Top 10 Texts to Link to Year 6 Science

Teaching science with stories can feel more difficult in Upper Key Stage 2 where picture books are shared far less often, but it is definitely still possible and there are plenty of great books out there that link really well to Year 6 science topics. Here are my ten favourites:

The Molliebird – Jules Pottle & Rufus Cooper

I absolutely adore this book. Written in lovely rhyming verse, it tells the story of a bird and her (often ill-fated!) chicks, illustrating how evolution and inheritance work in the process. It’s an absolute must-have for any Year 6 classroom, not only because it supports the teaching of these tricky concepts, but because the language in there is absolutely amazing and there’ll be plenty for children to magpie and drop into their own writing (scorchingly red, wrenched from the arms of the branches, her attitude radically altered… love it!). Lovely science leader Suzie Ruddy from Rothwell (@ruddysuzannah on Twitter, worth a follow!) used this book as a jumping off point for her lessons on evolution and did a great activity where children hid differently coloured molliebirds around the school grounds to investigate how easy it was to find them.

Photo Credit: @ruddysuzannah

Moth – Isabel Thomas

This is another great book to bring out when you’re learning about evolution. It tells the ‘true story’ of the peppered moth and how they have changed over time in response to their changing environment. The book does a really good job of explaining how species slowly change over time and should help to dispel the misconception a lot of children have that individual animals can adapt mid-life to survive. It’s beautifully illustrated to boot – definitely a winner!

A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth – Gill Arbuthnott

At first glance, this looks like a book that might be better suited to use in a space unit in Year 5, but it’s actually perfect for learning about classification. As well as content about life on Earth and classification in general, there are specific sections for each of the five kingdoms and the smaller groups within them. The double page spreads for various classes and phyla will make great guided reading texts, or could be used for extra research, and they’re packed with colourful photos and really cool facts; did you know that the most toxic substance made by any living thing is regularly injected into people’s faces to make them look young? Or that giant water lilies ‘kidnap’ beetles overnight to cover them in pollen?

Flanimals – Ricky Gervais

This one seems to be out of print now so it’s a little more tricky to get hold of, but you can still find it from second hand booksellers online easily enough. The book is full of funny animals created by the writer, who are so terribly poorly suited to their surroundings that they mostly come to unfortunate, unceremonious endings. Sharing this book, or even just a few extracts, with the class would be a great precursor to discussing adaptation, or to children inventing their own animals either well-adapted or comically unsuitable for their environments.

The Dark – Lemony Snickett

This initially quite creepy tale is about Lazlo who is afraid of ‘The Dark’. In the story, The Dark is personified wonderfully and, although there isn’t a great deal of writing in the book, an awful lot is portrayed in the carefully chosen words and interesting pictures. As well as being a great link to learning about light (whether ‘dark’ actually behaves like it does in the story is an interesting discussion to have, especially as light is drawn as travelling in straight lines in the pictures), the use of language and sentence structure to create atmosphere can be examined in English lessons.

Under Your Feet – Dr Jackie Stroud

You might recognise this one from by blog on the best books to use with Year 3, but I definitely think it’s worth another mention! Firstly, it’s always wise to revisit previous learning, as if they don’t use it, they’ll lose it! It’s likely your Year 6s haven’t really thought about soil since they learned about it in Year 3, and this will be a good refresher for them! As well as that, there’s absolutely bags of stuff in here that’s valuable for Year 6s, and the colourful pages are just so flipping attractive that they won’t be able to resist picking it up and leafing through it! There’s lots of info about various different kinds of living things, including invertebrates and microbes that will be useful when learning about classification, and there are also plenty of facts about how various living things are adapted to survive well in harsh environments that will be relevant when learning about adaptation and evolution. Among my favourite of these are the ‘living stones’; pebble plants living in very dry habitats can absorb water from fog , shrink below ground during droughts and avoid being eaten by herbivores because of their pebbly appearance. If all that wasn’t enough to convince you this is an amazing book, there’s also the fact that profits made on the sale of the book are donated to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), an amazing charity who, among other things, have a wonderful range of free educational resources – check them out here.

Women in Science – Rachel Ignotofsky

Any book that celebrates diversity in science is a winner (see also: 1001 Inventions) and this is a wonderful addition to any book corner, perfect for dipping in and out of. As well as being a permanent fixture in your classroom to inspire budding scientists in quiet reading times, it’s also packed full of inspiring figures that can be pulled into lessons where it’s relevant. For example, children could learn about entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian when they’re doing classification, Elizabeth Blackwell when they’re doing healthy living or Edith Clarke when they’re learning about electricity. While we’re on the subject of diverse representation in science, you might find this book list helpful…

The Lost Words – Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

This gorgeous book will look just as good on your coffee table at home as it will in your book corner! Packed with beautiful illustrations and poems about plants and animals, it was written with the aim of bringing wildlife back into children’s everyday lives. As well as enjoying the poems and learning about the flora and fauna described, there is great scope here to write your own class book filled with poems and art about nature that is special to your children.

