Mentoring in Primary Science: A Classroom Case Study

this video builds on the excellent support that teacher mentors already give students in their general planning teaching and assessing in the classroom its aim is to help mentors to support students science teaching June agar and Andrea Curtis are teachers at Russia meet primary school leicester in this video their role playing the parts of teacher mentor and student the scenarios are based on a wide variety of interactions between mentors and their students both student and teacher mentor need to work together to optimize the students development this video shows ways of helping students improve their planning and presentation of science lessons it focuses on one lesson in the context of several weeks teaching experience it starts from the students first chance to talk about science before the student can start planning her first lesson she’ll need to find out about how science is organized in the class what science topic will be studied what resources are available the children’s previous science experience and how science is assessed and recorded it’s helpful for the student to see how the teacher organizes science and how the children respond to scientific activities changing materials you could think about relating that to the children’s everyday experience part of the introduction should also include helping the student to prepare plans for the whole block teaching experience the bits of the national curriculum is this bit here in order to prepare suitable plans for several weeks the teacher mentor will need to explain what topic will be undertaken and how it should satisfy the national curriculum requirements and the school scheme of work the student will need to be told how science is organized in the school and shown the school science resources and where they can be found Andrea will be focusing on changing materials she needs to see equipment and teachers handbooks she’ll also need to look at books to make sure her own level of knowledge is good enough students should also look at children’s books and other resources such as computer software and CD ROMs as well as looking at resources andrea is finding out about the children’s general ability by talking to them and looking at what they’ve written about science in their books I think it’s hard to remember what it felt like when you first started teaching you do so many things instinctively things like marking the register and getting the children’s attention that you have to remember to be explicit about techniques like this with a new student they don’t actually know these things I think it’s important that students know right from beginning the science topic that they’re going to be teaching in order to plan for it I think it’s also important that you have a chance to talk to children and find out their ideas and see what level they’re working at and it’s also important to know the resources and books that are actually in school that you can use for your planning it’s important to show the student where all the resources are to give them access maybe to go through some of the ideas and approaches that they might use to give them a choice so that they can start to select what they think would be best for their medium-term plans the next step is to draw up a medium-term plan which the student and teacher mentor review together June and Andrea have decided to use a checklist of the main features of good plans these include thinking about satisfying the requirements of the national curriculum identifying the skills knowledge and understanding for the topic developing these clearly and progressively finding out the children’s ideas at the beginning and throughout the work as well as having realistic

interesting and relevant activities have you thought about how you’re going to find out what the children know already we thought our children to write their ideas down right now you’ve had a look at their books you know the sort of work they’ve they’re capable of doing do you think they’d all be able to do that June is making sure Andrea will do a baseline assessment ideas like maybe giving them pictures to sort or perhaps having them all sitting on the carpet and don’t last brainstorm there isn’t an assessment technique that will cover everything but I think perhaps if you tried one of one of those then that one might give you a better idea of where they are where you could start later in the discussion it becomes clear that Andrea suggested order of activities introduces new science ideas to the children too quickly looking good you might think about trying in exactly what you’re tired of trying to teach with each of your activities and have you thought about what order you would do them in I thought looking at melting dissolve in and to look at how different things melt right and melting is a little bit more difficult for children than you might think even children have a year six children doing this that’s over the whole country they do find melting quite a difficult concept so I need to spend a bit more time than that I think I would yes it’s important as the student feels able to raise questions and worries well last night and there’s one thing that I noticed is that I haven’t included a whole investigation do you think that’s important I think that’s very important yes you need to think about the skills teaching the children skills in parallel with some learning their their concepts and what could we do well maybe you could think about some an investigation into if different materials melt at the same temperature students very often try to plan much more than they’re actually going to manage to do but it’s much better that way they’re not planning enough and it does take a long time to go through the medium term plans but I always think it’s really worthwhile it means that we can talk through any issues arise before they become problems in the classroom and it makes gives me peace of mind because I know the children are going to get a sensible sequence of lessons I think it’s worthwhile putting in the hard work writing and discussing your medium-term plans at the beginning that way you know roughly what you’re going to be doing throughout the experience and it gives you much more time to deal with the everyday teaching Andrea is completing her first draft lesson plan by trying out the activity then at large she’ll be ready to talk about her lesson plan with her teacher mentor this discussion might take as long as an hour much too long to be possible for all lessons however if the teacher and student can work intensively in this way for one or two science lessons during a six or seven week placement all planning and lessons should be enhanced during their discussion the teacher mentor and student need to consider learning outcomes the students own knowledge use of science language ways of questioning children how to deal with children’s misconceptions how to organize and use resources and equipment and safety andrea has prepared a lesson on melting basically a sort of start by telling them how it melted first June asks her to talk about what she’s going to do this helps them both to focus on the topic things melting and and then would their children record the results I would follow up with a discussion at the end that sounds good she’ll use the checklist it’s then useful to have a checklist to help the teacher mentor make sure things are not forgotten a checklist empowers the mentor to ask awkward questions do you want to tell me how you’re gonna start a lesson right what I thought start by turn the children that I went to this shop before school bought some chocolate and then it melted when I got to school oh that’s that sounds good that’s going to grab their attention of now I thought I’d bring me ideas that I saw mr. Mishkin and he gave me a job to do the teacher mentor needs to be supportive and encouraging but should also challenge the student science ideas organization as realism but without restricting the students personality and creativity is a reversible change that I would put the melted chocolate into the fridge then I’d bring it out to show that it’s changed into a solid although andrea has a number of exciting ideas she’s planned to cover too many activities in one lesson mounting different everyday things and then talking about whether

