National Curriculum Subject Of Science
In this assignment I will be looking at the National Curriculum subject of Science. I shall be looking at planning a science lesson and teaching to a whole class. I will look critically at aspects of the science curriculum, including the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Once the science lesson has been taught, I will evaluate how well the lesson went, if there was any problems and if there was, how they were overcome. When planning the lesson I will look at the misconceptions in science and how resources/strategies help to set these misconceptions straight.
I will also look at ICT in the science curriculum and how ICT was used in the planned and taught science lesson. The way science is taught has been well discussed with those who say that children should be taught science and those who say children should be taught to have an understanding of science.
Cockburn (2001) states, “Others hold a well- established view that a main aim of school science is to promote enthusiasm for the subject and to enhance pupils’ understanding of, and, interest in, scientific issues in adult life.” (Cockburn, 2001, pg 183)
So Cockburn believes that teachers should instruct children in a way that excites them, and wants them to be influenced in their adult/ career life. However in the Independent review of the Primary Curriculum: Final report, it looks at the teaching of Science as, “Scientific and technological understanding.” (Rose, 2009, pg 47)
Rose believes that children should be taught to have just an understanding of science rather than have teaching that leads them to want a career in science.
As a practitioner I believe that the subject of science should be taught to have an understanding of science. This understanding should be taught with such creativity and enthusiasm that the children will want to discover and explore on their own.
After looking at the National Curriculum for Science, and speaking with the class teacher, it was decided that the section on light and dark was to be taught next. The children had a basic understanding on light and dark, due to them having a brief introduction to the subject in a previous week.
As the children are in Key Stage One, in accordance with The National Curriculum for Science (1999) children are to be taught, “To identify different light sources, including the Sun.” and “that darkness in the absence of light.” (QCA, 1999, pg19) The teaching of light and dark at this stage helps to build up a foundation for later learning linked to light and sound.
An earlier foundation is built in the EYFS, for a learning of Science. Such goals are, “Find out about their environment, and talk about those features they like and dislike.” (DCSF, 2008, pg 15)
This builds a foundation for light and dark; this is because light/dark is part of their environment. This goal also allows for classroom discussion which is primal for their social building skills at this stage.
Another foundation gal that is linked to the light and dark section is, “Observe, find out about and identify features in the place they love and the natural world.” (DCSF, 2008, pg 15) This helps to build a foundation, as the children are taught about things that occur in the natural world, i.e. light and darkness.
After light and dark has been taught at Key Stage One, the learning continues into Key Stage Two. The first thing that children are taught is, “That light travels from a source.” (QCA, 1999, pg 26)
Others include, that when light is blocked it forms shadows, that on reflective surfaces the light reverberates and finally that the light has to enter our eyes to enable us to see. (QCA, 1999, pg 26)
The foundations are built in the EYFS with the children being taught to observe the world around them; this creates a basic knowledge needed to transfer to Key Stage one and two.
I shall now critically reflect on the science curriculum, looking at the science on a whole.
Newton, 2000, pg 232 describes how the science curriculum faces issues on a whole, “Here we will look at the need for you to consider certain operational matters in the primary science classroom such as problems of classroom organisation and management and the ways in which you and the children interact during lessons.”
So before reflection on the curriculum its’ self, the arrangement and direction of the classroom has come under scrutiny. Newton believes that organisation affects the teaching of science; however Garson looks at how the resources are the priority. “A useful way of ensuring that the classroom a teacher works in is conducive to doing science activities is to list the needs created by such activities and then ensure that it is possible, within the particular restraints imposed by the school, to match those needs as nearly as possible.” (Garson, 2007, pg 78)
Another issue has been brought up by the Houses of Parliament, “Factors within primary schools that may affect pupils’ interest in science, include; whether science teaching is adapted by individual schools to reflect the interest of their pupils; the focus on preparation for SAT’s tests in the last year of primary school; primary teachers’ level of scientific knowledge and confidence in teaching science.” (Houses of Parliament, 2003, pg 2)
They believe that there are issues in the primary curriculum that discourage the learning and enthusiasm of the children in the classroom. However Mertler, 2005, pg 217, writes about a study conducted with parents and children. He summarises the conclusion of the study, “60% of the parents considered their children enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about learning science both before and after the study.”
The study was conducted one year after the document from the Houses of Parliament was published. It could be looked upon the document helping the teaching of science; by teacher improving and adapting their teaching methods. Although it is possible that no changes were implemented and the view of teachers, parents and children changed for no reason.
Another issue in science is the problem of misconceptions. As described by Tweed, “The word misconception denotes an error in thinking about the science concept, while preconception is often more accurate, since the ideas arose from their own experiences and without formal science instruction.” (Tweed, 2009, pg 104)
Tweed believes that there are only preconceptions rather than misconceptions. This is because children perceive science from their experience rather than having a misconception due to insufficient teaching.
