The Sciences and Humanities

Teaching of ‘The Sciences’ and ‘The Humanities’:

Science and humanity-based subjects are objective in nature which means they are usually based on evidence that has been collected and needs to be studied to find meaning. Our aim is that children develop the basic knowledge needed to be able to form more complex theories and ideas about a subject.

At Portfield, we implement this using a five-stage approach to teaching the science and the humanities-based subjects. This process may take place within a single lesson or across a series of lessons. 

Stage 1 - The Key Question / Anchor Task

An anchor task or key question is a problem designed to provide pupils with a challenge that they are aiming to solve independently by the end of the session/lesson.  Examples of anchor tasks are:

·      Mathematics: James and Sarah share a cake equally. There is ¾ left. How much will they get each?

·      Science: Mr Strong says that plants grow best in direct sunlight. Is he correct? How do you know?

·      History: Mrs Maddison says that the images of soldiers smiling on the poster proves that they were happy during WWII. Is she correct? 

·      Geography: Dan wants to direct his friend to the village hall. How can he describe the exact position of the village hall on the map? 

During the anchor task, the teacher will provide direct instruction on how to solve the problem. If the teacher feels the class are ready, they may introduce multiple ways of solving the problem. You will often hear teachers highlighting misconceptions, teachers using their professional skills to question pupils towards uncovering deeper understanding, and lots of pupil discussion and feedback. The teacher is seen as the expert in the room and will therefore spend a large proportion of the anchor task 'thinking out loud' so that the children know what is going on in their head as they work through the problem. 

Stage 2 – Reading and Reflecting

At this point in the learning journey, pupils will continue at how a ‘expert’ or 'master' might tackle the problem/skill. It is in this phase of the learning that the teacher might say, “Take a look at … method/approach. Can anyone spot …. method? How is it similar? Is it different at all? Is there an approach here that we have not yet explored?”  and so on. Pupils are reflecting on the approaches used and reading the subject as a language, in pictorial and abstract forms.

Stage 3 – Discussing / Journaling

Journaling/Discussing is used for teacher assessment, a chance for children to practise the recently acquired knowledge and consolidation of learning from the anchor task. Often, this will be pupils looking at a varied form of the anchor task and 'copying' the way that the teacher solved the problem.  This can be very pictorial (in KS1), including an oral expression of what they are doing, with a written explanation as the pupils move through the school.

Stage 4 – Guided Practice

Guided practice can also be described as procedural variation, or intelligent practice. During this phase of the learning, the teacher is showing pupils the relationship between similar concepts / problems and determining any rules (generalisations) or patterns. During this phase of the learning, the teacher is gradually introducing more complex variations of the concept. Teachers are using questioning to support pupils in seeing these rules and patterns, in addition to making connection between the questions and methods themselves.

Stage 5 – Independent Practice/Guided Group/Enrichment

It is during this time that the pupils are often released to practice the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout the lesson. All pupils are completing the same questions and the learners that may still not fully grasp the progression will be working in a guided group with the teacher to make further sense of the learning. For advanced learners that have completed the independent work swiftly and with accuracy, the teacher may introduce to an enrichment activity – this could be explaining their thinking in a different way, supporting struggling learners (teaching), applying their thinking to a different context etc.

Some of the techniques used by teachers within the science/humanities-based subjects are:

-       Modelling methods and 'thinking out loud'

-       Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract (CAP)

-       Various approaches to showing understanding: descriptive, evaluative, creative, investigative

-       Asking for class/group consensus

-       Teaching of various methods of investigation

-       Using scaffolds, equipment and adult/peer support for differentiation rather than higher, middle, lower

-       Considered questioning 

-       Anchor charts to record various methods and approaches