Category Archives: 2 Prof. Knowledge & Understanding

I know the caterpillar is hungry but do I need to know why?

Another fun filled expedition with my Ruby to delve into the world of science. This time it was another impromptu discussion brought up by the world around us. The location was the cycle path along by Barry Buddon (army base), a lovely contrast of environments: golf and a train track on one side and gunfire on the other with a wildlife rich walk slap bang in the middle. We often walk along here to watch the trains, identifying the company names and cargo we think they might be carrying and to where. Ruby’s keen eye spotted something large and furry as she rode her horse Star (bicycle) along the path. I was welcome of the break as her four wheels move much faster than my two legs.

The following video is of her recalling knowledge, the catalyst for this being the presence of the caterpillar. Ruby appears to be hanging like a cocoon in this video and Ollie the dog is a bit out of puff (it isn’t me). My mini scientist then went on to discuss the different appearance of the cocoon and caterpillar in relation to whether the insect would be a moth or a butterfly. The brighter or greener the outside then it was more likely to be a butterfly. The darker or hairier the outside it was more likely to be a moth. Every day is a school day! Ruby deduced that our fluffy caterpillar would most likely become a moth but we would have to come back to see because it would be unfair to take it home.

As a child I learnt about the butterfly life cycle, read the Hungry Caterpillar, was able to dig and explore outdoors whenever I wanted at home and was amazed by their delicate but intimidating presence on a trip to Butterfly World in primary 1. Considering that was 24 years ago I believe this shows what a profound effect the whole topic and the teacher had on my love of creepy crawlies. Spiders are even included in that. I understood we were much bigger than them, we should care for them and they have very important jobs to do. Within the science benchmarks for early years, SCN1-01a discusses consideration of growth and sorting organisms by features. I find this a tenuous link really, which made me question why the humble butterfly’s life cycle is one regularly taught, what children gain from this and why did this work so much better outside.

Instruction from Education Scotland in the Science Benchmarks is to allow children to develop understanding and skills in a practical manner(Benchmarks, pg2). My memories are vivid due to hands on experience outside of a classroom. But does real life experience in the outdoors engage learners? Currently the Association for Science Education, a UK organisation, champions the need for outdoor education in the field of Science education. In Scotland specifically, Education Scotland have the Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning document, that encourages “planning for spontaneous local visits when weather is favourable.”(pg13) Slightly confusing terms: having to organise something spontaneous and only head outdoors if it is sunny?! We live in Scotland. Furthermore, science education is explicitly mentioned once (pg8) in the outdoor education document and the outdoors are mentioned only once (pg2) in the benchmarks. Consider also that a recent (2016) paper by the University of Edinburgh, Outdoor Learning in Scotland:Issues for Education, identified that not enough was being done beyond policy making to insure children had true engagement in outdoor education. This was due to a lack of training, provision, awareness, facilities and accountability (pg3).

I am just doing as I am encouraged at University and questioning the didactic methods in the hope that this will help me be the teacher I want to be within the Scottish education system. I know, from experience in classrooms that last minute trips do happen whether it is a trip to the playground to read a book or wandering in the local area to discuss homes. I can’t however, help but think that maybe more teachers would feel more confident in utilising the outdoors if they felt wholly encouraged and at times told. Theorists such as Pestalozzi and Froebel championed outdoor education, an area I am passionate about. However more recently and most succinctly, Priest (1986) established outdoor education as a system that was dependent on six factors: it was a method; it utilises the wealth of knowledge from experiential theorists like Dewey and Pestalozzi; it is essential for learning; it provides learning opportunities across cognitive, emotional and physical development; it highlights that our curriculum is naturally cross-curricular and a key component is that many relationships contribute to a child’s education (Watchow, Brown, 2011, pg18). This encourages me to pursue my pedagogical stance whilst teaching science.

How could the butterfly engage children in outdoor learning? How can it not? The butterfly is just so magical! The charity, Butterfly Conservation have an interesting breakdown of the scientific and educational value the butterfly and moth hold within the UK, all under the heading Why Butterflies Matter. This got me thinking of a stimulus for a topic about extinction, migration and adaptation in the natural world. The butterfly is a prime candidate.

The gems are probably the best-preserved fossils of any butterfly  photo credit New Scientist

Imagine the conversations and investigations that could occur from placing this image or even better an imitation of this in a small wooden crate surrounded by shredded paper and handled with white gloves delivered with a stamp from the Scottish Museum? Or bury it in the play ground or shallow trough for children to excavate. Taking the children butterfly spotting in spring, can we find any? Why not? What can we do to bring them here? You could possibly explore life cycle, adaptation, extinction and most importantly conservation. The E&O being SCN2-01a the survival and adaptation of a species. I would be interested as an adult, let alone a child.

