Ties that bind topics together
A teaching scheme is a big investment for a primary school and selecting one can't be a casual matter. The co-ordinator needs to be sure that it does its job and will be used. Teachers need some subject knowledge and specific ideas for teaching if they are to support children's learning.
The first instalment of Science Connections, the new scheme from Longman, lists subject knowledge in an accessible way, points to possible misconceptions, suggests analogies and offers ways of introducing topics and ideas for interactive displays.
Science Connections (Pack A) for Years 1 and 2 contains copies of the Teacher's Book, 72 double-sided Activity Cards and six Record Books (10 copies of each). As a taste of the materials, there is a half-term unit on Sound for Year 1. Learning objectives are related to the English and Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland curriculum requirements. Background information, resource lists and suggestions for using information technology are provided. The authors suggest that children examine musical instruments and design and make one in design and technology.
In Music, they are to look at instruments from "overseas" and examine the unusual materials used to make them. One idea for display is a collage dragon with objects attached to make different noises, like beads and buttons on its tail.
Three introductory activities are offered, one being for children to collect sound around the school. The use of the six Activity Cards for sound is then described. To illustrate that sounds are heard when they enter the ear, for instance one card has children talking to each other through a tube. The teacher is to discuss the route the sound takes. Each card has a second, more demanding version. In this case, children use a funnel to detect faint sounds and relate it to the stethoscope.
An extensions activity involves finding out if the length of the tube makes a difference to the sound. Each unit finishes with an investigation. In this case, children are to find out how far away they must be so they cannot hear a particular sound and it involves making a fair test. There is a structured Record Book in which the children respond to further tasks and record their investigation.
Six, half-term topics are covered in each Year. Year 1 topics are on Ourselves, Senses and Health, Looking at Materials, Sound, Light and Colour, and Pushes and Pulls. Year 2 deals with Toys, Electricity, Materials in Action, In the Park, Minibeasts and Other Animals, and Looking at Plants. While they can be taught in this order, there is some flexibility. The Activity Cards are colourful and likely to be durable. The children's Record books (covering two units each) are meant to be consumable and replacements are listed at Pounds 3 for ten.
Making science accessible can be difficult and those who try often find themselves the subject of unreasonable and pedantic criticism. I feel that the authors have made a sincere attempt to communicate with the non-specialist teacher in this respect. Reception class teachers may feel a need for some ideas for their older children and might draw on some parts of the Year 1 materials.
The next instalments seem worth waiting for. The publisher indicates that packs for Years 34 and 56 will be available later in the year. They will have a similar structure and also revisit some topics at higher levels. Electricity, for instance, will be in Years 2 and 5; Light will be in Years 1, 3 and 6. In the meantime, the publisher's catalogue gives an extensive overview of the scheme.
Douglas Newton is a reader in education at Newcastle University