Litmus tested

30th May 2003 at 01:00
At last, key stage 3 science is in the spotlight. Steven Chapman assesses what's on offer

Key stage 3 has often been deprived of the attention and resources targeted at GCSE and post-16 students whose results impact on league table position.

Due to the excellence of primary science in the UK - as benchmarked against other countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - students are entering secondary schools better scientists than ever. Also, with the KS3 science strategy, an army of consultants and quantities of money have focused teachers' attention on Years 7, 8 and 9.

Many good KS3 science books and schemes have been around for a long time, but following the roll-out of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work, publishers rushed to incorporate these into their books.

Many science departments use these schemes either wholesale or as the basis for their own schemes. Others use bought schemes from publishers.

In September the KS3 National Strategy for Science rolled out and publishers have again hurried to revise their materials. Some have been more successful than others in reflecting the strategy's ethos.

Teachers need textbooks that complement the schemes of work and provide extra material to stretch the most able or support less able students.

KS3 science is often taught by non-specialist teachers and resources for investigations often have a bolt-on feel rather than being an integral part of the work. Material that enhances teachers' knowledge is welcome.

Included here are two general books, one on teaching investigations and one on thinking skills. There is a diversity of approaches to layout and explanations. With the whole of KS3 doing the same terminal exam and the QCA Testbase software providing ready-made summative assessment at the flick of a switch, there is a need for formative assessment opportunities.

The verdicts presented here are informed by talking to teachers, but my views were based on materials sent by the publishers - sometimes a prototype or test CD-Rom, or a Year 7 book. Web addresses and contact details will give the most up-to-date information.

The criteria to consider are:

Design

Is the book attractive and easy to use? Is it potentially unsuitable for low-ability readers? Are there many illustrations (in colour?)

Content

Are the big ideas in science underpinning each topic? Are there interesting and relevant examples and contexts? Do the questions test all abilities? Does the material follow a temporal or subject progression?

Structure

Does the material show progression from KS2? Are the materials differentiated for all abilities? Is the work for the more able actually more challenging work on KS3 or merely from the KS4 programme of study?

Extras

Does the scheme include worksheets? Are there any ICT resources? Is there a supporting website?

Steven Chapman is young people's programme manager at the British Association for the Advancement of Science and deputy editor of Physics Education. In June he will return to teaching as head of physics at Oxted School in Surrey

TITLE

ASEJOHN MURRAY. Teaching Secondary Scientific Enquiry. Price: pound;13.50. www.ase.org.uk Tel: 01707 283000

DESIGN

This teachers' book has thoughtfully laid out chapters on key areas, with boxes containing practical ideas and strategies. These are particularly adept at illustrating the main points of the chapter. For example, in the "Tackling issues" section there are sheets on air pollution and using biomass.

CONTENT

The book covers all the important aspects of investigations and is a companion to the excellent books on teaching biology, chemistry and physics. Topics include teaching strategies, describing relationships, considering evidence tackling scientific issues and, most usefully, relating scientific knowledge to conclusions. It will make you think carefully about teaching investigations, and it offers practical solutions to perennial problems, like improving the analysis of evidence and drawing conclusions.

STRUCTURE

There are chapters on various aspects of scientific enquiry, with excellent exemplars of work and ideas for investigations and their assessment.

Despite multiple authors, it retains a coherence and homogeneity of style, based around chalkface solutions to key problems in teaching investigations.

EXTRAS

The ASE website is an excellent starting place for anyone wanting to find out more about teaching science: www.ase.org.uk Many free resources to help with investigations, including starter activities, are also to be found at the Science Year CD resource site: www.sycd.co.uk

VERDICT

Invaluable for all science teachers. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Buy this book now!

TITLE

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS. Spectrum 7, 8 amp; 9. Price: Textbook pound;8.95; Resource File pound;80; Teacher CD-Rom pound;80; Technician notes pound;80. www.cambridge.orgspectrum Tel: 01223 312393

DESIGN

The three textbooks (one for each year) are vividly illustrated with bright colours and illustrations. Cartoon icons are used to delineate between subjects. The illustrations are accompanied by clear text with pastel-coloured lozenges to denote questions. The section in the Year 8 book on how to grow micro-organisms is very clear.