the change there is reversible or not mm-hmm that’s that’s quite a lot for one less ilysm in it I think maybe that’s a bit too much I wonder if it would be better to just focus in on one area that we can really achieve how about just thinking about the melting for this first lesson okay what I thought after that with the children could melt some jelly and hot water that only interest is jelly in hot water is actually quite a difficult area I’m never quite sure is that melting or is it dissolving as the discussion proceeds Jun realizes that Andrea’s own science knowledge is weak and so helps her to clarify it we’d be dissolved in there as difficult isn’t it yeah yeah the way I’ve always thought of it is that if it’s melting then it’s a solid that’s turning into a liquid and there’s heat involved okay and then if it’s dissolving then it’s something mixing with water to form a solution so you can see that jelly in hot water is quite difficult it’s likely to cause confusion yeah I think it would probably be better to just to stick to one or the other concentrate confusion between melting and dissolving is common in adults as well as children it’s important to make sure concepts it clearly understood could melt some butter ice and wax yeah and how would they actually do the melting how would you organize them that’s what they could use the hot plate so we saw in the cupboard because that that will ensure that the works actually male yes it would melt the wax but there’s a safety issue there as well as it might be quite dangerous yeah of course Jun is encouraged Andrea to give the children the chance for some hands-on experiences but needs to be sure the activity will be well we could do it like I’ve melted the chocolate with hot water in a dish and put the things in dishes or yes that’s something that would be a much safer way wouldn’t it and we’ve got oil dishes and some bigger dishes that you could put the water in that would be much safer right the other thing is with the wax mill well probably not but do you think that might be a good teaching point that the children you can bring out that a lot of students have misconceptions about the science and it’s much easier not to challenge if you’ve got a very bright articulate student but having that checklist they’re almost forced me into discussing that issue with Andrea over the dissolving and the melting and we resolve the problem it’s difficult to think you’re gonna have to rewrite your lesson plans especially if you’ve worked really hard on them but it’s much better to do that then make mistakes while you actually teaching I think you need a mentor that’s going to praise you when you do something right but the same time point out mistakes you might make and help you sort them out school today I felt very very hungry hmm I like to eat I know I’m going to buy myself some chocolate who likes chocolate here I love chocolate I can eat it day and night so I went into the shop I’d brought myself a chocolate bar and I thought I’ll eat it just before school starts the two learning objectives for the lesson that the children will learn that things need heat to melt and that things melt at different temperatures its milk it is melted how was it when I first bought it do you think what did it look like when I first brought the chalk yes gone in such interment it was nice and sweet do you think it’s smooth now it’s still smooth the start of the lesson was very good Andrew had got the things all the resources out on the tables she got everything she needed for her demonstration everything was to hand and ready she was obviously well prepared think about the worst running the introduction was lovely I really like the story that really got the children’s attention I think she could have done more than just asked for children to describe what was happening to the chocolate she should have started getting them to think about why it was melting at that point Artie and so if you’d like to go and sit at table okay I’ll I’ll bring the ice around she

managed the class very well the children all knew exactly what they had to do and she went around the groups she was talking she didn’t miss anyone out and she had a nice friendly approach the children were able to communicate with her Andrew wasn’t really focusing on the science in those activities she was thinking about the practicalities of have they got the butter was the water hot enough when really I would have hoped she would have encouraged the children to predict what they thought might happen to explain what was happening it would have been good as she stayed with a group and really talked through got the children to explain describe show what their understanding was I was talking to one boy and when the wax didn’t melt he told me that he thought it would melt if he put it in a fridge so obvious misconception there and that’s the sort of thing that she needs to be picking up and talking through with the children to develop their understanding and that really wasn’t happening this is what I’d like to do it’s two trays by the sink that’s what we can take the butter you put that into one tray and then he puts the wax into the other tray the one nearest the sink and the water you can pour into the sink only the water in the foil foil containers because I will come along and take this world I still be hot the clearing up was efficient she managed that really well I liked her recording method that was nice that there recorded in groups she didn’t really leave enough time at the end for the children to discuss and think about what they learned from their activities what did you write down describe what’s happened wait just come out the cool box the ice first of all I’m cold how did you know it was cold we felt it did you write brilliant okay all about the best so what was it like when I was sitting together on the carpet they did go through the charts but there were so many opportunities there to draw out science knowledge and understanding for instance how the different materials behaved how the butter and the ice and the wax were different and how they behave differently when they were in hot water or just in air how to begin with him so patron now it’s translucent right okay let’s go to the next bit after 10 minutes the children should have been contrasting comparing drawing out so much science there and that was missed really she managed the lesson very well but they didn’t actually learn very much science from it right brilliant lass I’m testing according give him a chat somebody who had it in hot water next come on win Katie’s group I don’t think the learning objectives were met really in that lesson Andrea’s two main aims were to teach the children that you need heat to melt thing was and that thing’s melt at different temperatures and I didn’t feel that either of those were drawn out very well I don’t think Andrea knows if the children understand those points at all liquid okay what happened to the butter after five minutes if only she concentrated on those two things at the end of the lesson and really drawn those out then it would have been a very good lesson although dreams clear about the main point she needs to discuss with Andrea when they talk about the lesson she needs to be careful not to tell Andrea what to do but rather to encourage her to think about the issues for herself the debriefing discussion starts with the teacher encouraging the student to evaluate the lesson they then use a checklist to make sure they’ve talked about all the main issues such as

