Science - Spark a real reaction

Create unforgettable lessons with burning socks and Bond

Simon Porter

How far, as a teacher, would you go to make your classes memorable? Pupils may be exposed to six or more lessons a day. How do you ensure that they remember yours?

Record executives talk of "hooks" - part of a song that catches the ear and makes it stick in your head. Why can't we do the same thing? Who could forget the following lessons:

- Where the teacher takes off their socks, soaks them in a solution of alcohol, water and salt, sets them alight and then puts them back on, undamaged. The water stops the socks from burning in the low-temperature alcohol flame that has been coloured yellow by the salt. It is a dramatic demonstration of a chemical reaction.

- Where the whole class sits cross-legged on their desks meditating for 15 minutes. Focus on the movement of the ribcage and intercostal muscles.

- What about starting off in the dark, literally, watching a lava lamp? Follow through with discussions that link convection in the lava lamp to convection in the Earth's mantle - kettles, hot water tanks and refrigerators.

- Be James Bond, vaulting a desk (while the theme tune plays in the background), evading a laser beam (using talcum powder), radioing M and checking forged banknotes with a UV lamp, and then simulate returning home, switching on the television with a remote and heating dinner in a microwave. This is a great introduction to the electromagnetic spectrum.

- Back with the Bond theme, use the opening sequence from Moonraker to discuss terminal velocity. Bond gets pushed out of an aeroplane with no parachute. In mid-air, he attempts to catch a villain and steal his parachute. He straps it on and when the chute opens it appears to "go up". But this is solely due to the relative velocities of the cameraman and Bond.

- Tip a pint of maggots on to the floor to demonstrate diffusion in gases and liquids. The maggots move randomly and spread out around the room. Calm classes are required.

There is always a hook - it just takes a little time, thought, imagination and courage to find it.

Simon Porter teaches physics at the British School of Warsaw

What else?

For lesson plans with a hook, try Simon Porter's activities on TES Resources. From burning socks to speed-limit statistics, he has plenty of exciting ideas.

KatieBall also shares a number of intriguing experiments to spark scientific interest in every pupil.

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Simon Porter

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