Horrible Science: Shocking Electricity – Nick Arnold

I read all of these when I was young myself, so the Horrible Science books have a special place in my heart! Dipping into a chapter of this instead of a story during your daily whole-class reading would be a great way to increase interest in science and non-fiction texts in general while learning (or reinforcing!) something new.

Shocking Science – Whizz Pop Bang Magazine

If you’ve read my other ‘Top Ten Books’ blogs, you’ll already be familiar with this one! These magazines are wonderful, inspiring and interesting and they cover loads of different science topics so there’s something relevant to every class. On a practical level, they’re also really sturdy! This might sound like a daft thing to get excited about, but over a decade in the classroom has taught me that resources need to be tough to survive lots of use by heavy-handed kids, and these magazines, despite being made of paper, are just that! Such a small thing, but if I’m spending money on something, I want to know it’s going to last!

What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 6? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!

If you’ve found this list useful, you might also be interested in these blog posts and resources:

Top Ten Texts To Link to Year 3 Science

Top Ten Texts to Link to Year 5 Science

Science & Maths Links Via an Awesome Book

Science Story List with Enquiry Questions

Diverse Representation in the Book Corner – Text Suggestions

Top Ten Texts to Link to Year 3 Science

Welcome to the second in my series of top ten book lists (see the first one for Year 5 here). This time, I’m looking at my favourite books for Year 3…

Under Your Feet – Dr Jackie Stroud

This book does a wonderful job of making soil interesting (which is no mean feat when you’re dealing with 7 year olds!). The book contains information on a huge range of living things that live in different habitats and different types of soil across the globe. Information is all laid out in a very attractive way in bite-sized chunks and the book is beautifully illustrated with a mixture of photos and artwork. And if that isn’t enough to convince you this is an amazing book, there’s also the fact that profits made on the sale of the book are donated to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), an amazing organisation who, among other things, have a wonderful range of free educational resources – check them out here.

Stone Girl, Bone Girl – Laurence Anholt

This is a lovely book all about Mary Anning, a scientist you absolutely must learn about when doing rocks and fossils. In my class, this one led to a really interesting discussion about why she wasn’t taken seriously as a female scientist. If you’re near the coast, or even have children who visit the beach often, you may even inspire some fossil hunting!

The Pebble in my Pocket – Meredith Hooper

I pondered for a while over whether this one belonged better in Year 3 (rocks & fossils) or Year 6 (evolution) and, while it’s ultimately ended up here in the Year 3 blog rather than the Year 6 one, it definitely has relevance to both, meaning you’ll get great value for money out of having a copy in the school library! The book looks at the ‘story’ of a pebble picked up by a little girl from 480 million years ago to present day. It would be great for helping children to understand the massive timescales we’re juggling with when we look at fossils and contemplate how long ago dinosaurs roamed the Earth (did you know that there was less time between the stegosaurus living on our planet and T-Rexes than there has been between us and T-Rexes? LOVE that fact!) and would really lend itself to creating a classroom timeline. It might also help root out that common misconception that dinosaurs and people were around at the same time. There’s also a wonderful creative writing opportunity on asking children to find a pebble of their own and tell its story, all while helping them realise the amazingness of that tiny pebble and the almost incomprehensible age of it!

Mad About Dinosaurs – Giles Andreae

I just love anything by Giles Andreae (mostly known for the marvellous ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’) so this one was bound to work its way in to the year group where we learn about fossils! There are loads of funny rhymes about different kinds of dinosaurs that would be great for learning and reciting aloud, and would fit in well when learning about different styles of poetry.

A Seed is Sleepy – Dianna Hutts Aston

This book is a really nice introduction to learning about seeds and plants, and would work really well as part of a lesson where children get to cut up and examine a range of different types of seeds first hand. It’s a great way to get children thinking about the really wonderful potential that lies in each tiny seed and the journeys they make to become plants.

The Gruffalo’s Child – Julia Donaldson

It’s likely you’re familiar with this story already, but just in case, it follows the Gruffalo’s child as she heads out into the woods at night, afraid of encountering the ‘Big Bad Mouse’. As readers of the first Gruffalo story will know though, the mouse is a clever little rodent and this time tricks the Gruffalo’s Child into thinking he is Big and Bad by casting a large shadow. Although the book itself is aimed at a slightly younger audience than Year 3, there are fantastic links here to the patterns in the ways shadows change, and I used it in my Year 3 class as a stimulus for writing letters to the Gruffalo’s Child telling her she shouldn’t be afraid and explaining how shadows can be made bigger.

The Game of Shadows & The Game in the Dark – Hervé Tullet

These ones are difficult to get hold of, but worth keeping an eye out for. They each have lovely die-cut pages that cast interesting shadows when a torch is shone on them. Great for exploring shadows and there’s potential for a D&T project in children creating their own books in the same vein.