Dean discusses why there could be possible misconceptions in the science curriculum, “Children approach science with ideas of their own about why things are they way they are and these theories are often incompatible with the ideas teachers want them to learn.” (Dean, 2005, pg 80)
The Committee on Undergraduate science education, 1997, pg 27 looks further into the predicament of misconceptions in science. They state, “Students are often able to use algorithms to solve numerical problems without completely understanding the underlying science concept.”
They speculate that children can know answers to questions, often through rote, but not have any understanding of the scientifical background. If children have no understanding of the scientifical background of things then how can this help with their problem solving skills?
Looking more closely at misconceptions in science, I will now focus on light and dark. Looking at the misconceptions in the light and dark section will help me plan my lesson later.
The first misconception that I come across was that some children believe, “The eye is the only organ for sight; the brain is the only for thinking.” (Weiler, 2009)
Although this is not directly elated to light and dark on the whole it is linked. This is because children need to learn that the light helps us to see, but we can use our other senses to find things.
A study conducted by Pine, Messer and St.John, 2001, pg 11, also noted some misconceptions of children, some of these include, “One child thought you light a bulb by putting it in the sun, another believed that lights are the main source of light. Four teachers highlighted the misconception that the moon is a source of light.”
St John, Pine and Messer, 2001 conducted a stud with teachers on the misconceptions in science. There were many misconceptions within the science curriculum. It is difficult to understand how children have these misconceptions/ preconceptions. Where the child thought that a light bulb needs to be put in the sun to light, it is possible that this is a preconception rather than a misconception. The children might have experience with solar energy, but not have the scientifical understanding that the bulb could be powered in an alternative way.
However, if there are possible misconceptions for the light and dark section, it is achievable and essential to abolish them. There are many ways to overthrow misconceptions; the most beneficial is published by the Committee on Undergraduate science education, 1997, pg 30, “Carefully selected demonstrations are one way of helping students overcome misconceptions.”
This particular system of overcoming misconceptions helps children who are kinaesthetic learners, as children learn best by doing. If the teacher was to use displays with the children, the ‘hands on’ learning approach will help to surmount the misconceptions.
Being able to identify possible misconceptions and how to overcome them is acute to help when planning lessons. Planning lessons is crucial to help raise the achievement of the children and to meet the criteria set by the National Curriculum, “There are four main strategies for raising achievement. They are: a planned curriculum that has both breadth and depth; schemes of work that break down the curriculum into manageable chunks; effective lesson plans; differentiation, so that each child is able to work to his or her own potential and not perform tasks that are either too easy or too difficult.” (Smith, 2002, pg 96)
If teachers are to teach to the correct standard and beyond then they should plan their lessons with links to the National Curriculum. Using the QCA schemes of work will help as will the utilization of differentiation.
As cited earlier the children will be looking at the light and dark section of the science curriculum. The misconceptions faced earlier are assistive towards the planning of the lesson. This is because demonstrations will be projected to assist children subdue their misconceptions.
Teachers also need to plan for differentiation during any subject, however from experience it can help to have mixed ability groups that will support each other.
Newton, 2000, pg 216 describes how teacher should go about planning for science, “When planning for science there are four particular criteria you need to thing about; breadth, balance, continuity and progression.” Newton conceives that to plan a science lesson, teachers should think about ‘breadth’. The ‘breadth’ means to cover a wide range of each section; not just focusing on each sub-section individually. The ‘balance’ of the planning is the balance of teaching for an understanding and straight forward teaching. ‘Continuity’ is linked with the assessment, ensuring that the children fully understand before moving on to the next topic. Finally ‘progression’ can also be associated to continuity. It focuses more on ensuring the children have a full understanding and any misconceptions have been overcome.
When planning the lesson I felt it was requisite and beneficial to re-cover any prior knowledge they may have. Walker, 2008, pg 9 also suggests using this time to recap previous lessons/ knowledge, “In a typical hour lesson this will take 5-10 minutes. Its purpose is to give students a flavour of the lesson and to get them thinking. Alternatively it could be an activity to elicit what they remember from a previous lesson.”
The starter of the lesson will be a PowerPoint that will be interactive and able to be used on the SMART Board. I decided to use PowerPoint as it is software that can be projected onto the SMART Board which will enable the children to interact with the PowerPoint. Likewise PowerPoint is software that I have a lot of experience with, so I am able to ascertain that it is an exciting stimulus for the children.