Whilst meeting Es and Os is important and guaranteeing progression enables life long learning I cannot help but feel a prescribed curriculum could occur if sole focus of meeting E&Os is stringently followed. I understand it is discouraged within the Benchmarks and that they are not for assessment but I had to scour the Experiences and Outcomes to shoe-horn the butterfly life cycle in when I know it is covered so frequently and how exciting it can be. There is no doubt that science lends itself to inquiry-based learning, in the outdoors with field work and that is aided by interest, opportunity and passion. Not ticking of boxes.

As Ruby and I discussed her bike may well have ended that caterpillars hurried journey to safety and food. Being outside, being aware of the human role and responsibility in the world of nature is one that is dear to my heart. An area I believe science in the Scottish Primary can really uncover and have lifelong impact upon.



Learning a new skill is sometimes daunting. Applying the skill gives you that wee bit more confidence then showing others gives a degree of confidence in the skill.

This week I learnt how to upload a video from my iPhone to YouTube then to my eportfolio, in a somewhat seamless manner. Although I am not scared of technology I think that I truly lack enough knowledge to say I’m an expert. Put it this way, I’m not scared to crash a few computers and reboot a couple more in my quest to become a techno master.

The video I chose was my daughter’s first ever book review. She is 5, an avid reader and I tend to buy her books from charity shops (Oxfam often have children’s books for 49p), eBay or TKMaxx. The book she picked for this review seemed to fit nicely with my current elective, Science. The book was Albie’s First Word by Tourville and Evans. The book is about Albert Einstein and how for being the father of relativity and scientist extraordinaire he did not speak till late into his childhood. It is an interesting read for children and adults alike, with a short biography about Einstein at the back. I feel it would encourage children to question the world of science and allow them to imagine they can be the next Einstein. No matter what. There is an undertone of Autistic behaviour described but in such a nonchalant way. Ruby picked up that, although he did not speak, he was trying. He communicated in his own way.

The way my own daughter reads has made me question the language I will use in a classroom. Why should I aim low or underestimate the children’s comprehension or grasp of language. Adams (1999) discussed that teachers aim to use words they believe the children will easily understand but that if they are not stretched or exposed to more subject specific language and a  wider vocabulary then teachers are doing them an injustice(pg37-38). In saying that Moyles (2003) argues that in order for children to feel confident attempting and using newly acquired vocabulary they must be put into comfortable situations where trial and error are embraced (pg40). When a challenging word is said by the teacher, it has to in turn be explored and the children’s connotations of word meaning addressed for it to be beneficial. I find reiterating the word, adding a sing song voice to it, pretending I have forgotten the meaning, using a visual prop and also parroting the word helps it sink in.

Personally, I feel that books are the door into extension, experience and engagement with new exciting words. As a teacher I hope to provide the chance to engage with the written word as often as possible and in as many medias as possible. I understand that reading a book (even if that’s make believe), is a very personal and private experience. Reading aloud to peers is daunting and often detrimental. I want them to be Charlie Cook in the Julia Donaldson novel where all they needed was to “curl up in a cosy nook to read their favourite book.”

Adams, R., Ali, S., Bassi, K.L., Hussain, N. & Brock, A., 1999. Into the enchanted forest. 1st ed. Wiltshire: Cromwell Press Ltd.

Moyles, R.J., 2003. Just playing? The role and status of play in early childhood education. 1st ed. Suffolk: St Edmundsbury Press Ltd

Science or… Magic?

Third year… how did that happen?!?

This year I have chosen to take Science as my elective and you will all be lucky enough to see me vlog my encounters as I rediscover knowledge and inquire further into the world of lab coats and STEM subjects. This will help me to enthuse the children I will one day teach and reflect on areas I must improve to enable a passion for science to grow. I am lucky enough to have my own child (here’s one I made earlier) and even luckier that i can ask her weird and wonderful questions that she just answers.

At university we got stuck right in conducting an experiment with various unnamed substances, water, test tubes, spatulas, safety goggles and gloves. All the fun stuff. The reactions all differed and got more exciting as we worked our way along. This evoked plenty of discussion and speculation, therefore it would be an experiment I could use with a class to judge the level of the children’s understanding and scientific vocabulary.

Crawford and Capps 2016, believe that in order for teachers to engage children in science there needs to be a level of metacognition, where the teacher challenges children’s interpretations through questioning (pg16) insuring they are thinking about how or why they think certain things. So that is where I started, asking Ruby questions to discover what she knows and scrape the surface of how she thinks, in order for me to challenge her appropriately and give a sPark to science.

