Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: Thank you for joining us

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsand thank you for participating in the primary science: getting started online course. My name is Tanya Shields, and I was one of the course tutors so you probably recognise my face. And my colleague.

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: I'm Sarah Dagnell, also one of the course tutors.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: And thank you to the people that posted questions for us. We have a few questions here which we think link quite nicely and bring things around so they give us a nice summary for how to teach primary science in the classroom. I'm going to start with the question from Kathryn, who asks about how we can evidence differentiation other than questioning and outcome. And I have to say this is a question that's really quite challenged us, because the way we like to focus on science in the classroom is to give children the opportunity to discuss their observations. And that means that good questioning from the teacher does lead to that differentiated outcome in the practise.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsReading between the lines though, Kathryn, I'm thinking that this might be coming from an external point of view as to the accountability from the teacher, how are you evidencing your thought process in terms of making sure that the children are attaining at the right level? So I've pulled out this slide here. So you might have come across this before. It's solo taxonomy. We can pop a link to the extra information on this because of other teachers might find this helpful. But solo taxonomy, it differs in the graphical representation of it I think is quite accessible when you're planning lessons. So it starts off with the pre-structural stage where children know absolutely nothing. And you've got that symbol there.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 secondsThe next stage would be moving onto uni-structural where we would expect children, or the children at that stage know one thing. And then we have multi-structural where they know a few things. And then we get to the relational stage-- and I'm going to have to put my piece of paper down-- but that's where they're joining up all their thinking, and we've got the representation here. And then we've got the abstract extended abstract where they're moving on to applying that to different subject areas. So what you can do with this type of work and what's on this piece of information here, we have some verbs to identify the type of things that the children will be doing.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 secondsSo in uni-structural, children would be defining, they will be identifying, they would doing simple things, and they would be-- I can't with that last word-- they'll be following a simple procedure on there. Whereas when we're getting up to the higher level, we'll be getting children to focus on comparing and contrasting, and explaining, classifying, and analysing. So as a teacher, it gives you a structure for planning differentiated tasks. So you would have the children-- and again, the children would be familiar with this structure, and they could self-identify and then pick the tasks which they think are most suited.

Skip to 3 minutes and 0 secondsSo if you start an activity around classification and the children know nothing about it, you would have a task that introduces children step-by-step to what classification means, and it would have a simple set of items to classify. Whereas children working at a slightly higher level, they might know about grouping, so you'd ask the children to think about ways that they could group in different ways. And then the multi-structural, you might be a little bit more, it gives the children a little bit more freedom there, and get them to actually select their own items. I think that might be a way of doing that. But this-- there's lots of research around this. There's lots of evidence about it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 secondsAnd what's nice is that the tasks and the resources that go with it are really child-friendly. And the structure, for me, is self-explanatory. So I hope that helps a little bit. And Sarah is going to go on to the next question around how we plan and record in science, which I think leads on quite nicely.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: Yeah. Yeah, I've got a question that's come in from Susan, who asked, how would primary science team rate the importance of recording information for revision and reference purposes? Well, it is important that we do evidence what we do with the children in the classroom. We need to have that there. Again, it's kind of coming back to you. A lot of time that's for external reasons or maybe for monitoring purposes and improving progression with the children inside school as well. So we do need to have some sort of evidence there.

Skip to 4 minutes and 27 secondsHowever, that recording doesn't need to come at the expense of the children actually being hands on and practical, and actually that they're learning the most in that sort of way we're not bothered that-- well, we have bothered, but we're not just wanting the children to sit there and write some science in their books just so we've got that evidence. There are different ways that we can do it. And if we are going to spend our time doing that write up then that maybe needs to be put into literacy time rather than our science time.

Skip to 4 minutes and 54 secondsWhich leads on actually to your next question, which was, when parents or other staff view my books is it important that they see completed experiments written up by the pupils? So you probably gauged from my last answer that the answer to that is going to be no. We are looking again that there is some evidence of this, but not whole investigations. Children writing up whole investigations is just going to put them off, actually, science. It's not actually, again, the doing and the learning. That is simply a literacy-based task. So again, if you are wanting to do that, perhaps move that into your literacy time.

