1. Developing literacy through Science

In this unit, the three activities would fit into your normal teaching of ‘forces’, but in each one you will be providing the opportunity for your students to talk about and think about the ideas.

Friction and air resistance are all around us and have a profound effect on everything we do. The purpose of Case study 1 and Activity 1 is to get your students to make the links between the forces around them and their everyday lives. Case study 1 describes a teacher who worked jointly with an English teacher – the students discuss the ideas in science and then write a story in their English lesson (Resource 2 provides information on promoting cross-curricular links and literacy skills). The focus of Activity 1 is on helping your students to understand the scientific words.

Case study 1: Creative writing on friction

One of the misconceptions about friction that Mr Sifuna had noted in his many years of teaching was: ‘Friction always hinders motion and therefore you always want to eliminate friction.’ Mr Sifuna and his colleague Mrs Haule (English teacher) agreed to work together. Mr Sifuna divided his class into groups. Each group had a chairperson and a recorder. The students had to imagine and discuss how their daily work would be without friction and then decide whether to eliminate it or not. It was agreed that every idea that each student contributed would be recorded. Mr Sifuna walked around the class as the students discussed. There were heated discussions and the recorder was very busy writing the ideas. Mr Sifuna was surprised by how imaginative his students were and how many ideas they had at the end of 15 minutes.

Later, in English, when they were learning about creative writing, Mrs Haule asked the students to make up a story about a world without friction. When the students wrote their composition, it came out clearly that the misconception had been corrected. Friction must be reduced in some areas for life to be enjoyable but it can also be very helpful. What an exciting way to handle misconceptions! Mr Sifuna was very pleased to see that one of the students who found science difficult wrote one of the best stories.

Activity 1: Using a game to learn key words

One of the difficult things about science is the number of new words your students have to learn. It is a good idea when you start a new topic to spend 15 minutes specifically helping them to learn the key words. This would work for any topic.

Write the key words for the forces topic on pieces of an old cereal box. This could include push, pull, twist, squeeze, moment, air resistance, floating, sinking or upthrust. Ask a student to pick a card and then get them to mime the word. The rest of the students have to guess what the word is and the student with the card picks someone to write the word on the chalkboard and choose another word. If you do this for other topics you will build up a collection of cards that you can use for revision as well. If you work with a colleague, that would save you time.

2. Drawing diagrams to explain science