Resource 4: Planning an investigation

Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

The plan of the lesson

Before the lesson, you need to find some dry clay and to crush, pound and grind it until it forms a fine dry powder. You don’t need much – just enough to give each group a heaped teaspoonful.

Step 1a – Investigation by observation, comparing and recording

Give each group a small dish or the flat lid of a jar to hold the powdered clay. Ask them to observe the substance carefully and to note down all their observations in the local language or English on paper or in their books.

(We found that it is important that the teacher doesn’t interfere with the groups at the start of the lesson. You need to give them a few minutes on their own to get started.)

Before the end of Step 1, ask these guiding questions to ensure that the observation has been thorough:

  • Have you noted the colour of the substance?
  • How does it feel?
  • List other substances you know that are similar to this substance.

Step 1b – Communication

Ask the groups to feed back their observations. Summarise them on the chalkboard. This is a chance to bring languages together. If pupils answer in the local language, you can negotiate that the answers are written up in English.

At this point you can identify the substance as dry clay powder.

Step 2a – Prediction and recording

Get the groups to use a different colour or kind of pen/pencil for this step.

Hand out droppers with water, or show the class a small bottle of water. Here are the questions we prepared for this step:

  • What will happen if we add just a few drops of water to this substance?
  • Write down what you predict will happen if you add a few drops of water to the dry clay powder.
  • How will the water change the clay?
  • Write down all the changes that your group thinks will happen.

Then leave them to get on with the work. After about five minutes, you might give them a few prompts. Will the colour change? Will the appearance of the substance change? What will it feel like?

Step 2b – Communication

Add the pupils’ new work to the chalkboard using a different colour of chalk. Use English to record, and comment on their answers, extending the knowledge where necessary.

Step 3a – Investigation, observation and recording

Again, change the colour of the groups’ writing tools/pens.

Now let them add and mix a few drops of water. What changes do they see and feel? Were their predictions correct? Get them to investigate and write down what they notice.

Step 3b – Communication

For the third time, record the combined work of the groups on the board, using a third colour of chalk if possible.

Step 4 – Discussion

At this stage, ask the pupils to talk about and write down the things that damp clay can be used for. Record their suggestions on the chalkboard. Then get them to roll out a small snake from the damp clay in their dish/lid. Let them record or measure its length before they leave it in a safe place to dry. Ask pupils to record what they think will happen to the clay over the next few days.

You should now have a mind map on your board showing observations and predictions about clay.

Adapted from: Primary Science Programme Cross Curricular Work

Resource 3: Sample of pupil’s work

Resource 5: Reading packaging