The importance of science induction sessions for the KS2-3 transition

Induction days are an important part of the academic timetable for science teachers.  They provide an opportunity for science teachers to weigh up the scientific ability of prospective students (and to map it to teacher assessed levels if these have been provided in advance).  Our new intake recently spent the morning with us and the ensuing practical work gave me a very good indication of their science skills.  I saw students manipulating equipment, working in new groups, recording results and interpreting their results.

Induction days are also a good opportunity to excite students about science and to have them looking forward to starting science lessons in September.

My favourite induction activity involves using red cabbage juice as an indicator to classify unknown chemicals as acid, alkaline or neutral.   We also made fridge magnets (laminating student drawings and sticking magnetic tape on the back) which gave me a good idea of each student’s skill with a pencil (handy in a special school!).

Red cabbage indicator.

Is offering free GCSE lesson plans (Edexcel) good for science teaching?

I picked up a nice big glossy folder of GCSE information from Edexcel as I left school today.  Having heard the Chief Examiner speak at a conference recently, the pack offered no surprises as I flicked through.  However my attention was drawn to the following information (which I snapped with my phone):

lesson plans

Free plans for every lesson.  Yes, FREE PLANS FOR EVERY LESSON.  Whilst I can see that this could be a godsend for the busy teacher, I can’t help but feel that this is a bad move for the quality of science education as a whole.

When the QCA published schemes of work years ago, departments followed them for a variety of reasons.  Common reasons for following the centrally produced schemes included saving time, schemes safe from criticism from Ofsted, and having an inexperienced department.  Few schools followed them because they liked them.  Their main effect was to stifle creativity and push teachers towards delivering identical lessons regardless of area, school or setting.

My concern is that by publishing GCSE lesson plans examination companies are appealing to the same inexperienced, time pressed departments who want to play safe.  I worry that this will snuff out what little spark of creativity we have left in science education and mark a return in teaching centrally produced lesson plans (except this time they will be from the examination board rather than the QCA).

I hope that schools will take the opportunity to flick through the lesson plans and steal all the best bits for their own lessons, but will continue to embrace the opportunities for creative and individual teaching that our science education community badly needs.

I’d be interested to hear views from current science teachers, either for or against.  Please leave a comment below (no registration required) with your opinions.

APP and Wikid Science – how they fit well together

I attended a county APP network meeting last week which included a show & tell session.  Being a model of good organisation I remembered that I was meant to be taking something two day before.  I could have simply gone through my schemes of work and picked an example of how we use APP, but instead I wanted to include something fresh.

I looked at the lesson plan for my next Y7 lesson, which was from the A&E sequence.  Students were looking at some of the key pieces of equipment used in a hospital used to aid diagnosis.  The teaching resources needed a little differentiation, partly to make them more accessible and partly to speed up that part of the lesson so we were free to move on.

I looked at the APP criteria that matched this lesson, which also gave me an idea of the outcomes I could expect from my students and what the next steps should be.  I chose AF2 and students were recognising roles in the hospital with science and applications of science.

  • Identify a link to science in familiar objects
  • Recognise scientific developments that help us
  • Describe in familiar contexts how science helps us do things
  • Identify people who use science to help others
  • Identify aspects of our lives, or of the work that people do, which are based on scientific ideas
  • Link applications to specific characteristic or properties
  • Identify aspects of science used within particular jobs or roles
  • Recognise applications of specific scientific ideas
  • Link application of science or technology to their underpinning scientific ideas
  • Identify ethical or moral issues linked to scientific or technological developments

I then modified the task so that students would have more of a chance to demonstrate these skills in a way that suited their special needs.  I decided that students would be presenting to the hospital board (who were looking for job cuts) and explaining to them that science was important in the hospital and which jobs used some kind of science.  Students would also mention the key pieces of apparatus used in a hospital, relating applications of science to specific properties (e.g. the X-ray machine).

Students were videoed making their presentation to the hospital board after planning the presentation (in pairs).  Students then watched back the presentations as a class the next lesson and offered peer feedback on both the presentations and the specific science skills (above) we were looking at.

I’ve included the presentation and worksheet that I used for this lesson, however I wanted to make the point that APP isn’t about collecting mountains of paperwork or one off assessment style lessons.  It can be used to aid most science activities (either for assessment, development or both) and that the writing of Wikid Science makes this process extremely easy.


equipment used for diagnosis

Presenting to hospital board – APP