Tips for planning
Here are some tips and advice on some of the general principles of effective planning for primary science. This is not at all an exhaustive list but it will help you to think about what is important when planning – and perhaps to think about things you would not otherwise consider.
Teaching does not always equal learning
Effective planning requires careful thought and extensive knowledge of what the children already know and what they need to learn.
As with all planning, it is vital to first consider what you want the outcomes to be from the teaching sequence.
Focus on the learning
What is it that you want the children to know and understand by the end of the sequence?
This should build on previous learning or identified areas of misconception.
What might they produce or do to demonstrate this new knowledge and understanding?
There is a clear route through identifying learning
Intended learning Success criteria Assessment strategy
You do not always need a ‘product’ from the children to identify/evidence of their learning but HOW you will evidence it must be considered from the start.
Consider your ‘hook’
How will you engage the children in the activity right from the start?
Think about your classroom environment. Is it best if children begin ‘on the carpet’ or ‘in front of the whiteboard’? Is there any room for the children to move around?
At each point you should think about three things:
What will the teacher be teaching and why?
What will the children be doing in order to learn?
How long will it take to do both of these?
Timing is important. Manage your time effectively, set clear expectations and communicate the time limits with your children.
Are you asking the children to work in a scientific way?
Choose strategies that help children to ‘think like scientists’. Use talk to explore learning and consider how an element of enquiry can be incorporated into the lesson.
In order to access learning in some areas of primary science, children need already to have mastered some specific skills. For example, children cannot be asked to explore the thermal conductivity of different materials unless they can use a thermometer.
Check that children have the skills needed for the lesson.
When planning science lessons, it is important that you consider what the children will be doing as well as what they will be learning. Ensure that children have
opportunities in the lesson to develop as independent learners.
Of course, consider the Health and Safety of the children in your class when planning practical activities, ensuring that you have assessed all of the potential risks.
Consider if any scientists from history and their stories can help the children to learn
science through scientists.
Use questioning effectively
and help children to build their own scientific vocabularies.
Misconceptions are common when learning science.
Identifying the common misconceptions before you start planning
to avoid these and adapt your teaching accordingly.
Assessing learning in science can be more problematic given the active, practical, nature of science. It may not always be easy to use an outcome (such as a piece of writing or a presentation) to assess understanding.
Use a range of assessment strategies
to ensure you capture children’s learning. Such strategies may include observations, discussion and questioning, drawings, photographs and video, written tests, data records (e.g. graphs and tables) and concept maps.
Often we need to be with children at specific moments to assess effectively.
How will you use the additional support you have in your classroom?
Plan and discuss the lesson with your TA.
Planning is cyclical and your evaluation from the previous lesson should inform future planning.
Identify what went well alongside what didn’t work
It is often easier to identify what we do not do well than it is to identify our strengths. Make sure your evaluations are balanced and realistic.
In this extract, Keira Sewell gives some advice on planning for primary science. For support on planning for the whole primary curriculum, see:
Keira Sewell is an independent educational consultant at Visionary Education (www.visionary-education.co.uk). She has over 25 years’ experience of supporting the professional development of both trainee and experienced teachers and specialises in science education.