Construct the write stuff

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Enhancing design and technology lessons can have a beneficial effect on literacy and numeracy

Enhancing design and technology lessons can have a beneficial effect on literacy and numeracy.

Four successful primaries in Shropshire have been working together to explore the role that design and technology can play in supporting core skills.

They found that getting children to work on projects, such as building buggies and bridges, improved their literacy because it gave them something tangible to write about.

Design and technology also helped deepen pupils' understanding of shape and space, key areas of the maths curriculum.

Newton CofE Primary, Woodfield Infant School, St John the Baptist CofE Primary and St Peter's CofE Primary developed the project-based lessons with Gareth Pimley, a local authority adviser.

Sandra Weetman, head of St John the Baptist, near Shrewsbury, said the lessons demonstrated that schools could find alternatives to the examples in the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's schemes of work.

"When Year 6 pupils look at structures, the QCA suggests a playground shelter, but we looked at a problem with bridges," she said.

"We linked up with another school, which was designing a buggy, and the pupils here had to build a bridge that the buggy could go over without it collapsing.

"The pupils had to contact each other about how heavy the buggy was and how wide. So it enhanced their ICT and maths skills as well."

Inspectors have warned that the focus on literacy and numeracy in primary schools could cause design and technology to be sidelined.

However, a study by Professor Clare Benson and Julie Lunt, of Birmingham City University, last year found that around three-quarters of nine- to 11-year-olds said they always enjoyed design and technology lessons.

The study of 300 children found that making things is what pupils enjoyed most, followed by creating products, doing things for themselves, working with friends, and having fun.

There were no great differences between girls and boys.

These findings were backed up by previous research, which found that pupils value lessons that give them the opportunity to participate, include a variety of tasks, offer a challenge and provide opportunities to exercise autonomy.

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