Teaching Practical Science During A Pandemic
I am getting a lot of emails at the moment from teachers who are struggling with how to tackle practical sessions while sitting in rows, having to social distance and with limited resources.
My first bit of advice would be to get outside as much as possible – however this is not the most practical advice when wet. But whenever the weather is clear get you class rugged up (even if it occasionally means coming in their own clothes rather than school uniform) and conduct practical parts of your session outside.
I would also advise tweaking your curriculum if you can to match what you can best deliver. For example I would move an investigation and resource heavy unit such as ‘Properties and Changes of Materials’ to later in the year if you have not got the resources and classroom set up to deliver it successfully currently. I would look to deliver a subject like ‘Earth and Space’, which involves more research based activities, to being taught now. Look at the working scientifically statements that can be best promoted with your current set up. My current class have been doing more data handling than I would normally do at this time of the year as challenges linked /in response to practical tasks conducted within the lessons. This is developing a skill that works well with the current classroom set up I have. As it would be more challenging to allow them to pursue their own lines of enquiry in response to tests they have just conducted within the same session.
I have been saving a lot of my recycling as of late and creating disposable investigate kits for my own class. Plastic containers are particularly good for this. I have been setting these up so that children can work with the person that they are sat next to rather than traditional groupings we would have used pre-covid.
Where I have not had enough resources for children to work in a pair – for example sorting and classifying I have used pictures/photographs. However, I have had actual examples on display in the room for children to see and we have explored them at the beginning of the session as part of the whole class input to help support children if they have not come across something they are sorting before.
For some activities if you are really struggling you may have to model an activity in front of the class rather than them conducting a test themselves -however I would try to limit this as much as possible and keep the task as short as possible to maintain engagement. I would also give the children a question to answer before I modelled to ensure they are actively involved in some way and the response will allow you to assess their understanding of what they have watched.
If you are also trying to catch up on units missed from last year take a look at the medium term plans on my website where I have highlighted which sessions I would focus on out of each unit to do this successfully. These can be found on the year group resource pages.
Finally, we are all doing our best, this storm will pass -recognise the positives in your teaching and try not to get weighed down by limitations you are facing.