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Modelling how we see

A great deal of what we are teaching in physics cannot be easily seen and can be quite abstract. Modelling is a useful strategy to help us represent, describe and explain tricky phenomena. It also allows children to express their ideas creatively and help us, as teachers, to assess their understanding of a concept.

When learning about light children can be asked to model how they see objects and how they are able to use mirrors to see around corners. To be able to do this they must have previously learnt and be able to explain how light travels and be able to demonstrate this through speech and actions. They then take a torch, ribbon, mirror and stuffed animal and use these to build their own model of how they believe we are able to see. Children can then demonstrate understanding by describing each feature of the model and what these represent.

One potential issue with using models in the classroom is that they are not the real thing and can be confusing, if the concepts are not fully understood. In this example the model is only introduced once understanding of how light travels has been taught and children have demonstrated understanding of this.

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Can you think of other times modelling would be useful for exploring scientific concepts in your class? What previous knowledge would be important before introducing your model?

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre