Investigative help

26th January 1996 at 00:00
Science Now!, By Ann Fullick, Ian Richardson, David Sang and Martin Stirrup Heinemann. Student's Book 1 Pounds 6.99. Activities and Assessment Pack Pounds 59.20 Age range 11-14

Jackie Hardie on a new science series for key stage 3

Here is yet another key stage 3 science scheme with the now familiar components of three pupil books (one for each year of the key stage) and a large A4 teacher's Activities and Assessment Pack for each year as well.

The pupil's book for Year 7 has 11 units, three biology, four physics and four chemistry.

The page layouts vary slightly from spread to spread, but most have at least one activity of some kind, a What Do You Know? section (which enables readers to check their understanding) and a boxed section of Key Ideas. There's extension work at the end of each unit, so it's easy for teachers to direct pupils to a particular place and for pupils to learn how to use the book. The book is full colour with clear, simple drawings, cartoons, photographs and an easy-to-read text. Each spread is likely to contain enough material for a "standard" science lesson.

The teacher's pack begins by matching Science Now with the national curriculum requirements but most of it comprises black and white photocopiable sheets. These are differentiated into Core, Help and Extension and as they cover every unit and spread in the pupil's book, they will enable the same activity to be used with pupils working at different national curriculum levels or with a class at different stages of developing their investigative skills.

It means, of course, that any teacher would have to know their class well and also be confident that the distribution of such sheets would not lead to a counter productive labelling of individual students. Also included are seven Skills Sheets - Using a Bunsen Burner, Plotting Graphs and so on. These are fine and a potentially useful reference source, but as this kind of sheet should used by the whole ability range - which might include poor or non-readers or pupils whose English is not fluent - then an approach which relied on pictures rather than text would have made them even more valuable.

There are helpful teachers' notes as well as assessment sheets for each unit; some may be for pupil self-assessment (a welcome strategy to reduce marking) and also more formal end-of-unit tests with mark schemes. One very useful feature is the availability of a disk of the text for the activities and end-of-unit tests so teachers can customise them for their own school.

There's help for investigations too and in providing this support, the authors have acknowledged the change in emphasis of the science Order. Now pupils have to consider the variety of ways of obtaining evidence and evaluate its quality. There's a shift to more qualitative work too and the authors guide teachers in the planning of such work and its assessment using the broader and more flexible framework that now exists.

Their suggested activities are linked to double spreads and it should be relatively easy to integrate Sc 1 developments. They are devised to cover the programme of study requirements for Sc 2, 3 and 4. The sheets are designed so teachers have scope to decide on their particular teaching approach and useful charts in the folder show the teaching points which match the statements in Sc 1 and the level at which pupils may be working.

This scheme with its well-structured sequences of activities for mixed-ability classes is worth investigating.

Jackie Hardie is deputy head of the Latymer school, Enfield.

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