HomeScience EducationScience TeacherMeeting 17 of the Inclusive Science Education group

Meeting 17 of the Inclusive Science Education group

Notes from the Inclusive Science Education group 2nd October 23

This was the 17th meeting of the group which is approaching 400 members now.

Points arising from the discussion

Rob shared with the group that he had recently watched a video shared on social media by Lynn McCann from ReachoutASC. This was a conference speech on visual mapping, which Rob said led him down a rabbit hole of reading scientific papers relating to using visual mapping strategies in science. This led the focus of this group being multisensory teaching.

A non-science way of this being implemented was the Kidscape bullying template which allows autistic learners to know how to respond. Mind maps can be used to represent problems and solutions too – start with the issue in the centre and branch out (in different colours) to also to show connections. 

High school students with ASD have increased their ability to verbally answer questions related to science text when taught to use text structure organization (Carnahan et al., 2016). Middle school learners with ASD have increased their ability to answer science text comprehension questions when using a Venn diagram (Carnahan & Williamson, 2013) and electronic e-text (Book Builder) to hear science text read to them (Knight et al., 2015). 

These strategies shouldn’t be out of reach of the average teacher (of science).This led to the focus of the group this week being multisensory strategies for teaching science. Jane opened with a definition which was using more than sensory mode to convey the same information. Many teachers do this without thinking about it. This often involves going beyond reading and writing, to using different modes of input – for example passing around a herb for learners to smell while discussing plants. Jane was also quite keen to remind learners that this is not the same as the now discredited VAK theory – all learners can benefit from using more than one sense at the same time.

One example of this was a teacher using a strategy to help a learner understand the menstrual cycle. Using a large piece of squared paper, the teacher used raspberry shoelaces and strawberry laces to plot out the graphs of hormone levels on the paper. The student was able to trace these lines with his hands and suddenly told the teacher ‘I’ve got it miss; I can see it up there’ pointing in the air. It helped him to visualise the ideas (and he got to eat the strawberry laces afterwards as a reward). One participant remembered this from the National Strategies era as ‘living graphs’. Another teacher made graphs from skittles and used them to model radioactivity (which ones landed S-side up in a tray) which helped her learners, and another teacher shared that sweets work quite well in genetics too sharing “you can do things like have a green and a red jelly baby and have half-green half-red offspring, and so on and so forth. You can’t really do more than three generations, though, or it’s just a sticky blob.”

Plasticine can be used in a similar way to demonstrate ionic bonding (link below) One teacher had used pipe-cleaners to unwind DNA and physically demonstrates the need for energy to unwind and wind DNA. Other ideas involve coloured ping-pong balls, wire and plastic rings to make atoms. Similar strategies work at all levels – another teacher used two aquarium nursery tanks and water bath beads (or ping pong balls) with a hairdryer to show activation energy (Higher Chemistry).

The group discussed dual coding as a strategy for helping learners learn and remember information. Dual coding refers to learners receiving text and visuals through separate pathways which can strengthen the transfer to long term memory.

Mind mapping is a good way of presenting text in a visual format so that learners can see the relationship between pieces of information. Some software allows you to insert audio (speech) and the software shown to the group (link below) allows you to export your mind map as a PowerPoint slide (or even as a set of headings for support writing)

Another delegate shared the idea of using a decimal sliding line with learners who struggle with numeracy. Some learners find the physical movement helpful, and the video linked below shows one in operation. Numicon blocks or maths blocks are useful for helping students to visualise data – for example a teacher in the group recently used them to model how insulin affects blood glucose and recommends that every keep a tray as part of their standard equipment.

Some learners will benefit from signing which is multimodal (and helps learners who find moving helps them to concentrate). A useful example were the signs for mass and weight and these help learners see the difference between them. This is driven forward by Dr Audrey Cameron from the University of Edinburgh and the dictionary is open to all teachers. Other examples of these signs in use by the group include terms from the electromagnetic spectrum (signed to the song!) and vertebrate. The curriculum signs are very new so the north-south regional divide with signing dialects is unlikely to apply to these.

Singing in science is popular with some learners and another teacher clapped out key words too, an example being clapping key words for the heart to Michael Jackson’s Beat It! You can use some of these strategies to introduce prefixes and suffixes to learners.

A teacher used playdough circuits to great effect and made a squidgy soft salty conductive dough which was purple and lavender scented, and a harder sugary dough which was yellow and vanilla scented. Each was a different sensory experience. They then used regular wires and wired components in the circuit to make fireflies with light-up bums. They had purple conductive wings and a yellow insulating body. You can find the recipes on the Squishy circuits site. Just remember to wash and dry your components afterwards or the salt will cause rusting. Another teacher used scented playdough (Scentos, available in toy shops and Asda) or made their own by adding essential oils when modelling the brain, they added aromatherapy oils and used this to model and remember the different parts of the brain. For example, mint for medulla and cloves for cortex.

A teacher used essential oils for a lesson on diffusion in the corridor, building on the idea of talking about an object and smelling it as you pass it around. For the diffusion lesson the person at the end of the corridor told the group what they could smell and that led to a discussion about diffusion – how did it get there?

Another strategy using arrow post-it notes (bought in the Pound shop) for equations and these can be physically ripped apart and show the changes in molecules. Sometimes no resources are required – for example getting learners to move around to model circuits or circulation.

Books beyond words have been useful in getting learners talking which can then go on to talk about the science.

Links from the chat

Kidscape bullying template

Leading in learning strategy

Mindmapping software

Eduk8 Decimal sliding line video

SSC BSL Sign language glossary for science

Gestures to teach science vocabulary

Modelling ionic bonds with plasticine

Squishy circuits:

The role of visual circuits in the learning and teaching of science

Jane’s book is now in all good book shops

Books beyond words

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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