Skip to 5 minutes and 30 secondsIn terms of how we can evidence this then, there are lots of different other ways that we could do it. We could be taking photos, we could be producing charts, we could be making little videos. And in that way, the children are still having that practical learning, but they're also getting that evidence in there. And this is perfectly acceptable evidence for showing external people, or actually SLT in school as well. And we also need to make sure that when we are doing our practical work that we're focused on a target. So if you are doing a whole investigation, if you think of the working scientifically statements. There is a national curriculum, working scientifically statements there for key stage one.

Skip to 6 minutes and 14 secondsI don't want to be focusing on every single one of those in one session, which is what you would be doing if you are actually getting them to do a whole write up of almost all of those, because they would almost all fit. If you were doing a written piece of working in your writing time, you wouldn't try to work on every single standard at the same time. It'd be impossible. It's the same in science. If you are actually doing some work with the children, you need to be focused in on the objective that you're doing, and that's the evidence that you need to be producing, not for everything else because the children haven't had that learning.

Skip to 6 minutes and 50 secondsYou are teaching them about one thing. That is what they're going to maybe be writing up, or they're evidencing through videos, or charts, or however you're doing that. You asked one final question as well, which says, when there is so little time for doing practical work, how do we actually manage to evidence this? And also, especially for children who are weaker, or ICN children, what can we do to make that slightly easier for them? Well, there's a number of different things that we could do that doesn't require us always to be writing up. We could be getting the children, or us to produce big books for them.

Skip to 7 minutes and 27 secondsAnd that can be a joint task between us maybe putting things into the big book, and also the children producing work to go in there as well. And it just needs to be simple as maybe writing thoughts onto little Post-It notes and sticking that straight into there. Could be putting some pictures in there with tiny little explanations underneath. And that could again be produced by the children or by us depending on the age of the children or ability of the children. It could be that we take photos or videos of the children. Having technology around can be really useful for that, because actually there's a lot of apps on here that allow the children to do that themselves.

Skip to 8 minutes and 2 secondsPopular ones seem to be things like Pic Collage, Sketch, and there's also an online app called Seesaw which allows you to actually store that information as well. So you can have the children's work all there. And if you do get external [? offstead ?] or anybody coming in, you could say, hey, have a look at this, and just give them the iPad to have a look at. You could also be getting children to act things out. Your children that struggle with their writing could maybe be recording their answers on sound buttons. And you could be making use of the other adults that you've got, if you are lucky enough to have them these days in the classroom.

Skip to 8 minutes and 37 secondsBut possibly they could be sitting there and actually writing down some of the thoughts of the children.

Skip to 8 minutes and 41 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: So they're all brilliant ideas, Sarah, thank you. One thing that sticks with me is when we're doing things in the classroom that we should, we should question why we're actually doing them. And if the reason that we're doing that type of work in the classroom isn't to move the children's learning forward, then we should question why we're actually doing it. And we have seemed to have gotten to this culture of this accountability and trying to prove that we're doing something. And the only way to prove that we've done it is to have evidence in the children's books. And I think there's a valuable bit of evidence in there that we don't draw enough.

Skip to 9 minutes and 16 secondsIf the class teacher has observed something happening, and that they say that the child can do it, then that is also evidence. And I think teachers need to have the confidence to actually stand up and say, I plan to do this lesson. This is what I saw happening, and this is evidence of it. And if you'd like to question the child further, I'm sure they'll demonstrate that understanding. So there's lots there. And those things maybe take a bit more courage and confidence when you're starting teaching. But certainly as an experienced teacher, summed up, if you've seen what's happening in your classroom, and you believe it to be true, then that is equally good evidence as well.

Skip to 9 minutes and 53 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: And actually, that is the common practise if you think about your early years as well. That is exactly what they do. And this leads us on to our next question, which was from Katie. Who says, although you should focus on teaching and assessing one particular skill, why do you not encourage full investigations? Is it not better for them to practise what they have previously learned? Well, Katie, it's not so much that we're saying don't do full investigations, it's more about what I was coming to with Susan, that we need to be focused in on what we are teaching the children. Again, we wouldn't get them to do all of the statements with working scientifically in one session.

Skip to 10 minutes and 31 secondsSo if you were doing an investigation about measuring, it's not saying that you wouldn't get the children to carry out the investigation, it's saying that actually with the planning side of it, that might be something that we give the children. So we might actually say, you're going to carry out this investigation. And then we might get the children to actually do the measuring side of it. And then that is the bit that we're evidencing in books, or again, through photos or whatever. It's about being focused, because again, you couldn't actually teach the children full stops in capital letters if you were also doing full stops, capital letters, paragraphs, sentence structure and everything else. It's the same in science.

