Wikid Science – how I make mine better

Practical work.  That’s the main method.  The more the better.  Science is a practical subject and you learn best by doing and making sense of what you have seen.  I like to shoehorn any practical work in that helps students grasp a topic – the more the better.

This lesson in the Pyrotechnics sequence had flame tests in.  Students love flame tests but they don’t really help reinforce the concept of elements and compounds.  The solution?  Keep the flame tests but stick in some extra practical work to reinforce the main learning objectives.  I slotted in a small-scale reaction of iron and sulphur (in CLEAPSS recommended quantities of 2g iron/sulphur mix per student), moving this from the following lesson which already contains plenty of meaningful practical work.

This reinforced the concept of elements and compounds within this lesson, and provided more meaningful practical work than flame tests alone.

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Practical (used to aid teaching) works best when it helps students to grasp the main objective of the lesson.  Don’t be afraid to stick more practical work in your schemes of work if it makes science more fun and aids understanding, or move it to more appropriate parts of your scheme of work.

Healthy Schools day – burning crisps

I was tasked with the job of running a session with a health related theme.   I decided to compare the energy in different crisps, with the primary objective being purely to demonstrate what an good source of energy they are.

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The photographs show 2.5g of various crisps being burnt under 20 cm3 of water.  Whilst we tried to ensure the flame tickled the test tube as much as possible, collecting accurate results wasn’t the primary objective for this lesson.

(If we had wanted to collect more accurate data we could have made calorimeters like this made by students of Phillip Cook in the USA)

The importance of good quality science CPD

microscale production I’ve been a science teacher for more years than I care to remember.  I’ve also been on plenty of courses in that time.  I tend to be very selective which courses I attend now, as my time is so valuable (and I’ve walked out of many courses for this reason).  This week I’ve been fortunate to spend a day attending quality CPD on the ASE Northern Area Science and CPD Conference.   (The picture was taken during a workshop on micro-scale production of gases using syringes run by Alan Goodwin)

This was the third ASE CPD event I’ve attended in the last few months, all of which have been of extremely high quality.  (For those of you that aren’t ASE members, I can honestly recommend membership as it gives you access not only to the best quality science CPD, but also the most reasonably priced science CPD I’ve seen on the market.)

I’m active on Twitter and I pick up tips off there.  I also use Google Reader to follow a number of blogs written by teachers who interest me.  Whilst both of these are useful there is no substitute for ‘proper’ CPD.  I tried to think of what makes good CPD, and what I should be aspiring to when I run CPD of my own.

  • Clear objectives published before the event so teachers can decide if the course will be useful to them
  • Opportunity to engage with and interact with other science teachers
  • Relevance to the audience
  • Being given or coming away with information that is useful to you
  • Getting ideas that you can use in your own teaching
  • Delivered by someone with good subject knowledge
  • Draws on the presenters own experiences – tried and tested
  • Has the ultimate aim of improving teaching and learning
  • Opportunity to interact with presenter after the event
  • Resources/notes etc to take away
  • Leaving course participants ‘buzzing’ and eager to try out ideas in their own classroom

I’m pleased to say that the ASE regional conference delivered on all counts.