We have used an opinion line ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree to encourage children to think more deeply about statements such as ‘zoos have a positive impact on animals’ (e.g. picture 1). We support children run the discussion, standing up when they want to speak and waiting for an appropriate time to put their ideas across. We encourage the children to draw upon one another’s ideas, agreeing or disagreeing with their peers to ensure they listen carefully and build the discussion. We also ask them to support their opinions with facts and data they have gained through previous lessons. The debates allow teachers to see if children can confidently use scientifically vocabulary correctly and draw conclusions based on data and knowledge gained in lessons.
Thinking skills can also be developed using a tug of war post it activity, where children write their ideas on post its on either the agree or disagree side (e.g. picture 2). Teachers can use these activities to help to assess children’s scientific understanding and adapt teaching to respond to any misconceptions that arise. For example, when considering the statement: ‘wouldn’t it be fantastic if the Earth stopped orbiting the Sun’, a range of ideas were explored:
“If we stopped orbiting the sun, would we drift away from it?”
“Half the world will be in night”
“It would be good if the northern hemisphere was facing the sun if Earth stopped orbiting as it will always be summer for us!”
“The seasons would be fixed”
“Plants and animals in certain areas will struggle to survive!”
Jodie Lea, Fairford C of E Primary School, Gloucestershire