Archive for June, 2013

Subject Knowledge Booster – species focus

As well as specific school-orientated resources, we’ve started updating our ‘UK Wildlife’ pages with useful subject knowledge. Over time, lots of different species will be added there. Now and again, some especially useful or interesting examples will be featured on the main blog page, too. With so many ‘classic examples’ of organisms, as dictated by the curriculum or just their preponderance in popular consciousness, we often forget some of the great examples lurking on our own doorsteps and back gardens. Such examples are nice to throw in to remind kids that, for instance, camouflage isn’t just a distant process exclusive to far-away chameleons and polar bears. The fact that there are examples that they might actually be able to go and find can really help to engage them. In addition to the photographs, the species will be featured in fact-files  use these as you wish, for your own reference, to give to children for research tasks, or as a reading comprehension resource.

To kick things off, and to fit in with the new Butterflies 101 page, here’s a nice example of a camouflaged species native to our shores…

 

THE GREEN HAIRSTREAK

Callophrys rubi

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The Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) is often overlooked. Our only majorly green butterfly, it is about the size of a thumbnail. It’s not really rare, although according to Butterfly Conservation, last year’s sodden summer caused numbers to drop 68%. What it is, is easily ignored. In fact, the Green Hairstreak’s camouflage is two-fold. The upper side of its wings are a dingy brown, making it inconspicuous and hard to follow in flight. When it settles, it always keeps its wings closed, the green being a good match for the hawthorn leaves it is fond of perching on. Keen sunbathers, the butterflies tilt themselves toward the sun so that their wings absorb the maximum amount of spring sunshine. As they do so, the iridescence of their wings makes them seem to change from a gold-ish green at one  extreme angle to almost turquoise at the other.

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A charming little butterfly, with its tiny teddy-bear face, you can catch it on heathland and moorland across the country from April to June. The examples below are from the Longshaw moors in Derbyshire.

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Related resources

More information on the Green Hairstreak at the superb Butterfly Conservation-affiliated website Uk Butterflies: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=rubi

Here is an abbreviated factfile that you could use…green hairstreak factfile

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The Draft Curriculum- What it means for Year 2

Following on from the last post, here is a summary of what the draft curriculum proposes for Y2. This is one of the years to see the most change. Two of the most well-established units, ‘Forces and Motion’ and ‘Using Electricity’ have seen major changes and abandonment, respectively.

What you can see, across the whole curriculum, but especially here, is an attempt to simplify the titles of units. This is seen at all levels, from the division of all strands into ‘Biology’, ‘Chemistry’ and ‘Physics’, down to individual unit titles. Instead of QCA unit titles like ‘Plants and Animals in their Local Environments’, we now have ‘Plants’, ‘Animals, including humans’ and ‘Habitats’.

Speaking of those strands, in Y2, you will notice a big focus on Biology. The elevation of habitats to an autonomous unit will give lots of opportunities for engaging learning and out-of-classroom opportunities. This is always one of the most interesting topics for the children, so the increased focus will be welcomed. (We’ll be providing plenty of resources to go with this and help you get the most out of habitats).

As Biology dominates, the clear loser in Y2 is Physics. The ‘Using Electricity’ module is now gone entirely, with nothing to replace it. The simplification of topic titles has had a large impact on the former ‘Forces and Motion’ unit, now rechristened a plaintive ‘Movement’. Incredibly enough, all mention of the word ‘forces’, or even reference to pushes and pulls are airbrushed from the content. Of course, teachers can still mention these in context, but it does seem one of the more curious omissions in the entire curriculum.

But I digress. This post isn’t here to debate the perceived rights and wrongs, just to make clearer what has actually changed. As yesterday, here is a grid showing the Year 2 curriculum changes.

In the coming week, we’ll deal with what the new curriculum has in store for KS2. Watch this space!

THE DRAFT CURRICULUM: WHAT’S IN & WHAT’S OUT?

It can take a while to get your ahead around what the changes to the science curriculum actually involve. There are undeniably some seismic shifts to the ways we have become accustomed to teaching and learning Primary Science. Whole topics, traditional favourites such as sound, forces and changing materials, have either been shifted several year groups, or been removed entirely. Other units, such as ‘Evolution and Inheritance’, and the study of Scientists’ biographies, are totally new.

In other ways, there is much that remains familiar. One might postulate that certain key objectives have been rewritten, or units renamed, purely to distance the new curriculum from the old, as their content remains virtually unchanged. Other units offer slight shifts in focus or small adjustments to content. What there is consistently across the units, however, is greater emphasis on subject knowledge. ‘Name and identify…’ is a phrase that crops up many times throughout the key stages.

The main changes you need to know about across the whole curriculum are about the rebranding of strands. The former Sci1, based on science skills, is now rebranded as the concept of “Working Scientifically”. as before, this is meant to underpin the entire science curriculum, but there is perhaps a special focus on the use of science talk, as well as experiments and investigations. Sci 2, 3 and 4 modules are now incorporated under the simpler Biology, Chemistry and Physics headings.

At a more specific level, changes are numerous. To help make things a bit more digestible, we are preparing some grids to show comparisons between the 2000 curriculum QCA schemes of work and the draft curriculum objectives. These will provide a year-by-year summary of what’s in, what’s out and what has changed slightly.

How to use this resource…

Each grid is for one year group, and has 4 columns. The first column shows the outgoing QCA units for that year, and the key learning points. The next column, in bold, is the objectives for the draft curriculum. These are linked, as closely as possible, to the QCA units they match best. Columns 3 and 4 offer annotations for what has been added and removed, respectively.