I have none of the fun stuff at home, so i just asked questions as we went about our day. Ruby responded without prompts or helps and I tried my hardest not to impact her thoughts too much.

I believe she is roughly at first level regarding some materials and there is room to explore further impact upon soluble and insoluble substances, “I can make and test predictions about solids dissolving in water and can relate my findings to the world around me. SCN 1-16a”

Leading on from our discussion Ruby became fascinated with coffee and what would happen in different water temperatures. I promised her we would try her experiment, she informed me that it is of utmost scientific significance.

The next video is where we explored this concept with Ruby’s experiment about coffee, which plays a very large role in her mothers life. School days are long and she is very giggly…

To be honest, this ties in with me realising how little of the scientific vocabulary I could use with confidence. I need to brush up on my knowledge of what I want her to gain from these experiments, the learning intention if you will. As far as I am concerned I wanted Ruby to consider the effect of the water temperature on the changes in the coffee granules. From what I see looking back she understood that the hottest water gave the quickest change and from this understood that the cold water would be the slowest. Also we used mathematical language with volume and number or size of things. Inter-disciplinary learning is happening, not to any great degree but conversations allow for us to explore so many subjects. It was fun and we introduced some new words; soluble, granules, prediction.

Moving on I feel I need to further explore what children gain from science and specific lessons that I could provide them within a classroom. I think I struggle to comprehend how important and individual science as a subject becomes for each child. For every 5 children that love categorising living and non-living things there are 5 more who prefer to explore conduction. if they have passion for an area and we need experts in these fields surely I should nurture that? For me, science is all around us and it should be explored as children discover it, so I would prefer to allow children to learn through real-life encounters. These can be what I facilitate and then step back, becoming part of the scaffolding, watching and extending their discovery of magical science.  Opposed to, “oh what experiment will tick my Science Experience and Outcome box.”

What I have gained is a respect for the new world that children are constantly learning from, the more they explore the more questions they have. I think the magic of science can help open more doors and allow for many questions to be asked.


symbiotic is not the name of a yoghurt

Mathematics or Science, Mathematics and Science…. Mathience

For Mathematics and Science to be dictionary defined as symbiotic it would mean both subjects formed a mutually beneficial relationship due to their close proximity. (I love google dictionary)

But are Mathematics and Science symbiotic subjects? This is university so I cannot use the word Mathience and my nosiness won’t allow me to accept that both subjects were that needy of the other.

When I think of Mathematics I think of sitting in Math and wondering why the answers were all at the back of the textbook but I had to show my working out? Why could no one catch the train on time? And why did Jane need my help to buy a doll at 3p when she clearly had enough with her giant 50p? Math is everywhere and in all honesty I’ve never needed to find the negative point on a curved axis or even drawn a long division calculation on a bit of paper, but I do use math daily without even thinking. I feel I would have gained from learning about what APR is and what the dow jones is in the pretty pink newspaper but I suppose I shall just have to google that and wish for the best.

Science to me was purely a High School experience, or so I thought. Physics, Chemistry and Biology were all a muddle of periodic tables, bunsen burners and wearing super cool protective eye gear. The beauty of my childhood primary experience of science was that it was never explicit, never a set point of our week. Experiments, building bridges, growing plants, the solar system, even concocting our own flower petal perfume with just the right amount of rose petal all occurred naturally. I needed to use my Math skills to explore these things but there was never the overwhelming feeling of the right answer being no where near my conclusion. I also feel super clever when I see the O2 sign and know it stands for oxygen or an MG car and think oooh that’s the same as magnesium and it burns bright like that experiment I did in Chemistry once. It’s the little things.

For me now, as I continue on my journey to become a teacher, I see the benefits of integrating Mathematics and Science. I think this stems (no pun intended) from my experience in Early Years where there were no set subjects, the children’s interests in the world around them led to the use of mathematical calculations, language and use while also engaging in scientific processes and constant exploration. The amount of times I’ve had to prove the answers I give my daughter shows me how often I use Mathematics and Science in tandem. How do you know that puddle will freeze mum? Well Ruby…. Also who am I to tell a child the way they are scooping that mud into the bowl is not the most efficient way to get the most mud in, unless I get in that dirt and at their pace, show them another way, we can then compare and they can decide. How can they be sure that if I half the biscuit the pieces would be fair? Experiments and collecting data are such an engaging way to explore questions and make Mathematics and Science the subjects our children are enthralled by.