CONTENT

The material covers all of KS3 with panache. The illustrations and examples are well thought out, the material on immunisation in the Year 8 book asks students to use John Snow's evidence to investigate the outbreak of cholera in Soho in 1854.

STRUCTURE

Each chapter has clear ideas and questions and draws out the big ideas in science well. The particle model is presented as evidence for and against the theory in the section on solids, liquids and gases, in effect asking the student to decide for themselves.

EXTRAS

The CD-Rom contains alterable worksheets and allows teachers to make their own using the illustrations and diagrams. This is a real boon. Material is available on the website and more is being posted as new books become available.

www.cambridge.orgspectrum

VERDICT

This extensively resourced scheme is very good but expensive. The material is imaginative and makes good use of technology.

TITLE

HEINEMANN. Eureka! Price: Textbooks pound;9.99; Teacher Evaluation Packs pound;19.99; CD-Roms pound;79-pound;112. www.heinemann.co.uk Tel: 01865 888080

DESIGN

The textbooks and resource packs are vividly illustrated and thoughtfully designed. The bright pages with clear expositions and diagrams will appeal to all ages. There is a key-word glossary at the back that is useful for revision.

CONTENT

The six books foster a thinking-skills approach to much of the content and provide imaginative contexts and exemplars. The section on particle power has a vivid and memorable exemplar about how the mass action of many particles causes pressure.

STRUCTURE

The books come in red and green editions for differing abilities. Each one has a section corresponding to the KS3 strategy Framework.

EXTRAS

Several CD-Roms containing interesting resources are available for the scheme and the website offers extra resources, software support and differentiated tests. www.heinemann.co.uksecondaryresources.asp?n=555amp;d=s

VERDICT

An exciting, attention-grabbing scheme that would appeal to anyone doing CASE. Would appeal to students of all ages and abilities.

TITLE

HEINEMANN. The Heinemann Science Scheme. Price: Textbooks pound;9.99; CD-Rom pound;102.99. www.heinemann.co.uk Tel: 01865 888080

DESIGN

Each book is divided into colour-coded chapters. While clearly laid out, the illustrations are not particularly child friendly and the book is relatively text-heavy and traditional in design. It would not appeal to younger children in the age range.

CONTENT

The books cover all of the material in an accessible style, with individual chapters prefaced by clear learning outcomes. They are relatively text-heavy, which may deter younger students and less confident readers.

The illustrations and exemplars are fairly standard - eg, moments is illustrated by coins on a balance beam.

STRUCTURE

The books contain short chapters on topics, complete with a checklist for students. This is useful, but not inspiring. This is a solid scheme with some very good resources, but on the CD-Rom most are pdf files and cannot be altered.

EXTRAS

The CD-Rom covers assessment, equipment and standard experiments such as circuits. The website has lesson plans, sample pages and a Year 7 test calculator. More will be posted by the end of the academic year.

www.heinemann.co.uksecondary resources.asp?n=555amp;d=s

VERDICT

The book would be a good revision guide for students approaching national tests, but is not as well suited for the youngest students.

TITLE

HODDER MURRAY. Thinking Through Science. Price: Textbook pound;9.99; Teacher's Resource Book pound;35; CD-Rom pound;82.25. www.madaboutbooks.com Tel: 020 7873 6000

DESIGN

Each chapter looks at how thinking skills can be developed through a number of cognitive activities. The vividly illustrated books will be attractive to students of all abilities - eg, the section on energy resources has colourful illustrations, maps and tables, as well as a final thinking exercise asking them to articulate their ideas in a letter to an MP about government promotion of different fuels.

CONTENT

The books follow the approach laid out by the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) project, encouraging students to extend their thinking skills in a spiral development throughout Years 7 and 8.