I hope that’s clear enough; we’re open to suggestions on how to present this information, so if you think it could be made clearer, please do leave a comment. The grids will be posted one at a time over the next few days, followed by some summaries for each key stage. To kick things off, here is a summary of the Y1 Science changes. Y2 and KS1 summary to follow tomorrow!

Space Topic

This post will cover a recent Space topic delivered to Y5. The topic included; the planets of our solar system, relative sizes and distances of the Sun, Earth and Moon as well as the orbits of the Earth and Moon. We will focus on key parts of the topic here.

The above picture shows the display for this topic and as you can see it includes visually stimulating pictures, questions, children’s work and books for them to look through. Children are encouraged to bring in items from home to add to it and can be rewarding using whatever system you have going; team points, class currency etc. Two of the books in the above picture belong to children and one child brought in a piece of meteorite although this wasn’t on display at the time this photo was taken.

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Hook them in

To hook the children into the topic, they were introduced to it as a ‘space explorers’ returning to earth after investigating the universe. The video used showed space starting from deep space and heading towards Earth. This really engaged the class at it used space’s ‘awe and wonder’ features nicely.

Kinaesthetic Approach

To increase pupil’s scientific thinking it is best to get them to see things for themselves. This undoubtedly raises some issues for space and until NASA launches school trips into space we need to improvise. A successful, interactive session for space was to use different sized objects to represent the Sun, Earth and Moon; I displayed a selection of spheres including a beach ball, football, tennis ball, small bead and blue tac as small as possible. Because not all schools have beach balls, a football could represent the Sun which means the Earth would have to be a small bead and the Moon would be the tiny piece of blue tac. The children had fun discussing these differences and then sending the volutneer ‘Sun’ out of the classroom door and 12m from our volunteer ‘Earth’ to show its relative distance.

Another interactive session was ‘plasticine planets’ where the children, after an input on orbits, were put into groups and demonstrated orbits using plasticine balls, string and pins. This was a challenging activity but they all managed it with regular learning stops, asking everyone to look at particularly successful groups. LAPs were asked to demonstrate the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, AAPs were asked to demonstrate this AND the Moon simultaneously orbiting Earth. The HAPs were challenged to explain how we get varied seasons and given Ipads with model solar systems on to research this.

Assessment quickie

The above work was my favourite piece of assessment showing the children’s understanding of relativity between the Sun, Earth and Moon. After the practical lesson on the relative sizes and distances, strips of paper were given out; A4 cut into thirds, long ways. The children were simply asked to show what the Sun, Earth and Moon looked like in space. As you can see from the pictures above, you get an idea of which children understand that the Sun in much larger than both the Earth and Moon and how close they are relative to each other.

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Thought Provoking Questions

It’s also important to set questions that make the children think and learn for themselves. The above question challenges pupils to investigate what the Sun does if it doesn’t ‘move across the sky’.

This post was an overview of the space topic taught to Y5. A more detailed description of each session will, in time, be added to our resources section so if this post interested you then keep your eyes peeled for the resources or if you can’t wait, request more information below.

PRIMARY SCIENTISTS?

“Scientist”… a word weighed down by connotations of lab coats, goggles, Albert Einstein and Doc from ‘Back to the Future’. But let’s have a look at what it actually means. Over to you, Google…

sci·en·tist

/ˈsīəntist/

Noun

A person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences

We always focus on that middle part, the expert knowledge. That’s just one part of being a scientist. Let’s skip that bit, and see how the definition reads now:

sci·en·tist

/ˈsīəntist/

A person who is studying of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.

Think of it that way, and all school children are, if given the opportunity, scientists. By extension, any adult who shares in their learning and questioning of the primary curriculum with them is a scientist as well.  Chances are, if you’re reading this, that’s you.

Investigating magnets, looking at different kinds of animal, pond dipping, comparing rocks;  if you’re looking at it and questioning it – ‘working scientifically’, in the words of the new curriculum – you are a scientist.

“Whoa there!” we hear you say. “So maybe I don’t have to be an expert to be a scientist, but as a primary teacher, I’m expected to be an expert on EVERYTHING!”

Well, yes, quite. The new draft curriculum is incredibly heavy on subject knowledge. Year 1 children identifying Willow and Horse Chestnut trees. Year 3 children picking out sedimentary from igneous rocks. Year 4s giving examples of speciation. There’s a heck of a lot of knowledge for kids (and teachers) to get their heads around. Recently, I attended a course run by a former headteacher and lead Ofsted inspector. She said that “subject knowledge is one of the biggest obstacles to outstanding science lessons”.

Despite all this, we really do feel that if you have the inspiration and the curiosity, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up the subject knowledge. And that’s where the Primary Scientists blog comes in. Already, on the internet, this subject knowledge is floating around, waiting to be snapped up; there are so many great resources out there from specialist organisations. Often though, you need to do a bit of digging for them, and frequently these resources aren’t accompanied by any really creative ideas to aid their use. At Primary Scientists, we aim to make it all a bit more digestible and inspiring. We want to highlight what is useful and engaging. We will compile some of the best resources, and share our own ideas and experiences of actually using them in the classroom. We’ll add our own humble voices to the reams of subject knowledge, along with our own stories, thoughts, resources and photos. Anything on this site will be free to use. All we ask is that you share us with your friends and colleagues, and maybe give us the odd re-tweet.

Speaking personally, we are scientists with degrees and conservation experience. As primary teachers, we are scientists too. Our aim is to blend both of these aspects to bring subject knowledge and curiosity to your classroom via useful ideas, resources, lesson plans and tidbits of information. Most of all, we want to pass on our excitement for the sciences and sharing them with children.

Us. You. The children we all teach. Together, we are Primary Scientists.

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