Curriculum for Excellence lends itself to cross-curricular use. Mathematics and Science is a perfect example, as is currently shown by STEM Central on the National Improvement Hub. There are a number of projects there that can be downloaded, showing ways in which Science, Mathematics and even Literacy can be intertwined. Does this make the subjects symbiotic in nature though?

Symbiotic relationships can be described in three different ways; Mutualism where both parties benefit, Commensalism where one benefits but the other isn’t harmed and Parasitism where one benefits at the others cost. So as Math and Science go I’d say they share a Mutualsim style symbiotic relationship. Many scientific breakthroughs could not be achieved without the logical aid of Mathematics. Calculations, data, evaluating, equations, relationships between matter, velocity required to land a rocket on the moon. Mathematics helps. However, they do differ in a way that made Science the more appealing of the two subjects to myself. In science when a theory gains supporting evidence from experiments the theory becomes true till disproved or new evidence surfaces. Mathematics is the search for the one true answer and can be done so in abstract manners. So, for all the science jargon I had to read I always thought I could add to that and explore it and naively even disprove it. There is no arguing with numbers and if I couldn’t master where I was at and was unwilling to be constantly wrong then how could I build upon it? Just like the mathematician Hankel said-

Image result for hermann hankel quotes

In short Mathematics does not rely on the tactile, real world of Science but it becomes more tangible when objects and play become part of it, especially for younger children. Science does however, rely on Mathematics as the tools of it’s trade but can lend itself to make Mathematics come alive. The world would be a boring place if we could not create, explore and engineer around us and that takes the symbiotic relationship between Mathematics and Science.



Internationally Inspired

Back to the grind.  Watching numerous TED talks is the grind yeah?? This year is set to bring about a whole new plethora of knowledge and interests. I have chosen to take the International Baccalaureate elective and my reasoning for this is to broaden my own approach to teaching while also increasing my experience in a classroom. At 28 I have in no way learnt all I can from ‘life’ but I feel I would gain more from a school based placement than a work or community based one. Especially at this point in my own journey.

I would have loved to go abroad and see the IB in an international context, unfortunately my motherly duties dictated I pursue a more local route. Therefore I am on my way to a local IB school next March. Knowing where I’m going has allowed enthusiasm to grow and enabled me to embrace the international mindedness at the IB’s core. Indeed, the more I read and inquire into the Primary Years Programme (PYP) the more I draw similarities between their ethos and my own personal teaching philosophy, a predominantly constructivist approach.

I would be outside learning and engaging with the local environment every day if I could. Teaching children more about taxes, inflation, seasonal foods, local wildlife, budgeting, questioning and local industry. When a child’s inquiry is given adequate time and genuine response then a child can build their own set of beliefs and values. This is not because there’s not room for it in the classroom but learning within REAL context and genuine interaction will surely help it to stick better. Children can then attach their emotional state/environment to the information in order to recall or build upon this when needed. This is all a very personal view point into how I believe all children and adults are individuals, however I have also experienced these benefits first hand. It is also  Children are more than capable of discovering links and applying their growing knowledge when they are given opportunity and challenge.

I cannot help but compare and contrast the Curriculum for Excellence with the PYP programme when we first inquired into the IB. I couldn’t help but assume (never assume people!!) that the CfE wanted to possibly emulate the well established, ever evolving IB (1960s). The PYP’s focus on child led inquiry may have the equally floral jargon but the CfE ultimately lacks the specific trait of: investment. Not just constant financial investment (invigoration) but emotional investment from all involved. The IB was a philosophy created through necessity, for an international curriculum that met the needs of those who embraced the international approach to life and work. Parents/carers choose the IB schools as an alternative to the local schools and their curriculum, not just because it suits their lifestyles. The CfE wanted to breed excellence and prepare Scottish children for the world, however it wasn’t deemed a needed leap by all within the education system or those who use the schools. The choice and investment is not as universal.The IB also has 40 odd years on the CfE, that’s a wealth of hiccups and triumphs leading to subsequent and on-going development of the curriculum and approach.

Inquiry is key to the IB and that is allowing children to question the world around them, delve into the possibilities that arise from mistakes or success and reflecting upon the whole process through a peer and self-reflecting lens. The whole international aspect is not just physical it is about the willingness to adopt another’s viewpoint and respect the world we share. Yes, it does sound idealistic in the way I’ve written it but I think that’s my favourite part. The IB helps children foster clear self-image, allowing them to attribute their success to the whole journey not just the outcome.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the IB approach and allowing it to inter-link with my current teaching philosophy, driving it forward.


