Living in a material world

5th October 2007 at 01:00
A bag of household bits is great for getting children to look at the everyday with new eyes, says Lucy Blackburn. It can lead to discussions about everything from recycling to bricks

The children in my class loved our science topic on materials. I started by introducing my friend the "Material Muncher", a black bin bag filled with an assortment of household materials with eyes and a tongue.

Each child in the circle couldn't wait to place their hand in the Material Muncher's hungry mouth. They described what the material felt like and then pulled it out. Each material was something they might have seen in household waste. We discussed every one and sorted them in the middle of the circle.

The Material Muncher not only creates excitement and inspiration, it allows me to assess what the children already know. It is a brilliant stimulus for exploratory talk and begins to build an interactive word bank of key vocabulary. Literacy and numeracy links can also be made.

I chose children of a higher ability to write some describing words on Post-it Notes to stick to the materials and we created a pictogram graph to show the types of materials we found.

Children with special needs and those taking English as an Additional Language can really benefit from this activity, because of the visual and sensory emphasis.

This introductory activity is also an excellent opportunity to discuss recycling and naturally poses the question: is anything actually rubbish?

If I had a recycling unit within or near school, I would have taken the materials there to demonstrate recycling. The children were very interested in recycling and were quick to tell me about the materials they were recycling and reusing at home.

The Material Muncher inspired the children during the whole unit. I taught sorting and using materials in science and homes in design technology, which complemented each other to bridge links between subjects to form a topic.

As a class we created a house for which each child made a room from a shoe box. The children discussed the properties of a variety of materials and chose suitable materials for each room in the home.

Our big investigation posed the question: which material is best to make garden furniture from? The children also made bricks from clay for the house to demonstrate how materials change form. Because of the assessment opportunities, the enthusiasm of the children and the important questions it posed, I will definitely be using the Material Muncher again to introduce the topic materials

Lucy Blackburn teaches art at Holy Family Catholic Primary in Wortley, Leeds

Curriculum objectives

To ask questions and to explore materials and objects using appropriate senses, making observations and communicating these.

To use appropriate vocabulary to describe materials.

To know that every material has many properties that can be recognised using our senses and described using appropriate vocabulary.

To record observations of materials.

To group materials together and make a record of groupings.

Numeracy link present outcomes using practical resources, pictures, block graphs or pictograms.

Literacy link take turns to speak, listen to others' suggestions and talk about what they are going to do.

Literacy link ask and answer questions, make relevant contributions, offer suggestions and take turns.

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