Orion and the Dark – Emma Yarlett

Okay, so this one doesn’t have particularly strong links with scientific concepts or enquiry skills, but it’s just lovely, and would sit nicely alongside learning about light! If you were going to read this to the class, it would be an absolute must to scan the pages and display it on a larger screen; there are just so many little details in the pictures to explore. Easily enough in there got get a solid few weeks of guided reading sessions out of it (and we did just that when I was in Year 3 a few years back!).

Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beaty

This one doesn’t tie into Year 3 science topics specifically, but it’s a wonderful book and I personally think the best time to share it is in Year 3 (although, that being said, I’ve also read it to Year 2s, 5s and 6s, so don’t think it must stay in Year 3!). It tells a lovely tale about budding engineer Rosie who initially has her confidence knocked when she is laughed at for one of her less ‘serious’ inventions but later learns why failure is important and ‘flops’ should be embraced. You can also get Iggy Peck, Architect and Ada Twist, Scientist by the same author which are similarly wonderful, but Rosie is my absolute favourite! (There’s also a newer one, Sofia Valdez Future Prez, which I’m sure is just as amazing as the others, but I haven’t had a chance to read that one myself yet.)

Spectacular Skeletons – Whizz Pop Bang

If you read my blog on books for Year 5 (or, let’s be honest, if you’ve ever met me) you’ll have heard how much I like this magazine! The whole lot of them are absolutely wonderful and they make great additions to any school libraries or book corners in general, but there are also lots of specific issues that relate really well to primary science topics. This one, for example, links beautifully to the Animals Including Humans topic in Year 3, and was one of the ones that we sent out each week as an informal ‘homework’ along with a scrapbook for children to record what they’d done after reading the magazine. Also linked to Year 3 topics, there are issues on fossils, rocks, dinosaurs, light, and seeds.

What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 3? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!

If you’re interested in other book links to science, check out this blog post exploring a science/maths link and my Science Story List with Enquiry Questions.

Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases directly made from this page.

Top Ten Texts to Link to Year 5 Science

Like most primary teachers, I love a good book! Anyone who’s worked with me (or anywhere near me to be honest) will know I also love teaching science, and so combining these two in the classroom can only be a good thing! I’m planning to write a series of blog posts with science/story links for each year group, and as I currently work in Year 5, this feels like a good place to start!

Hidden Figures – Margot Shetterly

This picture book follows the stories of the four African-American mathematicians and their role in the space race at a time when being black and being a woman limited what people could do. The book does a really good job of telling the separate stories in a coherent way and directly references the difficulties faced by black women at the time. As well as the content being amazing (there’s even a timeline and mini biographies of all four women at the back), the illustrations are beautiful, and make it clear that this is a book aimed at older children.

The Darkest Dark – Chris Hadfield

I LOVE this story! Another great one to use when learning about space, it’s written by the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who became very familiar to my class thanks to his wonderful YouTube videos about everyday activities in space. In the story, young Chris faces his fear of the dark to become an astronaut. As well as being a really lovely story, it’s written in a way that makes it a really good one to read aloud. I can’t quite explain why, it just works!

Curiosity, the Story of a Mars Rover

I heard somewhere that scientists think the first person to walk on Mars is going to be someone who is alive today and is not too far off the age of a Year 5 child, which is a brilliant fact to share with the class when learning about space! Unlike the book above, I wouldn’t say this one is best suited to reading to the class (feel free to disagree!), it’s more the type of book that kids pick up themselves then incessantly share facts with you from for the next 20 minutes. The Nasa Education website has a great lesson on moon landers that I’ve used with Year 3 and Year 5 in the context of a Mars lander which went down an absolute treat! This book would be a really good one to share alongside that activity, or to lead into it.

Old Bear – Jane Hissey

This one is a favourite from my own childhood and so I love the opportunity to bring it out in the classroom! It might be intended for younger readers but personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for picture books! It’s likely you’ve come across the story before, but in case you haven’t, it follows Little Bear and his fellow toys as they mount an expedition to rescue Old Bear from the attic. To get themselves back down from the attic, Little Bear and Old Bear use parachutes made of handkerchiefs and drift safely to the ground. In Year 5, this provides a good context for investigating parachute materials for teddies while learning about forces (with bonus links to properties of materials). I’d planned to do this in a lesson but of course things didn’t quite go to plan this year (thanks, global pandemic!) so it ended up being set as a home learning task instead. It went down really well with the children and, in general, we concluded that handkerchief fabric would not make the best parachute after all!

The Ugly Five – Julia Donaldson

A gang of unattractive animals form a club in this story, bonded by their shared ugliness, but there’s a lovely twist in the tale that shows actually, they’re quite lovely. The tale is told in Julia Donaldson’s usual rhyming style and there is a lot to look for in Axel Scheffler’s illustrations. Plus, the geek in me loves the extra safari animal info in the back (I learned what an ant lion was thanks to this book!) and will no doubt appeal to lots of children too. This book would be a great starter to learning about animal life cycles, and the ‘Ugly Five’ and others that appear across the pages would be great starting points to research mammal, bird and insect life cycles.