Upstart, let’s get started

So I walked into the Upstart presentation/talk/debate with a definite bias for upping the school age to 7! I have always believed the rigidity of primary school was a drastic change at an impressionable age and too much of a downgrade in child led play.

However after tonight I realise that I am surrounded by like minded people in my field and beyond. It’s not that we don’t understand the importance of play. We do. It’s just these children arrive in uniform, to sit at desk, with the parents expecting reading and writing work brought home within a week. Why shouldn’t they? I do believe I was at school at 5, my mother was… Her mother was. Mini adults as young as 4. The worst thing we can do is ignore the blatant fact we all survived and many flourished going to school at 4 or 5. I’d hate to discredit the amazing work teachers have done in early years for many years!
That doesn’t mean that change isn’t possible just that it will take implementation. It’s not “Presbyterian Scottish” views that are stifling that play, this was often referred to in the presentation. Scotland is a culturally and socially diverse society still leading in aspects of education, and if we are still producing innovative young people many WILL be apprehensive about upping the school age. Those against change should be heard too. Instead of frowning and culturally shaming the nation why not just encourage a more play based environment into early years. Let the teachers choose to spend the afternoon playing, our curriculum allows for flexibility…. utilise that.
I have explored how people lived in the past and have used imaginative play to show how their lives were different from my own and the people around me.
SOC 0-04a

Our own lecturers encourage us to question and utilise the expression available within Curriculum for Excellence. I don’t feel it’s the school age that needs upped but that simply play should be happily extended. Choice should be extended. Individuality should be encouraged.
My questions are not on why are we scared of play; they are… Why a uniform so young? Why am I suddenly a title and not a person…? Why shouldn’t I encourage reading and writing in its simplest forms, if that child is switched on and ready. It’s about the individual. (In regards to talk play read bus! ) What bothered me was the assumption that it was school that stifled play. I’ve never looked back and thought oh I was so bored at school!!! I do however look back and smile at the quantity and quality of the play I engaged in out-with school.

I feel it’s the lack of play education with parents that needs addressed. Teachers having a more open policy with parents or community organisations venturing into the classroom. We change the adult to child ratio massively in just a few short months. That’s not ok.
Another point I want to probe is technology. The statistic that two thirds of 5-16 year olds have a tablet speaks volumes. The schools do not give the children these, the families do. That number being so high may be in correlation with the deterioration of play. We should utilise not demonize this information. Swiping instead of turning pages. Let me think back… Chalk instead of print, pencil instead of chalk, typing instead of pen… Progress. If as an adult I find it socially acceptable (if not encouraged) to use technology and smart phones daily then what stops me and others finding it ok to hand that device to a child? I am a mother and my 3 year old will “Google” info with me. I can show her quickly what I mean by the phrase “ominous clouds”. It’s not detracted from our engagement, it’s eased her understanding of a difficult word and it’s made my job easier as a mum! Books are still to be enjoyed and by my daughter loving books I’m not depriving her of play but feeding her imagination for her to then excel in play!
Information is to be accessible. When the changes we have made in education over the years they should maybe have touched upon the positive influence and impact of technology. We can’t poo poo or blame a tablet for the deterioration of play. We have to, ourselves, step back from our all encompassing reliance on our devices and engage in talk, interaction, contact with people. I will never lose my ability to play because I make a choice not to. As an educator I will make a choice to encourage play. We need to help everyone make informed choices for their children’s sakes.

I am 100% behind further utilisation of play in early primary. Upstart is a campaign that could revive the children of Scotland and give them back their youth. A vision shared with the vast majority that showed up on Tuesday night.


And the Oscar for best film goes to…..

In the short time frame from first semester to second semester I already feel a lot more at ease when I see ICT on my timetable. I am basically guaranteed to have an interactive and productive lesson. Experiences I can pass on to the children I hope to teach one day.

The most recent has topped the tables and is the fore runner for ‘most fun day’ at university yet! Sharon introduced us to the impact of simple animation and the ease with which we could then implement that in the classroom. We were shown the software programmes Pivot and Zu3D.

Within the curriculum for excellence,  TCH 3-09a – using appropriate software, I can work individually or collaborativey to design and implement a game, animation or other application. Above and beyond that, throughout the activity I felt I gained confidence and skills that I could then apply to different concepts and it could open onto a discussion about the power animation has in adverts and the consumer world around us.

The software could be broken down into digestible steps dependent on age group. Communication and active listening would be needed but I feel that if the children can be shown by example on a larger scale, that support coming from not only the teacher but their peers would help cement the steps. Being able to make mistakes and then shown that there are ways and means to correct them would also be beneficial.

