In the second blog in our series following last year’s winners of the Let Teachers SHINE awards, we caught up with Holly Fitzgibbon, a Year 2 teacher at Littletown Primary School in Yorkshire, who won SHINE funding for her Word Up Science Coats project
When Holly Fitzgibbon started teaching, she struggled to assess her pupils’ understanding of scientific concepts. But after recognising that the ability to correctly use scientific words is a key indicator of understanding, she came up with a creative approach to help students to develop their vocabularies – she asked them to wear the words.
During each of her science lessons, pupils wore lab coats covered in scientific terminology. Each time a child learned a new concept and was able to explain it correctly, the relevant vocabulary was added to their “Word Up Science Coat”.
Fitzgibbon soon discovered that her pupils demonstrated better understanding of scientific concepts when they were able to constantly recap what they had learnt by referring to the words on their coats.
At the start of each new topic, the children were shown a list of the vocabulary they would be expected to know and understand by the end of the unit. Although pupils were eager to have as many words as possible on their coats, they were also aware that they needed to demonstrate a good grasp of a concept before they could add it. This encouraged them to work with their peers to develop understanding and to improve their listening skills and investigation work.
When Fitzgibbon trialled the project with her Year 2 class, she found that the coats created a positive buzz in the classroom and put pupils into the mind-set of a scientist.
“If the pupils wore a coat that had words written on it, they became more engaged with their learning and were more eager to have a better understanding of the topic,” she explains.
The coats are a visual aid to help children recognise and remember unfamiliar words, but they also enable teachers to assess pupils’ understanding of a topic and to identify gaps in learning that can later be used to inform planning.
Fitzgibbon now sees her pupils using scientific vocabulary more confidently and frequently in their written and oral explanations. So it turns out that clothes not only make the man; they can also make the scientist.