Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsKAREN BRUNYEE: Hello, and welcome to the Q&A session for the online course Teaching Primary Science-- Getting Started. Thank you for joining us on the course. I hope you found it really useful. We've had a few questions from a few of the teachers, and I'm just going to use this time to see if I can answer some of them. Our first question came about resources and where we can go to find resources, how to reduce the amount of time that you spend looking for resources. Well, the best place I can recommend is actually on our own STEM website, where we have a home page of all of the areas in the national curriculum.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsAnd all of the resources have been QAed by the teaching team here at STEM, so you can go on there, see what you can find. There are other educational places you can go to. Explorify is a brilliant place to go to for looking for resources. They're more thinking, talking activities, less practical ones, but they're great lesson openers, and really good ways of starting children thinking about the science that they're going to be looking at. Other places I've gone to that we have links to on the STEM website are places like Ogden Trust, who do a lot around physics, and also the Hamilton Trust, which has a lot of resources published. And you can find those links also on STEM.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsThe other question that came linked to this was about practical resources, that you might think about having for running your science lessons. And actually, within this course, if you go back to steps 1.10, there's-- actually, we have a link to the SCORE resource page, and on there it has an Excel spreadsheet where it lists all the resources you might think about for having in your primary school.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 secondsOur second question came from a teacher who likes to plan a lot of practical work in her classroom, but she was a little bit concerned about some behaviour things that might go on in the class, and also how to ensure that all the children are involved. And in the very first week of this online course, we did look at using roles within practical work-- so assigning each child a different role so that they were all engaged in something. If you find that that doesn't work, I always found in my class, if I limited the number of children within a group, four is a brilliant number, because children then can't hide behind someone else.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsThey have to be involved-- making sure that the children understand that, at the end, they have to report back or that a certain child is the person who goes and gets the equipment. Then every child has got something to do, so there's no one that can be left just sitting back and letting the other children lead. Also, timing-- so if you say to the children, in three minutes, we're going to be doing this, we're going to be reporting back, I want a photograph of so-and-so and so-and-so, then they haven't got time to be messing around or doing what they're not supposed to be doing.

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 secondsThe other part of that question was how to address the needs of the gifted children-- maybe those children that have got a really good science understanding. I basically found, just by letting them plan their own inquiry-- so whereas you might guide other children or provide sheets for them, or report frames, or something like that-- let those children who are really versed in science think about their own investigation, ask their own questions. It might be based around what the whole class are doing, but they may be taking a little bit further. And you give them a variety of equipment to use. They choose. You give them a more challenging measuring system. Don't provide them with a reporting frame.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 secondsAnd then they've got all those choices to make, which will hopefully further embed their understanding.

Skip to 4 minutes and 0 secondsSo Helen asks the question-- she works in year two, and she wanted to know whether she should keep her science lessons to one lesson-- one-hour lesson-- or whether she should extend them, because quite often, she found that the children weren't completing an activity. I would always go for making it as long as possible. I was found, when I was tightly timetabled, if I left it and an investigation half done, or we just completed that, but we hadn't had a chance to feedback and do all that, by the time it came to even the next day-- and if it's the next week, then they’ll have completely forgotten it. They'll have lost their results. They won't remember what they did.

Skip to 4 minutes and 35 secondsAnd you'll have to go back over and spend a lot of time doing that work over and over again. And the practical work is really important. Now, skills are developing, but one of the most important bits of a science investigation is actually going back, talking about what they've done, what they've found out, what was the point in doing what they were doing. If you just do the practical bit and then say, oh, we'll talk about that tomorrow, half the learning will have gone. They may embed a misconception. They may have found, like a class I taught once, that foil is a really good insulator. It's not.

Skip to 5 minutes and 10 secondsWe found that out only through the discussion right at the end of the investigation. And if we hadn't have had that time and that extended period, we would never have gotten to that really good understanding. And potentially, if they'd have gone home-- said, well, we did this investigation this afternoon and we found this out, that misconception may have been embedded. So I would always suggest, extend your lessons as much as possible.

Skip to 5 minutes and 34 secondsSo Stephanie asked a question around assessment. She was wondering what was the best way to assess working scientifically so that she can really work out what it was that the children needed and what they already had, what skills they already understood. I would say always just watch your children. So set them a task, set a problem, do an investigation like you would normally, and just watch what they're doing. Maybe don't have a subject knowledge learning objective that day. You're just watching what they're doing, what the children can and can't do. Are they able to accurately measure something? Are they able to report back?

Skip to 6 minutes and 13 secondsAnd then think about that skill they maybe weren't quite as confident at it and plan an activity that just works on those skills. There are little things that they can do. If you've got the time, you can always put aside in 20 minutes. Today, we're just going to measure a lot of things. Set up a carousel and they measure, how accurate are they? If what you're looking at is working as a group-- which, obviously, is another skill that they need to develop-- you set them that task of they've got to work in a group. They all need to take part. There's lots of little ways you can do that.

Skip to 6 minutes and 45 secondsAnd I think with assessment of working scientifically, it is being very certain of what it is that you want that lesson to focus on, and not just say, well, today we're doing an investigation. You want, today we're doing an investigation on whatever it might be, and the skill we're going to be developing is this one. And then the children know, they're clear. They may be doing so many other skills, which they will do in a practical activity, but if you are focused on, I want them to be able to record, report, assess, plan-- whatever it might be-- then you're clear, and you can keep an eye out for that.

Skip to 7 minutes and 23 secondsSo Holly asked the question how she could ensure that she had enough evidence, when she was doing practical work in a classroom. It's a question we get asked a lot. A lot of schools focus on, I don't see much in the children's books or the children have written in this lesson. To where evidence practical work, the best thing to do is have a camera. Maybe give the children that roll of them taking the photograph, and that's another way of getting the child engaged in what they're doing. Having a video-- the children talk back. I used to have a Post-It notes on my classroom table, and if the children had an idea, they could scrawl it down.