We were able to collaborate and bring our ideas together to create what I can only describe as Oscar-worthy, Crash-Mash

Hold your applause… I found the activity fun and there was scope for so many different ideas! We got to add music and could have delved further if spaced out over a few lessons.

I believe the lesson could be approached in a constructivist manner like Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Utilising the skills of their peers and working with the teacher to build on those skills and develop them further. This would then lead them to feel confident enough to complete a group task and voice their opinions. The cognitive constructivism would need to be addressed individually and this could mean going round the class, possibly writing down the steps or making that information visual with a step by step guide opposed to just verbally relaying the information. The outcome itself is something that could be kept for evidence and a point to build upon through further steps. But watching the groups work would be an insight into their communication and delegation skills. Opening up the chance for a field trip to a computer programming base within Dundee.

Sharon also gave us helpful advice about how to keep the children’s attention and I would like to open a lesson like this with a visual and audio stimulus. Getting the children to close there eyes and listen to a piece of music then possibly watch a short animation with no sound. Being able to then make the link between the two and the co-dependency of these stimuli in the world around us.

I look forward to trying to integrate this animation lesson into my placement school as I have seen they engage heavily with twitter and coding. It’s definitely an area I need to research and I have got copies of a couple books I feel will help. Hopefully I can read myself a bit more savvy but hands on experience will be better to reflect upon and grow from.




Do you believe in magic?


“Science is when I use my experiment table” this was the response my three year old gave when I asked her, “what is science?” That experiment table is used for mixing paints, baking, building, popping balloons, doing float/sink tests in a basin and much more. It’s a well-loved wee table.

In Richard’s introductory lecture we had to come up with a small experiment in order to show ourselves how easily science can be implemented into the curriculum but mainly how fun it can be. For me, the science subjects in High School meant I was always sat at a dilapidated wooden bench that was covered in menchies. The teacher stood up front writing down endless equations, making us watch documentaries and we may have seen the occasional Bunsen burner or test tube. Way, way back in primary school (over 16 years ago) I can’t remember a “science” lesson… I remember getting to construct a bridge, make string telephones, study the life of a plant, cut up big plastic bottles to measure rainfall, a whole mesmerising project on mini-beasts and getting to be hands on at the Edinburgh Butterfly Farm. I can remember back even further, to playing with water and sand in nursery, as well as a “find out who is tallest” activity.

It just goes to show that science is all around us, we can choose to engage and ask questions of the world we live in and the universe around us. That, to me, is science. Children should be able to tactically, visually and cognitively approach queries they have. That work can be solo or in a group environment. The key is letting them figure it out… the mistakes can be half the fun.

For my TDT I decided to investigate forces, in relation to the experience and outcome SCN 2-07a in the Curriculum for Excellence; by investigating how friction, including air resistance, affects motion, I can suggest ways to improve efficiency in moving objects. I am not going to lie, the internet is a wondrous invention. After various “Fun children’s force experiment” Google searches I saw how to lift a bottle of rice with a chopstick. It looked simple, inexpensive and fun. Perfect. Then I started to read into the science, the how? How would I explain this to a room of children? What would they gain? The answers were simple.

The combined weight of the rice and bottle were less than the force of the friction when the chopstick was forced into the bottle of rice, thus making it “stick” and act as a handle to lift up the heavy bottle of rice. The answers only left me wanting to know more. I feel it would be beneficial next time to do a comparative experiment with either less rice or a different substance. To show that it is not just the weight but the friction. Friction force can only happen with solid objects, unlike air resistance and fluid force (viscosity). There is then the opportunity to develop on to discussing aero-dynamics, building there own cars etc.  How is force measured though? How do you find out how much rice is enough? Does it have to be a wooden chopstick or would a screwdriver achieve the same? Could it work with different substances in the bottle? Our bodies have joints, why does the force of friction not erode them?

I stumbled upon the Co-efficient of Friction; how easily one object moves in relation to another. The higher the co-efficient of friction the less movement and the lower the co-efficient of friction the more movement. These are basics but they can open up onto a breadth of activities and lessons or tie into a number of projects: space, the human body, travel, properties of substances and even history if we spoke about the discovery of friction. A healthy balance and inquiry into a few of these areas should be explored.

If I have the opportunity to help a class get involved in this experiment the avenues of investigation to go down are so vast. Linking to the current interest in the UK based astronaut and the re-entry of the shuttle or even a topic as simple as travel and the need for aero-dynamics. However, I also feel able to delve into specific aspects of the science behind it with them. I made a huge mess, went through a lot of rice but it was all part of the interactive fun and communication. For younger children it is magic and it could then be revisited and developed later in their school careers. The varying complexities depends on the engagement and interest the children have and how I can spark that! I was considering a montage of people slipping on ice… the need for friction!

