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Harlen (1997) identified various techniques which can be used to enable children to reveal their ideas. These include: – questioning, asking children to draw or write about what they think is happening, discussing their writing or drawing with their teacher and initiating a group discussion. With Harlen’s view in mind and considering the class topic of materials being focused on in Science, my partner and I decided to plan a lesson that explored children’s ideas of what particular objects are made from and what they were prior to the object they are now.
It was felt that in order for children’s ideas to be highlighted, visual cues would be beneficial. Harlen (2000:125) supports this and affirms “There are often products or artefacts at several stages of children’s activities which all have the potential to indicate children ideas.” The use of visual aids did help children respond to the questions asked and assist children develop their ideas. They ensured the children were focused and also ensured the children were kept on task. For one of the examples, it may have proved more effective if the visual objects had been provided for each stage that the object had been through to get it to what it is now.
To evaluate children’s ideas, it was thought that questioning the children would be very beneficial and as Harlen (2000) emphasised open questions and person-centred questions prove the most effective types of questions in order to find out children’s ideas. Considering this view, my partner and I tried to ensure the majority of our questions included these two question types. The first question to be asked was “What do you think this was before it was made into a jumper” thus reflecting a person-centred question.
Some of the children at this stage replied with the answer “a sheep” and upon reflection it can be said that the question needed to be more focused to ensure the children stated what the jumper was exactly before it was a jumper. It perhaps would have been more affective and easier for the children if we had looked at the objects the other way around focusing on a sheep, moving on to a ball of wool and then moving on to the woolly jumper. However the learning objective was to see if children could state what an object was prior to the one it is now and what is was before that.
This part of the lesson was completed as a whole class in order to generate more ideas. Harlen (2000:101) suggested that children’s discussion with their peers is a valuable source of generating ideas. This is because children are encouraged to consider alternative ideas through other people’s ideas and secondary sources and not just from what they experience directly. Sharp (2000:85) identified “Children’s involvement in formulating their ideas, attempting to communicate them and listening to alternative explanations by their peers is a valuable learning process.”
To enable a clear understanding of children’s ideas were generated it was thought that through children drawing their ideas as well as discussing them would not only highlight their ideas but would also be valuable for assessment purposes. Harlen (2000:125) highlights “children’s drawings give particularly rich information about their ideas.” Throughout the drawing of pictures, the children were required to think about what the objects were before and before that. The drawings provided us with a clear insight into the children’s thoughts and ideas. Sharp (2000) highlights through discussions with children, about their pictures, enable their ideas to be clarified and explained upon.
As well as drawing pictures, the children were asked to write a brief description of what the various objects were prior to what they are now. Harlen (2000) identified that through writing, children’s ideas may prove more productive. Within the writing, children expressed their ideas more thoroughly than within the pictures and recorded how some of the objects had been a different object prior to the object they are now.