Lynne Marjoram reviews two new science books which make difficult ideas accessible
The phrases "special needs" and "differentiated resources" in a title will attract many science teachers. They will not find answers to all their problems here, but they will find some useful approaches.
This book is not a scheme of work. It contains various strategies for increasing accessibility, with applied examples on photocopiable sheets, drawing on three science attainment targets: life processes and living things; materials and their properties; and physical processes. Teachers can apply the strategies to their own schemes of work.
The writers characterise special needs pupils as having literacy and numeracy problems, low self-esteem, short concentration spans and "problems with personal organisation".
Consequently, materials are designed to catch pupils' interest before they switch off, to make work fun, by using games, colouring, cut and stick, and pictures instead of, or alongside, words. Writing is minimised, and there is little numerical work. Key tools are glue, scissors, coloured pencils and a photocopier.
Differentiation is not defined but implied; varied approaches will increase accessibility. When mentioned specifically, differentiation is usually "upwards" by substituting words for pictures or, more rarely, by increasing the range of categories or the amount of pre-knowledge.
Ten chapters, each devoted to a strategy, range from puzzles and model making through science skills such as observing, classifying and drawing apparatus. Teachers' notes outline the strategy, suggest some applications, and explain how to use the photocopiable sheets.
"Games", good for reinforcement, include cards and boards for some and instructions for others such as memory games and charades. "Note making" describes 10 ways of acquiring clear, concise notes without much writing, for example, sequencing exercises cutting out pictures or sentences. Desk-top glossaries are fun to make and look good on display.
"Sorting", useful for summaries, comprises pictures to group under chart headings from the teacher's notes. The final chapter has 10 rules for successful worksheets. One more might be useful - "Keep it simple". Some of the experiment instruction sheets are overwhelmingly detailed.
There is nothing new here for experienced teachers, but the assembly of ideas is useful for the newly-qualified. The range of applications will trigger other ideas.
The materials will be used most usefully in special schools or withdrawal groups in mainstream, and by individual support teachers. Some ideas are applicable in mixed ability classes without stigmatising individuals.
Sizeable photocopying budgets are necessary, and time to apply the strategies and develop materials for a whole scheme of work. With so much left to the teacher, some might consider these materials over-priced.