Beetle Boy – M G Leonard

If you’re learning about insect life cycles, this would be a good book to read alongside. I’ll always remember it as the book that took me through the very first part of the UK Coronovirus lockdown! As well as a gripping story, there are detailed descriptions of lots of different kinds of beetles that could lead to some further research and will hopefully inspire a few future entomologists!

The Boy in the Tower – Polly Ho-Yen

Boy In The Tower: Ho-Yen, Polly: Books

I don’t want to give too much away about this story; it really kept me glued to the sofa! There’s a great link in there to plant reproduction though, which could lead into exploring how other plants reproduce and which are more successful than others and why. One of the girls in my other half’s Year 6 class enthusiastically told him recently that this was the best book she’s ever read; high praise indeed! (A word of caution, it may only be suitable for more mature Year 5 classes; make sure you read the whole thing first and decide if it’s right for your particular lovelies.)

Centrally Heated Knickers – Michael Rosen

I’ll be the first to admit, I probably don’t share as much poetry with my class as I should (if anyone has any really good poetry book suggestions by the way, sciency or otherwise, please do give me a shout!) but I have been known to dip in and out of this one! There are poems covering all areas of science, which means it may pop up in other blogs of this type, but some that particularly link to Year 5 science include ‘Chippy Breath’ which is about writing in ‘breath’ on a window (states of matter), ‘Acorn, Conker and Key’ which is about different types of seeds (plant reproduction) and ‘Night Time Kitchen’, in which different materials in the kitchen debate over which is most useful (properties of materials).

Chemical Chaos – Nick Arnold

Who doesn’t love the Horrible Science books!? This is another one I have fond memories of when I was younger, as I graduated onto these from the Horrible Histories books. Their particular kind of humour will really appeal to children, including those who might be more reluctant readers, and snippets and sections from the book would make excellent guided reading texts when learning about properties and changes of materials.

Kaboom! Explosive Science to Blow Your Mind 

This one’s a magazine rather than a book, which only makes it even more exciting! This particular issue will be really good to link to learning about changes of materials. To be honest though, there are a whole bunch of past issues of Whizz Pop Bang magazine that will be relevant to Year 5 science (as well as lots more which will be really interesting to children of this age, regardless of the science within!) so it’s worth having a click around on the website and maybe even subscribing. The shop on the website can helpfully be searched by topic, so if there’s something you’re looking for in particular, it’s really easy to find. As my old school, we sent out three of these each week per class along with a scrapbook for children to record their thoughts inside. They were encouraged to do whatever they wanted with the ‘homework’, whether that was just reading the magazine or going further by carrying out an investigation or doing some research of their own around something that inspired them. I really can’t speak highly enough of this magazine!

What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 5? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!

If you’re interested in other book links to science, check out this blog post exploring a science/maths link and my Science Story List with Enquiry Questions.

Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases directly made from this page.

Super Scale! (with free maths/science resource)

Maths skills with a science content and links to art; everyone wins!

I am absolutely in love with these books! I first came across them at the STEM Learning Centre in their wonderful resource library and very swiftly bought copies for myself! First and foremost, the geek in me loves them because of the cool facts. The information on each page is illustrated in such a unique way and really inspires curiosity; despite each book being relatively short, children return to these again and again just to be amazed by the facts and pictures inside. On top of this, the teacher in me loves them for the great scope they have for cross-curricular learning, with links to science, maths and art. There is SO much potential here.

Actual Size is full of pictures of animals (or parts of animals, lots of them are very big!) that are drawn to scale with a note on their size and weight (in metric measurements). Readers can compare their tongue to that of a giant anteater, or see how their feet measure up to those of an African elephant.

Prehistoric Actual Size is more of the same, only this book contains prehistoric creatures and, as well as information on their size, you can see how long ago they walked the Earth.

Just a Second is a little different, but follows the same theme. This one tells you what can happen in a second, a minute, and hour and so on, drawing facts from the natural and manufactured world. For example, did you know in one minute the Moon travels 61 km around the Earth, a hamster’s heart beats about 450 times and a snail can slither a mighty 4.5 metres (measurements in this one are given in both metric and imperial).

Any teachers who have gotten this far down are probably already thinking about potential maths links; there are a huge amount of possibilities for calculating and applying maths skills. Pupils could…

Practise their measuring skills in a new context

There’s a wealth of ideas here, and a quick Twitter search will come up with some great stuff that other creative teachers have done. Pupils could:

  • Measure their classrooms and see which prehistoric creatures could fit (Would they fit through the door? What if you took the roof off? What could fit in the school hall?)
  • Investigate how many of our feet could fit into the footprint of a larger animal.
  • Create their own actual size drawings of animals. There’s loads of fun ways to approach this; pupils could draw the larger animals in whiteboard pen on the tables (see below) or recreate the very biggest ones in chalk on the playground.
  • Compare the size of domestic animals to some of the more exotic ones in the book; pupils could draw an actual size Atlas moth alongside a familiar cabbage white butterfly or a common carpet moth. They could look at how many times bigger the larger animals are or just find out the difference in size.
  • Compare their top running speed to that of a cheetah (or if you’re in Year 4 and have swimming lessons, you could compare their speed to that of a sailfish).