My SMART plan would be-

SPECIFIC- Create a fun experiment to open up the concept of force and develop current understanding

Measurable- Develop a lesson plan and cost of materials

Achievable- Use online resources, Curriculum for Excellence, peers, teacher on placement and gauge the children’s interest

Relevant- Links to sparking lifelong interest, creativity and inventiveness

Times- aim to utilise the placement time and then reflect on the lesson a week after completion of placement


My Tired

Language acquisition fascinates me. It’s The theory of Noam Chomsky and the Nativist Theoretical approach that intrigues me the most. I agree that no child is born Tabula Rasa, we must have some sort of base to build upon, the inclination and thirst to learn. The skills needed to acquire language therefore would be, according to Chomsky and other Psycholinguistic theorists, innate; we would then draw upon it to communicate as part of society.

“Chomsky argued that children will never acquire the tools needed for processing an infinite number of sentences if the language acquisition mechanism was dependent on language input alone.”Henna Lemetyinen. (2012). Language Acquisition. Available: Last accessed 5th Nov 2015.

Chomsky suggested that children learn the words but have what he coined as the theory of Universal Grammar. Children simply have to learn the word but then can group them instinctively into verb and noun: My tired. Thus creating a meaningful and communicative phrase. This would explain why children say things that an adult would never say, dismissing some of the behaviourist and social-interactionist’s theories. Language is such a vast and powerful tool that only human’s possess, thus Nativist’s argue it must have intrinsic value. Children are exposed to finite sentences but have the ability to create infinite sentences without exposure to them before.

But… as a nursery nurse I found it impossible not to kindly correct the way children first use language and initial phrases. This was done by reiterating the sentence with more advanced grammar and trying to tease out conversation….”I’m tired, maybe we should read a story and have a wee seat?” It is human nature when something doesn’t sound right to correct it, even if that’s in our own head. We want to teach others and enable children to improve their language skills.

Many refute the theory of Nativist language acquisition and highlight a more usage-based theory. Originating from theorist’s like Wittgenstein, who thought language was a means to get by socially and therefore it had to emerge: believing that language use isn’t to be understood (cognitively) but is to be used in a learning, social context. A child may know it is polite to say “Good morning” even on a rainy day when the morning is not “good”. It is about understanding the social context of language, then we know what to use and when. Wittgenstein saw language as a tool box, believing in the multi-usage of words and their on-going acquisition.

Tomasello follows on from Wittgenstein and gives a robust modern-day argument to Chomsky; believing children learn firstly how others use language then use it themselves. All people have general cognitive processes that, for language acquisition could be separated into two distinct groups-

1-Intention Reading; the functional aspect of language and how humans are able to use social cognitive skills to understand symbols.

2-Pattern Finding; cognitive skills used in the abstraction process

Tomosello believed it was through the schemas children create that language is acquired. This makes sense and holds more weight in today’s classrooms as it is a usage-based theory. Teachers can help build upon a child’s schema and introduce new methods to cement the use of words in coherent sentences.

This got me thinking…. how would I help their language acquisition, it is something that never stops developing and at such varying rates. Firstly I wouldn’t underestimate the children, give them a class project about news. Let them bring in newspapers, leaflets, magazines and see what catches their eye. Develop a class newspaper and get them engaging with a thesaurus as well as peers. Reading is vital but doesn’t have to mean silence! Let the children create a library corner for them to enjoy. Read to the class and analyse books; what language was used and how. It is undoubtedly the greatest way to build a varied vocabulary. Introduce a new, wildly long and impractical word every week, i.e. Abecedarian- arranged alphabetically… this could introduce word grouping; noun, adjective, verb, adverb etc. Reading out-with the classroom environment has such benefits and can engage those who feel somewhat constricted by reading time; opening up the chance for role-play, interaction, physical play and peer learning. No child should feel ostracised and it is our job to make reading and language acquisition a tool for all.

reading outside

Also of great importance to me is how we can teach children that language is a tool and then allow a child to express themselves and eventually thrive in the wider world. Language acquisition is what makes humans distinct and we should embrace that. Many children may well want to see other animals communicate to appreciate what we have with our language skills. Get the chance to take part in plays and see how language use can create mood and feeling. Aesthetic education is another way to engage children in language. They could describe pieces of art in a gallery, use visual aids for word association and make words come alive in sculpture and shape… Giant human letters in the playground (think ArtAttack, can you guess what it is?).