Miller, Averis and Sherran, 2004, pg 7 describe in detail how beneficial using PowerPoint/ interactive whiteboard in the classroom can be. They suggest that it can incite both the children and the teacher; in many cases it can assist concentration. It is also not time consuming, allowing further time for independent work. Potter and Roberts, 2002, also report on the benefits of using PowerPoint, “Using a computer helps pupils to extend their concentration and perseverance; since they are highly motivated to succeed in their task, pupils will persevere for far longer that they would with a task on paper.”
PowerPoint helps all children with their concentration not just those who are visual and kinaesthetic learners. Looking at my own experience in the classroom, when other teachers have used PowerPoint I have observed children, who never typically answer, putting their hand up and having a try.
I chose to use PowerPoint over any other software because of the wide range of interaction and media available when using it. Also it is compatible with nearly all laptops and desktop computers, so there would be no issues, during the lesson, with compatibility.
However some believe that there are issues when using PowerPoint in the classroom, Brown, 2007, pg 1 notes that in some cases people/children can become un-affected by PowerPoint’s if they are used too much and in procession.
Nevertheless it could be argued that if the presentations were interactive and engaging then neither the children nor the teacher would become tired of them. Chin, 2004, pg 29 also notes a frequent issue when using PowerPoint in the classroom. He believes that some teachers can be allured by the wide range of media available and over use it, thus making it endearing but also distracting for some children.
On the other hand the range of media used, could, present a benefit to those in the classroom. This is because each type of media (photos, cartoons, video, sound or graphs) is suitable to cover all of the different learning styles that the children have.
ICT should be used in the classroom at a variety of times whether it is to; introduce a topic, re-cap previous lessons work, to informally assess children or as an educational activity for those children who have finished their work early. However there are also times when ICT should not be used, the chief time is when a child is struggling with their work; this time should be a one to one teacher focus time.
The PowerPoint I used in my lesson links to the learning objective, “That there are many sources of light.”(QCA, 1998, pg 2) This is taken from the QCA Schemes of work for Science. The PowerPoint (Appendix A) links to this particular learning objective. This is because it asks children what sort of sources of light they can think of. Then to extend their knowledge the children are then able to play a game identifying the light sources.
As I used PowerPoint during my lesson rather than any other ICT, I feel that the lesson flowed more easily. Also as I used ICT at the beginning of the lesson I sense the children were focused. By using an interactive piece of software I was able to observe the children and question them, whilst they were playing the game.
Considering the PowerPoint and the children in terms of achievement I feel as though it did help the children to accomplish. The PowerPoint helped the children meet the required learning objective, it also help the children to gain an understanding of the many available light sources.
When planning the independent part of the lesson, I felt that this was the best area to help overcome the children’s misconceptions. As spoke about earlier the best way to overcome the misconceptions is through demonstration. Wragg and Brown, 2001, pg 15 also support the theory of ‘how’, “Wrapped inside a ‘why?’ question is often a ‘how?’ question.” The best way to answer ‘how?’ is to actively include the enquirer in a demonstration, this is often more helpful as the children learn best by doing, which Wragg and Brown (2), 2001, pg 56 also back up, “Most children (and adults) learn best when actively involved.” I decided to cover the learning objectives, “That light is essential for seeing things” and “That when it is dark other senses can be used to help us find things and identify things.” (QCA, 1999, pg 2)
To do this I covered three of the school desks with blinds, towels, blankets and other material, I then ensured that under the table was in darkness. I then laid out a variety of objects under the table and on the roof of the table for the children to find. (Appendix B)
I chose a few children at a time out of the class, before they went under the table I questioned them as to how they were planning to find the objects as it was going to be dark, this was to re enforce the ‘different senses’ part of the learning objective.
Once the children had found two or three objects, they were then asked to come out and identify the object and tell the others what they thought it was.
For the plenary of the lesson I decided to gather all the children on the carpet to discuss they activity that they had just done. I asked the children about what they had used to find the objects e.g. their hands. I also asked them about how they knew what each item was, this was to ensure that they had achieved the lessons learning objective.
The assessment of the children was done throughout the lesson; this was done by observation of the children’s understanding during the lesson introduction. This was also done through questioning the children during the main part of the lesson on what senses they will use to find the objects. The use of questioning during the lesson is as fast and easy approach of assessment, “Questioning is one of the most useful methods of differentiating assessment. Oral and written responses to varied levels and types of questions help the teachers formally and informally get an idea of how the class and individual students are understanding the concepts of the unit of study.” (Northey, 2004, pg 146)
As there was no written work, observation and questioning were the most adept methods of assessment during this lesson, it also helped as I could en-visage if any of the children were struggling during the starter and give them extra support.