This is woven well with the main KS3 topics and uses the same nomenclature as the QCA scheme of work - eg, the chapters on variation and electricity.

STRUCTURE

Chapters cover the curriculum material and thread some of the major aspects of CASE into the text - eg, "forces and their effects" is used to develop ideas about proportionality.

EXTRAS

The King's College website has more information about CASE and thinking skills. www.kcl.ac.ukdepstaeducationteachingCASE.html

VERDICT

A thought-provoking book. Whether it would suit you or your students depends on how you feel about CASE. The novel approach makes it an excellent way of stretching students.

TITLE

HODDER AND STOUGHTON. Hodder Science. Price: Textbook pound;8.99; Resource folders pound;65. www.hodderscience.co.uk Tel: 01235 827720

DESIGN

Six textbooks and resource folders. Books well presented and appealing to younger students in particular, with lucid explanations and a wealth of pictures, and cartoons. Each chapter has a starter activity and a finishing-off exercise, eg the section on energy and fuels has an engaging starter on people and potatoes. Each section has an appealing cartoon icon (a battery for physics, a frog for biology and a conical flask for chemistry).

CONTENT

The six books (three gold and three standard) and resources cover all of the KS3 programme of study. The series has a gold edition for students of lower prior attainment, with easier language levels. The topics use many interesting and unusual examples - for balanced forces the context is parathletics with racing wheelchairs; for habitats, the question of life on Mars is examined.

STRUCTURE

Books A, B and C roughly correspond to Years 7, 8 and 9. Chapters have a starter activity and end with a mini-quiz, plus websites for further study.

Differentiation is mainly through the questions. Contexts are surprising but relevant; starter activities are thought-provoking and manageable.

Support pack resources are useful but do not give true differentiation.

EXTRAS

Worksheets in the resource pack of activities are standard lessons, and cannot be altered. Further resources, including a bulletin board, links for students and information for technicians, are available at the website: www.hodderscience.co.uknewmain.htm

VERDICT

The different books are a good but expensive idea. A fine scheme to use with younger and less able students.

TITLE

HODDER AND STOUGHTON. Science Scope: BiologyChemistry Physics Price: pound;9.99 each. www.madaboutbooks.com. Tel: 01235 827720

DESIGN

The three textbooks (one for each subject) are dazzling in their use of colour illustrations and pictures. Each page has vivid boxes and mini test-yourself panels to grab even the youngest student's attention.

However, the content is very wordy and is clearly aimed at the most able students.

CONTENT

The books are clear with short chapters on all of the topics in the programme of study. They would be ideal for schools and colleges which teach science subjects separately at KS3. They are brightly and thoughtfully illustrated and would be useful extension material for more able students, eg the physics book has sections on motors, electromagnetic induction and maglev trains, all well beyond the scope of KS3. However, lower ability readers may find them difficult.

STRUCTURE

Each chapter has questions and exemplars. There is also a useful grid matching the books against QCA schemes and the Common Entrance examination.

EXTRAS

There are no extra resources for this series.

VERDICT

A good steady set of books covering all of the programme of study and well beyond.

TITLE

LONGMAN. Exploring Science 7, 8 and 9. Price: Textbooks pound;9.99; Year 7, 8 and 9 Copymasters pound;90; Teachers' Guide pound;38; Website subscription pound;150 + pound;20 for additional year. www.exploringscience.co.uk Tel: 0800 579579

DESIGN

The bright and colourful books cover the QCA scheme of work for Years 7 and 8 completely. Comes with worksheets (CD-Rom or hard copy) and teachers' guides. Each page contains practical ideas, questions and historical information. These are in vivid boxes which are colour coded.

The illustrations are good, especially appealing to the younger readers.

Photographs are of high standard. The sections are coded with the QCA numbering system for teachers.