Decades on language is still a topic of controversy, debate and budding research, yet much of this still draws upon initial theories. So as a teacher it is important to understand the varying linguistic skills of children stepping into our classrooms, then help them become linguistically eloquent.


I’m telling on you….

We have been learning about stage theory as part of the Thinking Child inputs with Carrie. Automatically as a mum your mind races to your own child. Ruby is three and has spent nearly all of her life with myself and significant adults; only recently starting at a nursery for 3-5s. I was lucky enough to warm to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development when I studied my HNC, so this unwittingly became part of my parenting style.

The key root being that age old, nature v nurture debate. Vygotsky introduced the concept of becoming ourselves through interaction with others. The basic concepts within the theory resonated with me because they made sense. Of course children will pick up on how to do things from adults and peers around them but they must be given an encouraging environment to practice these themselves, then a knowledgeable adult to guide them onto new challenges. We take for granted how child-led teaching, indeed parenting is today. It was theorists like Vygotsky who highlighted the importance of positive reinforcement and the support system it takes for children to reach potential.

This concept of cultural and interpersonal forces impacting on who we are was clearly seen in a recent documentary on Channel 4, The Secret Life of a 4 Year Old. Baring in mind my own daughter is not 4 till April, I wanted to snoop to get a heads up on what I should expect from my already flamboyant toddler. The fly on the wall style and minimal adult interaction was the perfect situation to breed peer relationships and witness behaviours that adults can somewhat impair. Piagetian Stage Theory, appeared to me, to be contradicted.

The children all being 4 would fit into the pre-operational stage; remaining egocentric and unable to see thing’s from another’s perspective. This was not the case for a few of the children, you could see those who grasped empathy, were shaking the schemas of those who had not quite got there. Unlike how an adult would approach children being negative to their peers, a sense of self governance took over and moral justice had to be served. Creating a ZPD between children and allowing progression through adverse situations often persevering with the quieted children in the group to form budding friendships. From a teacher’s perspective this could well support the concept of peer learning but refute the claims that it is age we should be grouped by?

Well aware of what is right and wrong the young girl Tia told the boy Jake that he shouldn’t be repeatedly shouting that the girls won’t win a race because it will hurt the girls’ feeling’s. Showing a level of empathy for her peers. The group was then given a task to not leave their seats as the adults went to get them presents, if any one moved none of the children would receive their presents. The looming threat did not deter both Tia and Jake who left their seats… then Tia understood she wouldn’t be getting a present (watching the idea dawn on her face was priceless) so tried to bribe her peers into not telling. A healthy debate ensued between Tia and another morally robust little girl named Charlotte. It was fascinating to watch as they brought in the mild threat of not being each other’s friend, then onto “no one will get a present then”, that then escalated to “I’ll tell my mummy, daddy, granny and santa clause”. The girls knew that the idea of an adult backed their argument. Adults are seen as morally just and they will agree with me!

charlie brown

This machiaveillian approach shows a small step into understanding the Theory of Mind. By introducing mild threat then escalating into mild bullying, Tia wasn’t showing empathy she was using her knowledge that adults and deprivation of presents can insight fear. Ipso facto Charlotte will then do as she is told and not tell the adult’s myself and Jack were out of our seats and we will all get presents. It’s this juxtaposition of empathy and apathy that surprised me, arguably one cannot be grasped without the understanding of the other. The understanding of the Theory of Mind was further supported when one of the children queried another child on how to approach the situation; asking advice on how to move forward from a peer opposed to an adult. This shows a distinct understanding that people act differently, therefore they think differently and their way of thinking might work best for me here.

My own daughter is quick to correct the wrong doing’s of others when they impact upon her or those she deems close. She has such extreme moral views that she is confident enough to question and correct adults. If a child doesn’t want to play with her friend at nursery she can easily tell me how that must have upset her friend and that she told the teacher but she will easily dismiss a friend if they don’t “fit in” to her game.

Just to clarify the video above is an example of what I see as wrong in today’s classrooms and early years settings. Children’s feelings should never be quashed or deemed unimportant.

This must be seen so often in classrooms, especially in early years. I believe that instead of imposing ourselves as the governing official and keeper of all knowledge we should attempt to impart morals and then allow the children to reach their own outcomes; settling any disequilibrium with their peers. Showcasing ourselves as morally just and honest. Quite like Piaget advocating children being active in their learning, not passive. As a teacher I hope to be able to give quarrels or disputes the credit they deserve as an invaluable learning opportunity. When a child comes to me with a problem I want to be able to engage in meaningful dialogue to explore why? how? what? and where do we go from here? Being able to introduce children to the theory of mind would open doors for the whole curriculum.