Acid test

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Take the pain out of recording science findings. Sally Crowe experiments with talking postcards and cartoons
Take the pain out of recording science findings. Sally Crowe experiments with talking postcards and cartoons

It's the phrase that guarantees a groan from teachers and pupils alike: "Time to write up your experiment." Somehow these innocuous words reduce a buzzing classroom into a battleground where the dominant cry is, "Science is so boring!" As an Advanced Skills Teacher, I'm often asked by other staff about what they are expected to record. The answer is: not as much as you fear.

In fact, recording in primary science requires more quality than quantity. If you remove the constraints of the traditional "write up", the possibilities are endless, and the pupil who struggles with letter formation or reading suddenly realises science does not wholly depend on those literacy skills.

Instead, record science results using a basic digital camera. Allow pupils to take the photo they feel best illustrates their practical work and put them on the whiteboard for explanation and discussion. These photos can be turned into movies using either Photo Story or Movie Maker.

Glue these photos into pupils' books and ask them to annotate them with what they were doing and what they found out. Equally, a video camera can test pupils' scientific understanding. They interview each other about their science projects, or provide a detailed running commentary to go over the footage of their experiment.

Favourites with my pupils are the "talking cards" - postcards with a built-in voice recorder (available from www.tts-group.co.uk). I usually stick a photo of the children on the front and then they record their findings. Pupils press the button to hear the card "talk" about each experiment's predicted outcomes. Pictures, writing frames and key words help pupils to make predictions and formulate a viable plan.

Concept Cartoons (www.conceptcartoons.com), have different characters' opposing viewpoints on a problem. I design my own versions with pictures of the pupils recording their opinions. Mind maps, either drawn by hand or on the computer, provide insight into their scientific understanding.

Remember which aspect of science you are teaching your pupils and therefore what evidence you need to test their understanding.

If you're checking pupils' ability to interpret data, there is no need to insist on a complete write-up of an entire investigation. Instead, let the pupils concentrate on unravelling the data; planning and results can be written by the teacher.

Sally Crowe is an Advanced Skills Teacher for primary science at Latchmere Junior School in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.

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