CONTENT

Content exactly matches the order of the QCA scheme of work, even using the same nomenclature. The teachers' guide contains learning objectives and skill development opportunities. The examples in the book are good and original. In magnetism the role of William Gilbert is looked at, and in refraction a cats face is photographed through a goldfish bowl - an arresting image. Moments is well explained with a brace of photos on the correct way to lift a heavy object. The back of the book has a useful glossary and even has a pronunciation guide. An excellent idea.

STRUCTURE

Each book covers the QCA units relevant to that year. In the teachers' guide there are a number of revision topics and example tests in the photocopiable materials. The worksheets are available as alterable Word files. Each book chapter has a focus section at the end, looking in detail at a particular topic. More questions in the book would have been useful as there are only a few per page.

EXTRAS

The website www.exploringscience.co.uk contains extra material including starters and plenary ideas, special needs worksheets and tests, cover lessons, technicians' notes, web links and progress tests. Unfortunately it is relatively expensive to join, especially as you may have paid a lot of money for the copymasters. It will be a very good way of refreshing your material though.

VERDICT

The books are the best part of this scheme. The examples are interesting and relevant. Accompanying material is voluminous but the extra materials slightly disappointing. Much to commend.

TITLE

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. Framework Science. Price: Textbook pound;9; Teacher Guide pound;50; Starter Pack pound;60; Powerpoint CD-Rom pound;125. www.oup.com Tel: 01536 741068

DESIGN

Three textbooks, one for each year, CD-Roms and a Starter Activity Pack. Only Year 7 is available at the moment, with more due this summer.

The pack is lavishly illustrated with colourful diagrams. Some presentations feature Flash animations, such as the section on energy resources that shows where the energy in fossil fuels comes from. Each spread has a language bank with key words and each section ends with a recap checkpoint.

CONTENT

The textbooks contain spreads differentiated into "all", "most" or "some" sections. The starter pack contains activities such as a blockbusters game (younger teachers may want to ask the head of department about the show) about prior learning. The well-defined assessment materials are pitched at different levels. Major ideas run throughout, eg particles is used extensively in the acids and alkalis section. Newspaper-style features relate to the KS3 Framework, eg information on Caroline Herschel in the solar system and beyond section is suitable for Sc1work on ideas and evidence.

STRUCTURE

The chapters follow the same nomenclature as the QCA SoW. The spreads are coded to designate difficulty. The big ideas in science form threads that move through the chapters and are drawn on as needed. For example, solids, liquids and gases starts with the particle model and looks at the evidence for it, rather than presenting it as a fait accompli.

EXTRAS

The CD-Rom contains Powerpoint presentations linked to QCA SoW. These are an excellent ready-to-use resource adaptable for different abilities and reading ages, with animations and interactive activities. More support will be available from the website as the scheme develops. The Starter Pack is also impressive, containing a number of lesson ready ideas.

VERDICT

A holistic scheme, rather than a book with bolt-on worksheets. Many of the best parts of the KS3 strategy run through all of the resources. Highly recommended.

TITLE

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. Starting Science. Price: Textbooks pound;9.99; Resource packs pound;44.00; Special Needs Copymasters pound;36.50. www.oup.com Tel: 01536 741068

DESIGN

This tried and tested book is well illustrated and has bright colour schemes and illustrations to attract younger readers. It has a relatively large number of words per page, which may deter less confident readers.

CONTENT

This popular series covers the entire programme of study clearly with bright, colourful illustrations. It has all of the material, plus some that gives away its age (such as electronics). However, the material on energy is very clearly explained, as is mixing colours - something that is not intuitively obvious and can therefore be very confusing to students.

STRUCTURE

This traditional book has double-page spreads on topics grouped within chapters. Three books cover all of KS3, each with an accompanying set of photocopiable resources. Special needs resources are also available.

EXTRAS

The comprehensive set of worksheets are ideal for photocopying but not alterable, but the special needs copymasters are excellent, with clear sheets on standard experiments and topics with a low language level, suitable for many more than perhaps they were intended. General help is available at the website.

VERDICT

This traditional book still has some merits. The special needs resources are particularly good and are worth purchasing even if you do not use the main scheme.

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