‘Working Scientifically’: Encouraging Science Talk

The ‘Working Scientifically’ strand underlies the entire new Science Curriculum.

The closest comparison to the familiar outgoing curriculum is the erstwhile SC1 knowledge and understanding’ unit. With the new dawn comes a more explicit intention to develop pupil’s methodical and investigative thinking skills. For KS1, this involves plenty of chances to observe and experiment, working up to designing investigations, collecting data and reporting back on findings. In a new curriculum that can seem top-heavy on subject knowledge at the expense of wider skills, this is welcome relief. Over the next few weeks, we’ll deliver a series of posts on how to integrate these skills, and how to make them seem more engaging for children. Today’s post deals with the proposed use of ‘science talk’ to this end.



A key tenet of the new curriculum is talking about Science. Indeed, it is mentioned on the very first page of the curriculum documentation:

The national curriculum for science reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are key factors in developing their scientific vocabulary and articulating scientific concepts clearly and precisely. They must be assisted in making their thinking clear, both to themselves and others, and teachers should ensure that pupils build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and remedy their misconceptions.

Such use of language is clearly of especial revelance to this idea of ‘working scientifically’, allowing time to share, discuss and compare ideas for scientific investigation. Even though the new curriculum is so full of facts, facts and more facts, it is important to allow a breathing space for children to discover these facts themselves through the use of talk and exploration.


The use of talk partners and ‘talk time’ has been widely recommended in schools for some time now, and science lessons can provide an excellent forum for this. In my Y3 class, I’ve taken this one step further with the introduction of specific ‘Science Partners’. This is hardly a revolutionary idea; lab partners are widespread further up the key stages, and mixed ability pairs can work very well in any lesson. What having specific science partners at lower levels does provide is an excitement in class, as well as all the established advantages of mixed ability pairs. It also gets the children into a mindset that, with their science partner, they will be required to investigate, talking and working scientifically. I make sure I use these phrases in class, and the children have started to use them too.

Of course, to get the most out of Science talk partners, it is necessary to establish spaces in planning and in lessons for it. Many schools explicitly include ‘talk time’ and specific questions in their planning, and this is a good idea for Science too. (I have begun specifically marking ‘Science Talk’ in colour on my Science planning. Future planning available here will show this).

To make talk as productive and focused as possible, talk prompt cards can be helpful. These could include sentence starters (“I predict that…”, “I’ve noticed a difference…”, “I’m wondering if…”) or could simply be key words for types of talk (“prediction”, “observation”, etc). Organisations such as Sheffield’s ESCAL have produced such resources aimed at guided reading, and adapting and tweaking for Science could be very useful.

Making space for so much talk can lead to lessons becoming a bit elongated when times is of the essence. Cross-curricular lessons can be helpful to kill more birds with one stone. Especially helpful is incorporating Science Talk into Speaking and listening aspects of English/Literacy. let’s not forget that NC quote above… science talk “reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum”. The transition from spoken to written language could be a focus for an English lesson, especially if an explanation text of a scientific experiment or process was being written. If patterns or data are being looked at, the science talk could provide a useful link into discussing mathematical relationships.

Why not give science partners a try? I’ll be posting some examples of talk prompts and planning incorporating talk time in the next few days.

Ideas of your own? Please drop us a line in the comments box below. Happy Talk times!


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