As this was a science lesson none of the children were split into ability groups. This was also because for most of the lesson the children were on the carpet, those who were of lower ability were given extra support from the Special Support Assistants, Farrell affirms this belief, “However, the main ways of differentiating can be brought together in six approaches. These are: differentiation by outcome, task, support, classroom organisation, resources and extension.” (Farrell, 1999, pg 50)
After teaching the lesson, I experience that the lesson had very few major problems. It is apparent that the use of play/demonstration helped the children to learn, this is supported by many theorists. An old Chinese proverb says, “I hear I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” (Conficius, 551BC- 479BC) If children are to hear they forget, if they see something they will recall it, however if they do it they will comprehend the concept behind it.
One problem during the main teaching activity was that under the table, it was not dark enough, which would effect the outcome of identifying the object. This was easily overcome by adding more material to make it darker.
The children were engaged while the PowerPoint was on during the lesson, although the game did over run into the main teaching of the lesson, with regards to time; as a consequence there was little time for me to do questions with the children. This however was overcome by questioning them, whilst they were waiting to do the task. The questioning was an essential part of the lesson, as mentioned before it was part of the assessment of the children. In future when writing lesson plans, I shall write approximate timings in each box, to ensure that there is time for questioning.
As I had planned part of the lesson to overcome any possible misconceptions or preconceptions I can be sure that the children did not finish the lesson with any of them; this is critical to the science lessons later in each key stages.
I feel as though the use of ICT did improve the teaching and learning of the lesson, I felt as though it helped to improve and maintain their concentration and understanding. Williams, 2003, pg 8 also agrees, “If the wonder and excitement of science is not to be lost, then it is imperative that ICT should be included, not just to streamline to process, but to motivate the children and enhance the quality of their learning.”
However Farmey, 2002, page 131, notes a logical point that many teachers should ask themselves, the following, when thinking about using ICT, “Is the use of ICT a better method than pencil and paper? The method therefore being considered must offer advantages over the other approaches; if it does not then the use of ICT should be questioned.”
In response to Farmey’s thinking, looking at my use of ICT in the lesson, I do not believe that the children would have benefited as much as they did if I was to have used another method of teaching. The learning was interactive, and all the children desired to have a try at answering. Although another problem faced was some of the children gave unthought-of answers in order to try and use the interactive whiteboard.
If I were to use this type of presentation again I would turn it into a fun game where if they were to give a silly answer I would be able to steal one of their points.
On further analysis of my lesson I do feel as though further differentiation was needed. Upon repeating a similar lesson I would ensure that those of lower ability were observed and assessed (informally) to ensure that they had a clear understanding.
Upon looking back at the lesson plan and the lesson itself, I have found three key areas to look upon in the future. These are; the timing of the lesson, ensuring full differentiation of the children and also ensuring the resources/ activity are adequate.
The first matter that asks for attention is the timing of the lesson; this is essential to ensure that the children are covering all that is planned, “Regularly running out of time alters the balance of the lesson and means the conclusion is neglected.” (Overall & Sangster, 2003, pg 181)
Timing needs to be kept in order for a full and proper plenary to take place. The plenary of the lesson is where the main part of assessment is done, if there is limited time to do the assessment then this does not form an accurate account.
Differentiation is another thing that needs attention in the future. Although there was differentiation, with the special support assistants helping the lower ability children; I feel as though there could have been more emphasis on it. Hayes, 2006, pg 63 looks at differentiation being in two categories, “There are two main types of differentiation used by primary teachers. The first type is where all pupils are given similar tasks to do but the expectation differs accordingly to the pupil’s academic competence. The second type of differentiation is where pupils of different academic proficiency are given distinctive tasks and activities on the same subject but with differing levels of challenge.”
Looking at Hayes, 2006, pg 63 If I was to do the lesson again I would ensure that the lower ability had more focused help/encouragement, also that the higher ability was given more challenging objects to identify. Finally it is also essential that all resources/ activities are checked and ascertain that they will enable to improve the children’s learning.
At the beginning of this assignment I discussed how I was going to look at planning a lesson in the science curriculum. I planned a lesson and using the writings of various theorists the lesson was planned with key features remembered. I also looked at how there are differing views on the science curriculum sections and also the use of PowerPoint/ ICT in the classroom. I also evaluated the lesson I taught and looked at the problems that I faced and then how they were overcome. From this I found three key aspects that I need to remember when planning future lessons.
When planning to use ICT in the lesson I did find it hard to think of an ICT component to use, so I decided to research some. Upon exploring I did come across many theorists who did not favour using ICT in science, which did alert me as to if there was going to be any benefits in using ICT. However this encouraged me to do further research and I did find a lot of theorists who supported the use of ICT.
Upon writing and researching this assignment I feel as if I have gained more understanding of writing lesson plans. I have gained knowledge of theorists contrasting views and I have also gained more whole class teaching experience.
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