Apply understanding of scale

This one takes more set-up than some of the ideas above, but if you use the free resource below it shouldn’t be too tricky! In upper Key Stage 2, simply drawing animals to scale will not be challenging enough for many pupils. Using Actual Size as a stimulus, I’ve done a lesson in which pupils have scaled-down images of gigantic animals and been tasked with taking measurements, scaling them up and drawing them in actual size. As they end up quite large, we drew them directly onto the tables using whiteboard pen. (*Gasp* “On the tables Miss? Really!?”)

The resource I handed out is below, with the first two pages being cut up and pupils selecting one at a time to draw, and the last page being extra challenges that can be done as homework, or taken on as part of the lesson if your space/resources/staffing permits. The green lines are there to give children a starting point to get a rough outline done, then they choose which extra measurements they need to take to add detail. Having done this lesson with a familiar class, while on a supply day and in an interview, I’m confident in saying it’s a good one! (Yes, I got the job :))

Carry out some research using secondary sources and pattern seeking investigations

With the range of animals and different types of information available in the books, there are lots of jump-offs for further enquiry. This could simply take the form of pupils researching other animals that aren’t in the books. If you wanted to be more adventurous though, there’s more you could do:

  • Just a Second tells us an elephant’s heart beats about 30 times a minute and a hamster’s heart beats 450 times; Is there a link between animal size and heart rate?
  • Actual Size tells us a pygmy shrew consumes twice its body weight in food each day and is a fierce predator; Do all small mammals eat this much in relation to their body weight? Is there a relationship between the size of the animal and the amount of food consumed daily?

Create a gallery

Your pupils have created wonderful pieces of actual-size art (these could be paint, pastel, pencil, collage…) so why not display them with pride!? Work like this would make for a wonderful corridor display that would catch the interest of passers by. You could even host a gallery opening and invite families and the local community to come in and see how they measure up against some of the worlds largest and smallest creatures.

Spark a discussion

Some of the facts in just a Second are quite thought-provoking. For example, in one second, around 1500 chickens are killed, and in one day people use the equivalent of 200 billion sheets of letter-size paper. Engaging in discussion around topics like this with your class will help them to see the world beyond their classroom and how everyday actions have an impact that we rarely consider.

Having just made the move up to Year 5 from Reception this September, I’m looking forward to sharing these wonderful books with my older pupils to see their thoughts; they’ll undoubtedly have many more creative questions and interesting ideas than me! If you’ve used these books in the classroom, do comment below and let me know how it went!

Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases directly made from this page.

The World in your Classroom

Making the most of ICT to teach & inspire pupils

When I think back to my experiences of ICT at primary school, the resounding memories are using the school’s single boxy computer to write my initials by programming a little turtle, and then a few years later getting every single question wrong on that bizarre Encarta quiz. In comparison, the opportunities available to pupils in our classrooms today are absolutely mind-blowing. Although I very much feel like I’m hitting that age where new technology isn’t quite so easy to figure out any more, I have managed to gather up a bunch of easy ideas over the years to enhance my teaching, all tried and tested!

Communicating with the World

Skype and Facetime have made it possible to invite guests to the classroom without them having to even enter the building, and they don’t cost a thing! Various organisations have realised this, and it’s now possible for your class to speak to scientists from all different walks of life without leaving their seats. I have recently been introduced to Facetime a Farmer, led by LEAF Education and was so excited by the idea that it inspired this entire blog post! Over a series of weeks, pupils can meet and chat to a farmer (and in our case, the sheep!) to get a real insight into running a farm and the science involved in successful animal-rearing and crop-growing. Such a fantastic way to increase children’s Science Capital, and clear links to a whole bunch of curriculum areas.

There’s also the amazing work done by the folks at Encounter Edu, that allows children to speak directly with scientists/explorers in far-flung parts of the world in real time. At least once a year, their team heads out on a research expedition and offers Skype chats in a couple of different formats to help children find out more about the work of research scientists. In recent years, they’ve been to the Arctic, a coral reef and down to the depths of the Indian Ocean in a submarine. Having taken part in Arctic Live in 2016 with my Year 3 class, I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of the year for the children. We had a 30 minute chat with the lovely Jamie (who was ever so patient while we worked out our technical difficulties!) that allowed our budding explorers to ask direct questions and get a good look around the base camp. Afterwards they were so inspired and, despite being far more savvy with tech than we were at their age, they still found it hard to believe that we had spoken to an actual explorer in the actual Arctic.

