Home' Teacher : August 2010 Contents 20 TEACHER AUGUST 2010
Here's one. 'He turns the car on, goes
forward, backwards and forward. Then
he says, "Oh no, I forgot something," and
he gets out and leaves the car ru nning.
He picks someone up and goes down and
Here's another. 'He gets in his car and
says, "Oh no," and he goes back inside and
gets his keys. Then he drives off and then
pulls over to the side and looks at his map.
While he is looking at his map, the car rolls
backwards. He then goes up the lane, stops
for petrol and goes back to work.'
I asked the children to present their
motion graphs at a forthcoming assembly.
The children were very eager to do so, say-
ing things like, 'Can I be in the car?' 'Can I
move the car?' and 'Can we use my toy car?'
It was at this point that I found a big
box and constructed a car that the chil-
dren could climb into. They loved the car
and wanted to get in and show how they
could read a motion graph. On the day of
the assembly the children presented their
work but I had great difficultly in getting
the children out of the car. At the end of the
assembly I raffled the car.
This was a great experience for me. I
realised the real value of the toys the chil-
dren bring for show and tell and the value of
the ones hiding in their pockets. These toys
are a great way to connectbetween the chil-
dren's personal experiences and the abstract
concepts I want them to learn.
I've also realised that science doesn't
have to be an isolated lesson involving
'science-looking' equipment. We used toys
and motion graphs to support a mathemat-
ics concept, with the added bonus that this
had an oral language and literacy focus.
* Level 1 refers to the Prep level of the
Victorian Essential Learning Standards.
Susan Harrison teaches at Saints Peter &
Paul's Prim ary School, East Doncaster,
A version of this article first appeared as
'Toys can build bridges' in Looking into
Practice: Cases of Science teachers' pro-
fessional growth, published by Monash
Print Services/Catholic Education
Office, Melbourne, as part of the
Commonwealth gove r nment's Quality
Teacher Program. Reproduced with
kind per mission. For the full set of c a ses
on which this series draws, see Berry,
A., & Keast, S. (Eds). (2009). Looking
into Practice: Cases of Science teachers'
professional growth Melbourne: Monash
Print Services/Catholic Education Office,
Teaching pre-Prep students mathematics
and literacy concepts, let alone introduc-
ing science, can be a struggle. As Susan
Harrison admits, working on bar charts
indicated her students' limited understand-
ing, at which point she decided to use
motion graphs, a decision that at first glance
seems counterintuitive as motion graphs are
surely harder to understand than bar charts.
Building on concepts and ideas that interest
her students, though, Harrison soon found
that they were highly engaged and able to
create stories to describe the motion within
What's clear from Harrison story is
that students of all ages are encouraged
to learn by the same favourable classroom
conditions. In fact, the strength of a pro -
gram like the Monash University Science
Teaching and Learning (STAL) professional
development program, sponsored by Mel-
bourne's Catholic Education Office, is that
teachers from all the year levels, pre-Prep
throughto Year 12, worktogether on issues
of teaching and learning science in today's
The strength of the pedagogical practices
that Harrison employed would be just as
suitable for middle school and senior school.
Consider her pedagogy. She firstly drew on
interest that arose from the show and tell
earlier in the day, by relating motion graphs
to the toy car that one of the children had
brought for show and tell. In using the car,
Harrison was able to connect her students
with the ideas she proposed.
Effective and engaging teaching at any
level requires the teacher to make connec-
tions between the content being taught and
the students' interests. That's not to say that
science teachers should only teach what
students are interested in, but rather that
the successful teacher finds ways to make
connections between the topic at hand and
what interests the students.
In this way, it's possible for teachers to
generate in their students a 'need to know.'
By generating a need to know, students
Make the links
STUDENTS OF ALL AGES ARE ENCOURAGED TO LEARN BY THE SAME FAVOURABLE CLASSROOM
CONDITIONS, AS STEPHEN KEAST AND REBECCA COOPER EXPLAIN.
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