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Writing definitions and explanations

Asking children to explain what they think is happening, or to write a definition of something, allows you to find out what the children understand about a concept. This, of course, can be completed as a spoken definition also.

We looked at the use of writing definitions in our Teaching Primary Chemistry course, but here we look at a physics example.

In the book ‘Active Assessment’, Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh suggest that definitions should ideally be as concise as possible and where possible include keywords from the topic.

For example you might provide an image to support children’s ideas, then ask them to write what they think is happening. Can you say what will happen in the picture? This could also be a short video or a concept cartoon.


For this activity, we’d like you to explain what is happening in the image below:

Photo taken on the space station showing astronaut 'juggling' easter eggs

Put your immediate thoughts into the comments below, then read other contributions. Reply to your own post to say how you might change your explanation based on what others have written.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / NASA

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre