Category Archives: 3.2 Classroom Organisation & Management

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.


You can learn from me

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the mental condition resulting in a lack of correct social behaviours and interactions. Currently identified through parental interviews and observational studies, it effects an increasing number of today’s children and can be identified from as young as 2. Although signs can be seen from as early as 1, they are too ambiguous and traits too common at that early stage.

When autism was first identified by Leo Kanner in 1943 he suggested it was a result of cold parenting. Later in 1967 Bettelheim considered autism as an emotional disturbance resulting from early lack of attachment. It is currently known that autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological condition. Many argue that it errs on the side of genius, dependent on what part of the spectrum the child is on. Indeed extensive research carried out by Carper and Courchesne have shown consistently that the size of an ASD child’s brain is larger than average, namely 5-10% bigger in volume from 18 months. Backing the idea that people who have ASD are unable to do necessary pruning to synapses and carry information and knowledge that people without ASD would have “cut back”.  There are current studies that are trying to link genes – to areas of the brain – to patterns of behaviour. Tracking the neural pathways when people are given facial expressions to recognise, then seeing the neural activation this causes, can help understand a person’s ASD. When specific patterns are observed within generational studies they can be linked to the genetic alleles (psychological and physical traits of a gene) thus binding behaviour to genetics. I found the study fascinating.


But how does ASD impact upon the learning environment? Autism is a condition that can ostracise and compartmentalise a child and their family. However, this is happening less and less through early identification of needs and the implementation of working solutions to aid these children to lead happy and accepted lives. Social skills and interaction are somewhat challenging for children with ASD. Having worked closely with children who have ASD I know all too well how personal it can all feel. What have I done wrong? Why can’t I engage with this child? But the truth is the connection takes time and effort, delving into their complex world’s one step at a time. Continuous routine and the use of PECS (picture exchange communication system) were tools used to assist the individuals who were immersed in mainstream education settings.  As a teacher it must be a challenge in itself to get that framework in place quickly, while involving and informing the class as a whole. There’s nothing worse than it being a “oh that’s for Billy, don’t touch” within a class, children are tactile and inquisitive, I believe involving and informing them can only be a beneficial thing. Children are very different to adults, the unknown doesn’t evoke fear within the majority, they just want to know why? Inform them so it’s not just a condition or a picture they can’t touch; it becomes a tool for a peer and in doing so it becomes personal.

Many techniques used to help a child with ASD are also good for the classroom as a collective; creating quiet spaces, giving children time to process information, setting clear classroom rules, buddy systems for the playground and teaching social skills. It must then be of benefit to have these systems in place from the offset. Unlike behaviour issues, ASD should be seen for what it is, an entirely different way of thinking and at times, a way that is insightful. So the more exposure and information we have on the condition as students the more able we will be to meet the needs of an ever growing demographic of the classroom.