The Science Ninjas project from CLEAPSS works with teachers to support the teaching of effective practical activities and science enquiry skills. Teachers select one of the following areas as a focus for the lesson: equipment, making observations, taking measurements and recording evidence. When planning the lesson, teachers consider what the learning will look like and develop activity specific success criteria.
Termly professional learning community (Ninja) meetings are held, where teachers share and discuss pupil outcomes. This can support practice both in the short term and the long term.
For example, by discussing what observation in a Y3 lesson on the permeability of rocks might look like, one teacher used the feedback to refine their lesson with subsequent groups of children across 3 academic years.
Picture 1 – Teacher’s first venture in to teaching rock permeability (2018)
Because the lesson did not include any explicit support about how to observe the permeability of the rocks, the result is that the children’s observations are unfocussed.
Picture 2 – Teacher’s second venture in to teaching rock permeability (2019)
Presenting and discussing the previous year’s example led the teacher to improve support for observing during the lesson. The child’s work shows how there’s more explicit focus on the link between permeability and observing e.g.
• After 5 drops of water I noticed…
• After 10 drops of water I noticed…
Pictures 3 (writing) and 4 (table) – Teacher’s third venture in to teaching rock permeability (2020)
Further discussions about the improved activity led the teacher to change her mind about the most important focus from observing, to measuring. The new focus on measuring helped the child to better link their observations to rock permeability.
This example demonstrates the importance of planning for an explicit focus in lessons. The ‘Teaching Ideas’ area of the CLEAPSS primary website features a large, and increasing, number of practical activities that support practical lesson planning that is focussed and explicit.