The website also has a whole bunch of lesson plans and a bank of fantastic images which meant that, as well as the chat, we had a bunch of lessons around the Arctic environment and the life of an explorer, without any addition to my workload! And as if that wasn’t enough, they also have ‘bite-size’ CPD for teachers on their website with tips and pointers to improve STEM teaching. Amazing!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Many schools are now lucky enough to have a class set of iPads or other tablets, which give children a whole host of new ways to report their learning in science. Modern science communication is not just about writing down your findings, so why should recording in the classroom be limited to written explanations? The ‘Spoken Language’ section of the National Curriculum requires that children (among other things) give well-structured descriptions, explanations and narratives for different purposes, speak audibly and fluently with an increasing command of Standard English, participate in discussions, presentations, performances and role play and select and use appropriate registers for effective communication. All of these objectives can be met through creating some form of presentation or piece of drama that communicates pupils’ learning to a given audience. Children could put together reports, short informational programs or vlogs that they then edit with video editing software such as iMovie or more simple apps like Tellagami or Shadow Puppet Edu. They could even add a bit of excitement to their creations by using a green screen app such as Green Screen by Do Ink. Amazingly, I found you don’t need an actual green screen to use green screen software; green display backing paper will do! Although if you were to invest in a green sheet, pupils could use it to cover themselves up and appear to be floating heads! Just be aware that if, like my previous school, you have a green uniform, the videos will look very odd!

Ditch the KWLs

My personal opinions about KWL grids notwithstanding, the use of tablets can make carrying out a pre-assessment much more engaging and, arguably more accurate. At the beginning of our new topic on Plants, we used Pic Collage to show what we know. Pupils were tasked with heading outside to take pictures of leaves, stems, roots and flowers, then using these to create picture collages that explained the purpose of each part. From the examples below, you can see that misconceptions became very clear and I was able to see what children already knew at a glance.

I printed these collages out and stuck them into the children’s books at the beginning of the topic, then at the end had them go back and ‘mark’ their work, explaining their errors and suggesting improvements. This was a great way of showing progress, and also helped me to see which children had hung on to their misconceptions and needed a little extra learning.

Although I used this technique for plants, thanks to the wealth of images available on the internet, this sort of pre-assessment could be done for topics including animal classification, evolution, forces, space and nutrition.

Stay up to Date

I think ReachOut Reporter is definitely one of my most favourite things to share with other teachers. For those of you who haven’t come across it, I’d suggest heading there immediately! They create weekly news updates that are all from the world of science and technology, and are delivered in a child-friendly way. Take a look at this news update from this summer , which includes a round-up of stories over the past year to help you get a flavour for the sort of thing they report on:

New updates are added every Thursday, so the ReachOut Report became a Friday afternoon staple for my Year 3 class. They also do articles and stand-alone videos which were great for sharing with pupils. My particular favourites are the Hawaiian Pom Pom Crab and the Peacock Spider; take a look, I promise you won’t regret it!

As a side note, if you prefer your science news updates in written form, check out the Topical Science Updates from @Glazgow, added monthly here:

These could make fab guided reading texts, or could be up on the board for pupils to read and discuss when they come in in the morning.

I’m aware that there will be loads of fabulous ICT opportunities that I’ve missed, so do let me know in the comments if I’ve not mentioned your favourite!

Explorify: What can it do for me?

(In a rush? Too busy to read a lengthy blog post? Skip to the green bits)

One thing that makes me feel incredibly lucky to be a primary science leader is the vast amount of support and resources out there to help teachers, often for free. Wading through all this can be a daunting task though, especially for newer subject leader; where to start!? So, with this in mind, I’ve decided to write a series of ‘What can it do for me?’ blogs, to share some of the great stuff that’s out there and hopefully help subject leaders and teachers locate what they need to help with teaching great science. Having just spent the day with Louise Stubberfield and the wonderful education team at the Wellcome Trust, Explorify seems like a good place to start!

First and foremost, it’s free! This is (sadly, but realistically) the first question teachers have about new resources. Luckily, everything available from Explorify is completely free. You do have to register and log in to use the resources, but once you’re in nothing is behind a paywall.

Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to what it actually is! The resource comes from the Wellcome Trust, a politically and financially independent foundation that exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive.

They acknowledge how important it is that children receive a high-quality primary science education and are working to support teachers with this. And they really, genuinely care about what teachers want, and are interested in providing useful resources. The education team are led by the wonderful Louise, who spent many years teaching and leading schools herself, and on top of this they regularly engage with actual, real teachers to find out what is needed and how to improve the existing offer. Case in point, here I am with a bunch of lovely fellow-educators at the Wellcome Trust building earlier this week!

(As a sidenote, if anyone is looking for some helpful primary science Twitterers to follow, this bunch is a good start! @katesutton70, @Snotlady5 @ErChilvers)

To summarise the resources on offer in one sentence is difficult (they can be used in so many different ways!) but I’ll have a go! Explorify offers a collection of ready-made resources that allow teachers to facilitate scientific discussion in the classroom, with interesting concepts that can be easily linked to the curriculum if needed. The best way to become familiar with them will be to log on and have a click around yourself, but the activities include:

What if? activities, in which pupils think about what would happen in a given scenario, for example, what if the sea was gloopy like ketchup?