whether the learning objectives were achieved and how Andrea knows that how the lesson could be improved how the children’s learning will be recorded and what the children should be learning next finally they should agree an action plan to help the student improve some aspect of her teaching skills and knowledge do you want to tell me about the lesson what do you think went well well the children seem to enjoy the activity did they recorded well I felt in control the whole time and generally I think it went okay yes I think so too you’d obviously thought really carefully about exactly who was going to do what when and that really shows low Andrea is doing well and to satisfy the generic standards she hasn’t developed the children’s science learning enough Jun tries to help her improve her discussion and questioning do you think there are any problems at all do you feel you achieved what you set out to achieve I could have got the children to clear away a bit sooner I know he’s spent a bit more time talking about their work yes you’ve got some really good recording sheets there I like the way they record it as a group and the sheets were very very clear I think maybe you could have used those a little bit more at the end to really focus on the children’s learning what have they learned from that activity just because they’ve done an activity doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve learned anything from it and that would have been a good check for you and it was aware of assessing their learning do you think there are any other ways in which you could have encouraged the children to share their ideas and you could have assessed them in perhaps in other parts of the lesson well I could have more closely about what they’d written mmm how about when you were moving around the groups oh yes I suppose I could’ve checked their learning then yes I think that would have really helped them if you’d been and sort of asking them to predict what they thought might happen and then asking them to explain what they saw and perhaps asking them why to draw out their ideas as you were working with with each group in turn finally June and Andrea identified points for action we need to think about some targets don’t we so what do you think you need to focus on in your science teaching well I think I needed them more time thinking about and talking about the side and questioning the children better yeah maybe if I can think of a list of questions you could ever look at them before the next lesson yes good idea perhaps we can arrange to meet next next week after school that would be great okay what about the next lesson it’s not always necessary to watch the whole lesson in this case as soon and Andrea have agreed to focus on questioning in the next science lesson June may only need to watch parts of the main activity and the final summary I think my main aim would be to help students to be reflective and critical about their own practice to look at the lesson they just taught and if it went well then to identify why it went well and if there were things that didn’t go quite so well then to be able to pick up on those and to think about what the problem was why things didn’t go quite so well how can we improve it next time I don’t do this by saying that was good or I didn’t like that I try and use open-ended questions I will focus on an area where maybe I thought there was a slight problem and help the student to talk through that for herself so that she identifies or he identifies exactly where the problem was in a while they’re actually going to be out in classrooms and they probably won’t have a mentor by their side so they need to develop these skills for themselves they need to be developing their own practice all the time and so I think that is the most important thing I can do for them I’ve been teaching for a long while and hopefully I still do that I still criticize my own lessons and try and develop my own practice that’s what they need to be doing through their teaching career so to sum up helping students to develop their science teaching involves introducing them to the way science is organized in the class in school guiding them to produce medium-term plans helping with one or two science lesson plans observing and discussing science lessons encouraging self-reflection and helping students to decide how to focus their future effort to improve their ability to teach science mentoring is

very time consuming very demanding but for me it’s worth the effort students can ask very challenging questions and make me think about things that I’ve been doing automatically maybe for years I have to break down exactly why I’m doing something how it works why it is successful so the discussion that goes on between mentor and student is a great benefit to the mentor as well hopefully to the student teacher practice can be stressful at times because you’re having to take advice from somebody and that can be difficult and there’s this real pressure that you’ve got to improve all the time at first science teaching can seem daunting especially if you’re not a science specialist but I found it useful to go back and think through ideas and concepts that helps you get your teaching right that means that the children can enjoy the science you enjoy the science and they come up with some great ideas for me having student teachers is an advantage for the children it’s a fresh place new approaches they always bring in new ideas so it’s great for them and for me well it’s really good to have an adult’s alongside to talk through the science I’m not a science expert so I need to talk through the science I need to think about exactly what I’m teaching the children if I am I’ve got the right ideas so the two of us together can work through those issues and it helps me as well as it helps the student you