Active ways to learn

8th September 1995 at 01:00
Science at Work 11-14, By George Snape and David Rowlands, Patterns in Life - 0582 24706 3.

Cycles of Life 0582 24715 2 Classifying Materials 0582 24718 7 Earth Science - 0582 24719 5.

Looking at Light 0582 24710 1 Electricity on the Move 0582 24717 9 Longman Pounds 2.99 each

Alan Boyle examines first-year materials from a comprehensive package for 11 to 14-year-olds geared to a wide range of abilities.

Science at Work 11-14 is a package of school science materials for classes in Years 7-9 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales or for P7-S2 in Scotland. The resource for each of the three years is in a modular format and includes a Teacher's Guide, six pupils' books and a set of copymasters. This review refers to materials for the first year.

After a general introduction, Teacher's Guide 1 indicates coverage of the national curriculum and national guidelines for Scotland across the three years. A short section about experimental and investigative science provides a view of progression through investigations. Some ideas about definition are included. The bulk of the guide provides detailed teaching notes for each of the six modules in this year: Patterns in Life; Cycles of Life; Classifying Materials; Earth Science; Looking at Light; Electricity on the Move. Notes for the modules follow the same structure: a page on teaching including safety factors, a list of teaching objectives which are extracts from the programmes of study for key stage 3 of the national curriculum, a note about any special resources needed, links to pages in the pupils' book including apparatus lists and answers to questions, suggestions for projects and a mark scheme for the end of module test.

Teacher's Guide 1 is easy to read, concise and coherent. It could be a useful aid to an inexperienced teacher and also save time for a more experienced colleague, if used in conjunction with the pupils' books. On its own it has a more limited value. I found it difficult to follow the section on differentiation. The analysis of coverage of national guidelines for Scotland is rather tokenistic, because the rest is obviously written for the English national curriculum.

Each of the six pupils' books contains 24 colour pages. There are questions for pupils on most pages and an indication when an extension exercise may be used. A summary provides a list of facts and skills each pupil is expected to have learned by studying the module.

The reading level is appropriate for 11 year olds. Each book is well illustrated with interesting photographs and good artwork. Instructions for practical work are clear and easy to understand, but the books could not be used successfully without teacher introduction and intervention. They are likely to encourage an active approach to learning science. The introduction of possible extension activities is clearly indicated.

Copymasters 1 contains 112 black and white pages held loose leaf in a plastic wallet. There is a general sheet about safety for pupils and six pages on investigations. The remaining pages are divided among the six modules. For each module there are photocopiable extension activities that are linked to pages in the pupils' book, project sheets for pupils, a set of revision notes and an end of module test.

This is a useful resource that complements the pupils' books well. Reading levels are appropriate and the quality of printing will produce good copies. The inclusion of revision notes for end of module tests is helpful. The six pages on investigations give the impression that they are designed for pupils with no previous experience of scientific investigations. This is not the case with pupils who have followed the national curriculum in primary schools.

Overall, this is a comprehensive package of resources with some interesting features. The set reviewed here provides appropriate coverage for Year 7 with suitable extension activities to meet the needs of a wide range of pupils' abilities. It is worth serious consideration as a course to be adopted for the whole school. My main concern would be the price. Six separate pupils' books for each year makes the total unit cost high in comparison with a single text book for each year. It is doubtful whether publication in modular format provides the additional value for money.

Alan Boyle is the senior inspector for Haringey Council Education Services.

o Science at Work for Year 8 is published this month and includes the following modules: Balance in Life, Healthy Lifestyles, Elements, Mixtures and Compounds, Chemical Reactions, Communication, Energy at Work, Teacher's Guide 2 and Copymasters. Science at Work for Year 9 is due to be published next January

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