Odd One Out activities, which ask pupils to use scientific reasoning to choose which of three objects/images is the odd one out and explain why (the great thing about this is, so long as you can justify your reasoning, there’s no wrong answer!)

What’s Going On? videos linked to a range of different scientific concepts, which pupils can watch then discuss their ideas.

Zoom In, Zoom Out activities, which show pupils a highly zoomed-in image that they then discuss and suggest ideas for what it could be, then repeat as the camera zooms out to different degrees until the object is finally revealed. These ones were absolute favourites of every class I’ve had, and it’s wonderful to talk about our original ideas not exactly being wrong, just based on limited evidence (much like ‘wrong’ ideas that scientists have had in the past, such as the Earth being flat).

There are other activities, so do have a click around yourself; those are just a flavour of what’s there. They all come with explanations of the science behind the activity for teachers and suggestions for use in class.

Now, what can it do for you? In other words, how could you use this in your classroom. Well, there are soooo many ways you could go with this! One of the reasons I love these resources so much is the versatility. Here are a few ideas (although I’m sure there are many more I’ve not thought of!)

Lesson starters

You can search the activities by topic (e.g. Plants, Materials etc.) and use an activity to get discussion going to introduce a topic or at the start of a lesson. Personally, I think the Odd One Out activities are great for this, as you can start eliciting vocabulary from children and noting it down somewhere, or doing some subtle formative assessment by listening in to their conversations (who doesn’t love a bit of sneaky AfL!?). Doing this can also be a good way to identify any misconceptions pupils in your class have about your current topic.


As mentioned above, Explorify activities can easily be used for formative assessment. As the activites are based around discussion, you could easily listen in to what children are saying to gauge their understanding of a particular concept. Or, if this proves tricky with your particular bunch (some classes are just noisier than others!) you could get them to write responses on whiteboards and hold them up, or do a ‘vote with your feet’ where pupils move to different, designated areas of the classroom to show their opinion, then you strategically choose children to explain why they have chosen a particular option. You could even carry out the same activity at the beginning and end of a topic to see how pupils’ views have changed as they have gathered more knowledge. Far more inventive than a KWL grid!

Early Bird/Morning Work

…or whatever you call that first bit of the day where children come in and work on something independently before/during the register. Activities like What If? And Odd One Out can be left on the board for pupils to think about/discuss/jot down thoughts independently once they are familiar with the activities. It’s a great way to sneak some extra science into your day!


You know all those times when assembly is suddenly cancelled, or you have to wait an extra 15 minutes to go into the Early Years Christmas performance dress rehearsal because it’s taken them a little longer to get into their costumes than anticipated? Throw an Explorify on your interactive whiteboard! Rather than fill the time with more Heads Down Thumbs Up, seize the opportunity to squeeze in some extra scientific discussion and allow your class to practise using all that new scientific vocabulary you’ve been teaching them. (It feels important to note here, these activities are too good to be resigned to just being gap-filling exercises, but if your pupils are familiar with them already through lessons, they’ll likely love the opportunity to try out more and you’ll be making the most of every minute in the classroom!)

Alternatives to Story Time

You’ll be getting absolutely no argument from me against story time being a vital part of the day, no matter how old your pupils are. However, if you did want to mix it up a little and squeeze a bit more science into your weekly timetable, you could swap story time for an Explorify activity one day a week/fortnight/month/term.

Supply Teachers & HLTAs

Every now and again, I do a bit of supply teaching. It’s a great way to see what’s happening in other schools and extend beyond my comfort zone a little. I’ve found that Explorify activities are incredibly engaging, even for more challenging classes, and the vast majority of them require no advance preparation and no resources beyond internet access and an interactive whiteboard. If you find yourself with spare time at the end of a day or a session, or just want to enhance a science lesson. In a previous school, I worked with the most wonderful HLTA I could have asked for (shout out to Miss Kilvington, you legend!) who, as I’m sure is the case for many HLTAs, was often asked last minute to cover other classes, and so collected a ‘bag of tricks’ that she could pull out with children of all different ages. Explorify activities are a wonderful addition to that arsenal, and there’s no need to worry about subject knowledge, with all the relevant info being supplied with the activity.

Home Learning

Some of the activities could easily be sent home for children to discuss with their families (love a bit of no-pencil homework!). In particular, the ‘What if…’ questions would be an easy one to pop into home-school diaries, or even pose to pupils at home time and ask them to talk about it with their family on the walk home, or any point that is convenient. A great way to sneak in some extra science learning while engaging families!

In short, Explorify is a versatile resource that promotes scientific thinking and discussion in an engaging way, with high-quality resources. Oh, and it’s free! What more could you ask for! You can get there by clicking the ‘Explorify’ logo at the top of this post, or here:

Have you used Explorify in another way? Do you have resources you’d like me to investigate and blog about? Are there any areas in particular you’d like me to identify resources for? Let me know your thoughts and comment below!

Brilliant Botany!

Enhancing your lessons on plants

Plants are cool. They just are. Aside from the staggering amount of diversity out there, plants provide us with food, construction materials and beautiful settings.