Skip to 11 minutes and 10 secondsYou can't do everything at once. So it's just about being focused in on your targets and what you're looking for.

Skip to 11 minutes and 16 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: Our last question is from Francis. And it's about the best way to group students. And we didn't really come up with an answer for this one because the children in the classroom dictate what happens, and it depends on the activity that you're doing. So we quite often favour mixed groups. So that can be mixed ability, mixed gender. You might, if you're working in a smaller group, you're working with mixed age groups as well. But it really does depend on the task at what you doing and what your class is like. So I remember a particular class that I was teaching, and we had an issue with behaviour, and the amount of noise, the level of independence.

Skip to 11 minutes and 59 secondsAnd for a certain period in that school year, I was reluctant to have the children working in mixed groups because I wanted a bit of structure-- well, not a bit of structure, a lot of structure where I was being quite tough on the children and guiding them through all the steps, because I was trying to develop establish that classroom behaviour in the classroom that I wanted, and then could lead me to them working independently. Again, with the activities you were talking about earlier, focusing on specific skills.

Skip to 12 minutes and 31 secondsSo if you've got a lesson when you're focusing on recording, and you know that it's going to be data heavy and you're going to expect the children to record in a specific way, that's going to require a certain level of mathematical skills. So in that instance, I might ask my children to work in ability groups, because my children with my higher mathematical skills will be working completely independently, whereas there's going to be children who need extra support with the mathematical skills, which are going to have a more structured task, which kind of links to our first question about differentiation.

Skip to 13 minutes and 7 secondsSo if you've got tasks where the developing skills which have clear differentiated tasks, then you're going to want to group your children in sort of a level abilities. If you've got children that are working outside, you might have, again, you might have some children who are good at working independently, or children who are good at working as a role of a leader working with the less independent children, so they're learning those skills as well-- those skills which aren't listed in the national curriculum. So I [? apologise, ?] I don't think I've really answered that. But it's--

Skip to 13 minutes and 42 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: I may just add a little bit to that, in that occasionally you've got time where you want your lower ability children to answer a question. And it is worth thinking in those cases, that many of those lower ability children might just function a little bit slower cognitively, which means they'll just take a little bit longer to think about their answers. So if they are in mixed ability groups, sometimes it is maybe having to hold back those higher ability children a little bit to give the lower ability children to actually think for themselves and come out with some answers. That's not suggesting that I would go for grouping them by ability all the time.

Skip to 14 minutes and 17 secondsBut what I'm suggesting is, as Tanya said, is that it does depend on the task and what you're wanting to do.

Skip to 14 minutes and 23 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: Yeah, so for specific tasks we could suggest one way of grouping them, but it's going to be different according to the task.

Skip to 14 minutes and 31 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: Yeah.

Skip to 14 minutes and 32 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: So it's just practicing it, I think. And experiencing and seeing how, observing how the children work in those different groups. And you've got the 12 months to do that with your class.

Skip to 14 minutes and 41 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: Definitely.

Skip to 14 minutes and 42 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: You could almost carry out your own little science experiments to see how children work.

Skip to 14 minutes and 47 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: Introduce the job roles. See how that goes with them. That might help.

Skip to 14 minutes and 51 secondsTANYA SHIELDS: OK. [INAUDIBLE] Sarah and I were both going to say thank you very much for your time. If you do have any further questions, please post them online. And encourage your friends and colleagues

Skip to 15 minutes and 1 secondto join in the next run of teaching primary science: getting started.

Skip to 15 minutes and 7 secondsSARAH DAGNELL: We'd love to see you here at the centre as well. If you want to join us on any other face-to-face courses that we run, you'll be able to find all of their courses that we've got available coming up on our website.

Q&A with Tanya, Karen and Sarah

The question and answer (Q&A) sessions in our online courses are the perfect opportunity to discuss any outstanding questions from your reflection grids.

Q&A video

Tanya and Sarah recorded their responses to your questions and the video is now online above. This is an open access step, so you can bookmark it to your favourites and return to it after the course has finished.


The video will be uploaded here and on the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

Please note: By posting to this step you acknowledge that we may use your first name and comments in the video. The video will be published here and on 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