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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds TEACHER: So let’s start sorting some of these out. So which do you think– absolutely, I think they are going to be able to conduct electricity? Which do you think?

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds STUDENT: I think probably the pencil sharpened at both ends, because it’s got lead on both sides– which, what Penny said, it’s metal. So it will go through it really well. So it will just go inside the pencil and come out the other end.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds TEACHER: So you think that one is a yes?

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds TEACHER: OK. So it will go in, conduct electricity and then come out there because it’s plastic.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds TEACHER: OK. So we’ll put that on the yes side. Anymore that we think are definites?

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds STUDENT: I think the foil, because that’s like the coin is metal. And you can bend it really easily, but it’s a different type of metal. So it might be easy to conduct the electricity.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds TEACHER: OK, fine. So do we think yes? Do we think conducting?

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds TEACHER: OK. You said thinned face. It’s quite thin, though. But you still think, yeah, it’s going to conduct? OK. You said yes for this one, because it’s thin. So the electricity should be able to move through it. Agree?

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds STUDENT: Yeah Yeah

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds TEACHER: Yeah? OK, fine. Anymore?

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds STUDENT: Well, I think one that doesn’t work– I think that plastic– I don’t think that would work, because it’s too thick. It won’t go through it, because it’s the wrong material.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds TEACHER: OK. So you think because it’s thick, the electricity’s not going to pass through it?

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds TEACHER: OK, fine. So we think that’s a no?

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds TEACHER: Anyone disagree? You can disagree. Fine. OK. So we’ve got these that are left. What do you reckon about these?

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds STUDENT: I don’t think the pencil with rubber at the end will work, because I think the rubber will block it.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds TEACHER: OK. You said you thought this one would because it had metal?

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds TEACHER: So what are we thinking? Hands up for yes? Hands up for no? I love it when someone disagrees with the rest of the crowd. So is it mainly because it’s got the metal on it?

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds TEACHER: OK. Sorry, Penny. Outvoted. OK, right. Post- it Notes?

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds STUDENT: I think they’re a little bit too thick [INAUDIBLE].

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds TEACHER: OK.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds STUDENT: Well, if you take one of them, I think it would work because it’s thin. But if it’s all of them together, I don’t think it would because it makes it look thicker?

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds TEACHER: Happy with that?

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 33 seconds TEACHER: One there– chunk of them there.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds TEACHER: OK. So you’ve got these three things that are left– oh, four things, sorry. We’ll maybe leave that one to the end. So we’ve got these three things left.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds Oh, so I’ve just covered that what do you think, Coin?

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds STUDENT: I think it’ll go through, because the foil’s also metal. And the coin’s also metal. So I think they will be the same.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 seconds TEACHER: OK.

Skip to 2 minutes and 57 seconds STUDENT: I don’t think it will work, because it’s too small. So what’ll happen is it will just go around in circles. It won’t work. I mean, I get it because it’s metal, but it wouldn’t work because it’s just too small.

Skip to 3 minutes and 14 seconds TEACHER: OK. So what do we think about the coin?

Skip to 3 minutes and 17 seconds STUDENT: It won’t work.

Skip to 3 minutes and 18 seconds TEACHER: Won’t work? She’s persuaded you?

Skip to 3 minutes and 21 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds TEACHER: Won’t work? Doesn’t conduct electricity because it’s too small. OK.

Skip to 3 minutes and 29 seconds Pencil?

Skip to 3 minutes and 31 seconds STUDENT: I don’t think it’ll work, because the one with the rubber on the end might work better because it got metal. But that doesn’t have metal, so it might be a bit harder.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 seconds TEACHER: OK.

Skip to 3 minutes and 42 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds TEACHER: So no metal– you don’t think it will conduct? No? And finally, our piece of card.

Skip to 3 minutes and 49 seconds STUDENT: It’s not finally though.

Skip to 3 minutes and 50 seconds TEACHER: Oh, I keep forgetting. It’s not finally then. Go On then a piece of card.

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds STUDENT: No.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 seconds STUDENT: I think yes.

Skip to 3 minutes and 58 seconds TEACHER: You think yes?

Skip to 3 minutes and 59 seconds STUDENT: Yeah, I think it will– maybe because of the colour. Maybe because it’s darker, the electricity will work better.

Skip to 4 minutes and 7 seconds TEACHER: OK.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 seconds STUDENT: I think because it’s quite strong and it wouldn’t fall apart. And I just think yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 17 seconds TEACHER: OK, right. So hands up, then, for the card– that yes, it will conduct electricity? No, it won’t? OK, fine. And finally, then, water. You say, Ethan, water won’t conduct electricity? Why do you think that?

Skip to 4 minutes and 33 seconds STUDENT: No, it won’t.

Skip to 4 minutes and 34 seconds STUDENT: Because water and electricity don’t mix. Because it will just stop working.

Skip to 4 minutes and 38 seconds STUDENT: But it might just explode everything around it.

Skip to 4 minutes and 41 seconds TEACHER: OK. I hope not, because we’re going to test it in a minute. [LAUGHTER] Well, we’ll just have to make sure we’re stepping back when we’re doing that.

Skip to 4 minutes and 49 seconds STUDENT: To be honest this theory depends on how much electricity it is.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds TEACHER: OK. A really interesting point.

Skip to 4 minutes and 58 seconds STUDENT: So if it’s only a small amount, and you put water in it, it wouldn’t like too much. But it would just stop working. But say, if it was like a really big lot of electricity, and then you put water on it, I think probably it would electrocute you.

Skip to 5 minutes and 17 seconds TEACHER: OK. So the amount of electricity moving through it will have an impact on whether it conducts electricity or not.

Skip to 5 minutes and 27 seconds STUDENT: I think it won’t as well, because if you put electricity in the water, everything around it– inside of it, I mean– will get burned. So it will make it explode or something.

Skip to 5 minutes and 42 seconds TEACHER: OK, fine. We’re talking about whether something– it’s more about whether the electricity can move through the thing itself. But that’s fine. So which side are we putting down?

Skip to 5 minutes and 50 seconds STUDENT: No.

Skip to 5 minutes and 51 seconds TEACHER: No?

Skip to 5 minutes and 52 seconds STUDENT: No.

Skip to 5 minutes and 54 seconds TEACHER: OK. So you think that this pile of things here will all conduct electricity and electricity can move through it, and you think that these will not conduct electricity. OK?

Skip to 6 minutes and 7 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 6 minutes and 8 seconds TEACHER: Happy with that?

Skip to 6 minutes and 8 seconds STUDENT: Yeah.

Skip to 6 minutes and 9 seconds TEACHER: Right.

Eliciting misconceptions: Sorting

Sorting is another quick and powerful tool for assessing children’s knowledge and understanding.

In the video we see children sorting different materials as to whether they thought they conducted electricity or not. This activity can help us clearly elicit whether children believe that only metals conduct electricity.

Provide children with a selection of objects to sort. Include metal electrical conductors e.g. teaspoon, drink can, a paper clip. Plus a selection of materials which do not conduct electricity (electrical insulators) e.g. a plastic ruler, wooden lollipop stick, a rubber. Also give the children some items which may demonstrate any misconceptions, such as a pencil sharpened at both ends so the graphite is revealed, a beaker of tap water, a plant.

The result of the children’s groupings and their explanations can help the teacher to clearly pinpoint any misconceptions.

List

Can you think of any other examples in the primary science curriculum where sorting could be used to elicit misconceptions.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre