think of a way that an activity you have experienced which didn’t use real objects would have been enhanced by the use of them?

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Getting Started

National STEM Learning Centre