Thoughts on the Chemistry Bit (part 1)

And so onto the Chemistry part – or Materials and their Properties as we used to call it. The part that is all about the stuff that makes up our everyday world.

And that brings me to the end of Y1.

No – don’t think I’ve missed something out. But rather remarkably there is no work on materials in Y1. Masses of Biology (naming, labelling, identifying living things) and a tiny bit on Light but nothing at all on Chemistry/Materials.

This means that all the really important work that Y1 teachers are used to doing, where children contrast and compare different materials by prodding them, stroking them, holding them up to the light, bending them etc is no longer there. Missing too from Y 1 will be the fun you have with surprising materials that don’t behave quite the way you might expect like potty putty, cornflour and watermix, insta-snow etc. Likewise gone from Y 1, is the sorting of materials and the chance to develop the language used to describe the properties of materials (hard, soft, transparent, opaque etc).

Now we don’t want children repeating similar work on materials in the two years of KS 1 but this work is such an important part of helping children to build their ideas. It is part and parcel of almost every Y1 class that I visit. And teachers’ instincts that this tactile sensory work is vital are backed up by research too. The Cambridge Primary Review did trawl of current research Into children’s thinking  and had this to say; “Children think and reason in the same way as adults, but they lack experience…. They need diverse experiences in the classroom. This is a key finding from recent research and contrasts with 1960/1970s view that child and adult thinking are totally different.” So this building of experiences is not a luxury. It is a central plank of child development. We lose it at our peril. You can look at a woodlouse but you can’t prod it, bend it or test it to destruction. You can with materials.

Onwards then to Y2. Whoo hoo! Apart from the fact that I wish something on Materials had made it into Y1, I like much of the programme of study here. There are familiar and well-expressed statements about comparing and grouping and a helpful line about getting children to distinguish between the object and the material from which it is made. ‘It’s a shelf, (object) made out of wood (material)’ However, this may all get a bit tricky when you look at building materials – it’s a brick (object) made out of … oh dear brick (material) again! But on the whole it’s good stuff and teachers will, no doubt, be a bit more creative than the rather mundane examples cited in the Notes and Guidance.

However, before you think I have got carried away on a raft of positivity, one aspect of the notes and guidance is plain daft. Hands up all those of you who think it would be appropriate for the 6 and 7 year olds in your Y2 class, to study the biographies of Dunlop, MacAdam or Mackintosh. What’s that? Not a hand in sight. But that is what is suggested. Blooming good job those notes and guidance are non-statutory and you can let a little sanity into your decision about what is appropriate to teach your children.










About annegoldsworthy

Primary Science specialist. Going for more independent thinking and less being told what to think. And that goes for teachers as well as children. We need to change that draft curriculum for science. Follow me on twitter @afgoldsworthy
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4 Responses to Thoughts on the Chemistry Bit (part 1)

  1. brendanaylor says:

    Anne I have just had an awful thought. It was your prodding and bending woodlice that did it. What if materials have been left out on purpose to turn all our young children into little meanies who stretch earthworms, bounce snails and crush ladybirds and greenflies to see which are the most squishy? They wouldn’t have done that would they? . . . . . Or would they?

  2. Kathy Schofield says:

    Anne this is all wonderful thank you kchairpsc see you tomorrow

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