Research School Network: Cartoons and collaborative learning to provide challenge in primary science What does ​‘challenge’ look like in primary science?

Cartoons and collaborative learning to provide challenge in primary science

What does ​‘challenge’ look like in primary science?

by Great Heights Research School: West Yorkshire
on the

Challenge has become a somewhat allusive term, we strive towards the Goldilocks effect’ of pitching it just right- not too hard, not too easy. So what does this look like in primary science?

Recommendation 2: encourage pupils to explain their thinking, whether verbally or in written form.

Concept cartoons are a fantastic way to develop pupils’ reasoning and justification skills. Cartoon characters discuss their viewpoints around a science concept, often including common misconceptions. Take this condensation example which might be used with year 4 as part of states of matter’ section of the National Curriculum programme of study. The cartoon will provoke discussion and stimulate thinking around this topic.

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This pedagogical approach lends itself to collaborative learning; explicit teaching of talk behaviours alongside clear expectations around participation capitalises on this opportunity for discussion. Pupils are able to work alongside their peers to share their views, questioning and assimilating the views of others with their existing knowledge. The somewhat simplistic nature of a concept cartoon and the focus on discussion means that pupils aren’t hindered by limits on their reading and writing ability ensuring that the before mentioned challenge’ is specific to science not the literacy demands.

Following on from discussion in small groups, follow up questioning can be used to guide dialogue encouraging pupils to build on their responses and those of their peers. The time spent in groups ensures that all pupils have had an opportunity to think and formulate their thoughts thus an expectation of no hands up and a balance between teacher and pupil voice.

Concept cartoons can be used at different points across the learning cycle. Perhaps we want to reveal pupil preconceptions and misconceptions around a particular topic, or we want to utilise the rich dialogue to assess progress in pupil knowledge and understanding. Even better for us as teachers is that this then provides a golden opportunity for pupils to reveal their understanding so that we can respond in our planning.

How might concept cartoons support challenge as part of your curriculum implementation?

As a school, how could these be used to punctuate key learning points across the curriculum with a vertical approach to developing talk behaviours?

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