Plants come up in every primary Key Stage and, although the curriculum content is different in each, there’s a real risk that learning about plants can become a bit stale and cause children to lose interest. To help children in your class agree that plants are cool, try these ideas and tips.

Make it visible

Thanks to a FREE Discovery Kit loan from the Linnaen Society (link below), my eyes were opened to the wonders of using a time-lapse camera to record plant growth. Although it was a little fiddly to set up, the results we got were amazing! We planted five different types of seed in the fingers of a clear plastic glove (and put a little damp cotton wool in each for good measure) then taped them to the window. Over the course of five days they all germinated and grew at different rates, and the photos that the camera took allowed us to observe this in a totally new way.

Can you spot the wayward cress seeds!?

After sprouting, we snipped off the fingers and potted the plants in newspaper pots (made with a handy gadget that also came in the Linnaen Society box!) ready to be planted outside.

These cameras will only set you back around £40-60, so if you’ve got room in your science budget they make a very good investment; they could also be used to track plant movement (towards the Sun), shadows, weather/cloud movement or the phases of the moon. Alternatively, do what I did and borrow one of the Linnaen Society Discovery Kits:

Ditch the beans

I would bet good money that every child currently in Year 6 or above has, at some point in their primary career, grown a broad bean. In fact, I’m guessing most of you reading this article grew at least one while you were at school (mine went black and mouldy, I’m not bitter about it at all…). There’s nothing wrong with growing broad beans; they grow relatively quickly and have nice clear roots and shoots. There is something wrong though, with children having to grow them over and over again, or with them being the only experience of germinating seeds that children have. Make sure you check with your class’ previous teachers what they’ve had experience of already to make sure this is avoided. Alternatives that work well are sunflower seeds, peas, sweetcorn seeds, marigold, basil or, my personal favourite, cucamelons.

Grow dinner

This point is a bit of an addendum to the above one about beans. There are loads of different crops you could grow at school. Potatoes create lovely, bushy above-ground plants and are incredibly easy to grow (and FREE, if you take advantage of the Grow Your Own Potatoes scheme – As sweetcorn grows it creates beautiful tall shoots. Herbs are really easy to grow and can be used in class cooking activities. Spring onions, leeks and celery can all be re-grown from off-cuts. Cucamelons grow rapidly and bear a good amount of rather unusual but tasty fruit. Supposedly, chillies grow hotter if they are deprived of water and face planty adversity as they are growing; what an interesting thing to investigate!

Create your own fertiliser

Who knew worm poo was so good for plants!? Wormeries can be set up easily and cheaply, and provide a great use for all the leftover fruit peels and cores you’ll inevitably end up with (just be sure not to put any citrus waste in there or you’ll end up bent over a bin rooting through mulch to find said citrus peels in order to keep the worms happy!) There’s great scope to investigate how beneficial this worm-waste fertiliser is when growing plants in your own classroom.

Research the weird and wonderful

Everyone knows cutting onions makes you cry, but have you ever thought about why? Children could research the different self-defence strategies plants employ to stop them becoming dinner. From the relatively common-place thorns and spines to the more unusual crypsis and mutualism, there are lots of interesting things to be learned about the different ways plants protect themselves.

Children could find out more about Idiot fruit, Corpse flowers, Baseball plants or the Dancing plant.      In addition to all of these wonders, carnivorous plants is another area with a wealth of cool facts to be learned. Did you know Venus flytraps can’t be watered with tap water? The fluoride in it is not good for them, so when we had a resident flytrap in our classroom we needed to create rain-gathering equipment to help keep it comfortable!

Raising Science Capital

There are a huge range of careers linked to plants, including, but not limited to, farming, forestry, environmental scientist and gardening. NFU Education have just released an absolutely amazing FREE resource that covers all of the Plants objectives in the National Curriculum for either Year 3 or Year 5 in a highly-motivating real-life business creation context. I’ve not yet trialled them with children personally, having had a go myself I can say I am SO excited to get back into teaching KS2 so I can begin using these resources! Check out the product my tram designed for busy teachers scarfing down lunch with one hand while photocopying/marking/setting up an art lesson with the other. Good to know I’ve got a future in product development if ever I turn from education!

The all resources needed, including plans and PowerPoint slides can be found at the link below. It’s well worth having a look around at the other resources on the website too as they’re all very high quality.

Bonus money-saving tip!

Lilies too expensive for your plant dissection lesson? Have the Year 2 pupils plant tulip bulbs in October-November, then use some of them for your plant dissection lessons in April-May. The various parts of the plant reproductive system are nice and clear just as they are on lilies, and investing in some tulip bulbs costs a lot less than a bunch of ready-grown lilies. AND if you take advantage of the amazing FREE Bulbs4Kids scheme you won’t even need to buy your bulbs!

Our finished mini-garden!

Have you ever tried any of the above ideas? What are your top tips for enhancing the teaching of plants? We’d love to hear your experience and ideas in the comments!