Skip to 7 minutes and 59 secondsObviously, that's for older children. If you're working with younger children, it might be you that write down what they say. I used to have a big floor book, and when we'd do something-- a practical activity-- I would get them to put their plan into our big floor book, and then I'd stick Post-It notes with their comments on them. They might have written them. They may have drawn a picture. We'd have lots of different ways of showing what they had done in that lesson. Talking to the children-- they will tell you so much. Lots of times, children do not show their understanding through written work.

Skip to 8 minutes and 34 secondsSometimes written work is the right way to go, but through practical work, they're actually going to show their understanding in a different way. And where schools say, we need evidence, evidence really should be photos, talking, videos, annotations, you annotating your plans, things like that. If the children are writing after they've done a practical activity, it needs to be linked to what they did and really show their understanding, and sometimes it's not going to. It's much better to get it at the point they're actually doing the activity.

Skip to 9 minutes and 9 secondsSo we've got a couple of last questions, and one from Emma, where she was wondering how to help younger children-- especially Key Stage 1 and lower Key Stage 2-- to analyse and interpret their findings. Really, this is one of those skills that they need to work on. It's not something that's going to come automatically. Some children are really good at it, and they can look at something and say, well, that doesn't quite look right. But usually, you will have to train them to do that. It starts very early. So I've worked with EYFS children, and we've looked at things. So well, why did that boat sink and that one didn't?

Skip to 9 minutes and 42 secondsOr oh, look, that's been pulled along by that magnet-- I wonder why-- and talking about it. And it's discussion and discussion. And always, at the end of a lesson, like I was saying earlier, don't just finish with the practical. Always bring the children back together again and discuss. And things come up. So they might say something and all of a sudden, you're like, oh, well, what do you think? And Emma was concerned that she didn't want to be telling them the right answers. And that's really key. And I think the best way to go about it is just to keep questioning them, and when they say something, go, oh, that's interesting. Why do you think that?

Skip to 10 minutes and 18 secondsOr, what is it about that that makes you think that? Who agrees with what so-and-so said? Other people got different ideas. What did you find out in your investigation? Sometimes they're not going to get to the right answer, and that is when you need to sort of guide them to it. So what do you think? What do you think? I'm not quite sure. When I've done this before-- bring in that little bit of learning-- this happened. I wonder if we'd expect it if we did, and maybe talk about that maybe went wrong-- like in my investigation I talked about earlier, where foil was not a good insulator, but that was what the result of our investigation found.

Skip to 10 minutes and 59 secondsAnd we had to unpick and unpick and unpick, and actually, the right answer came from a child who sat probably 10 minutes thinking about it, and went, I don't think we're right here, and used his prior knowledge. But that took a lot of time to build that confidence for the children to say, I think this. So it does come, but I'm afraid it is quite a bit of work to get them to talk, and discuss, and think about what they're saying, and not just go with, I saw this or this happened.

Skip to 11 minutes and 37 secondsOur final question came from Adam, and he was concerned about one of the activities in the quiz. So during week 2, there was a quiz, and one of the questions asked you to think about, what kind of an inquiry were the children doing if they were exploring materials for the three little pigs' house? Why we had classed it as a sorting and classification activity was because the children were exploring. It was a free activity. There was no guidance around it. They were just looking at them and saying, I think this one, or this one, or this one. These three would make good building materials.

Skip to 12 minutes and 15 secondsIf we had qualified that puts it into comparison, and controlled the variables, then I think it would be classed as a comparative test, and that's what makes a difference. An exploration is more of a let's look, let's sort, let's classify these. And if we then control some variables, we're then moving into that comparative testing. So if all of the materials had been the same size, we'd added the same amount of water, or something like that, then yes, then that does move into comparative testing. And then you're thinking, oh, you’re controlling variables. Is that not fair testing?

Skip to 12 minutes and 54 secondsThe boundaries between them are very, very thin, and you can do a sorting activity that looks like a comparative, and they're all fairly similar. But I think the difference is the exploration, rather than the control. So that was where that was going, that question. Here at STEM Learning, we're quite excited, because we have our Primary Science Leaders Conference starting tomorrow. We've got some really exciting keynote speakers and some sessions looking at inquiry types, at working scientifically, assessment. This is something that we quite frequently do here at STEM, so if you are interested in taking part, please keep an eye on the website for other courses that are coming up. Thank you for taking part in this Q&A session.

Skip to 13 minutes and 38 secondsWe've really enjoyed having you as part of our online course. Please keep an eye out for upcoming courses. We have three subject knowledge courses that'll be starting soon, looking at the subject knowledge required for teaching the primary science national curriculum.

Q&A with Tanya, Karen and Sarah

The Q&A sessions on courses from the National STEM Learning Centre provide you with the opportunity to ask more about the course content and issues from your own classroom practice.

Karen recorded her answers to a selection of your questions on 6 February. If you’ve missed this Q&A session, you can still join the next run of this course in April, or draw upon the experience of other learners in course discussions.


0:24 - Where to find resources: STEM Learning | Explorify
1:54 - Behaviour management
3:57 - Time management for practicals
5:34 - Assessing working scientifically
7:20 - Evidence for practicals
9:07 - Developing analysis skills with young learners
11:30 - Difference between comparative testing and sorting and classification

A transcript will be posted to this page at a later date. This is an open step, so you can bookmark the URL to your favourites and return to it at any time. We will also upload the video to STEM Learning YouTube channel.

Please note: if you post a question here it may be featured in the video recording along with your first name. The recording will be publicly viewed via this step and may also be uploaded to the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Getting Started

National STEM Learning Centre