One Hundred Words in Science

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April 30, 2013 by Doug Napolitano-Cremin


Exam season is upon us and I have lost count of the number of blog posts about revision lessons that I have seen. Some have been great, others not so! Every year I struggle with revision lessons. The aim is always to produce lessons that help pupils to assess their own knowledge and hopefully fill any gaps in knowledge they have about a particular topic. The key to revision lessons, like any normal lesson, is to ensure that it is the pupils doing all the hard work, not the teachers!

The one recent revision post that really stood out for me was one written by Kenny Pieper, an English teacher based in Scotland. His excellent post inspired the lesson I am about to describe and can be found here.

So, the starter of the lesson involved pupils completing a short quiz using the SOCRATIVE website. A live leader board was displayed on the IWB for pupils to keep track of their progress. Pupils were warned before the start of the quiz that those pupils who performed best in the quiz would be given ‘preferential treatment’ for the rest of the lesson. (For those who are familiar with Socrative, the quiz I used can be found by using the code SOC-1181401). This starter activity was a nice way to introduce an element of competition in to the lesson, and was also useful to obtain a quick snapshot of pupils’ current level of understanding.

For the next part of the lesson, pupils were introduced to the, ‘100 words is all it takes’, concept described by Kenny in his post. I explained to pupils that each of the objectives from the Edexcel B1 unit specification had been written on a postcard and placed on the white board at the front of the class. Pupils were told that they would have the opportunity to pick one of the cards and then write exactly one hundred words to describe the knowledge needed to achieve that particular objective. Those pupils who were top of the leader board for the starter activity were given first choice and 30 seconds to pick their objectives. All other pupils had 5 seconds to pick their objectives and if they hadn’t picked one from the board when the time was up one would be picked for them! As Kenny describes in his post, a good buzz was created and pupils responded enthusiastically to the challenge.

The rest of the lesson was given over to pupils researching their objectives and planning their one hundred words. To add further challenge to the task pupils were not allowed to use the course textbooks, which are specifically designed to have the information for each objective clearly signed and laid out. I wanted pupils to make more of an effort to use the knowledge they already have and also to improve their research skills by having to use unfamiliar resources to find the information they needed.

Pupils found this lesson very difficult. Firstly, they had to think for themselves. Information was not handed to them, ‘on a plate’, and they had to actually THINK about what they were doing. Pupils also found the ‘100 words’ rule very challenging. Some pupils thought they didn’t have enough to write, some pupils couldn’t imagine writing ONLY 100 words. It was a great opportunity to discuss with pupils the importance of being concise with their language in exams and to use key scientific terminology when describing various concepts.

By the end of the lesson we had a nice collection of postcards with some excellent scientific knowledge on them. Pupils had done all the hard work, and they demonstrated the progress they had made by completing the Socrative quiz again at the end of the lesson and improving on their scores. We are planning to scan the postcards and place them online so that they can be used as a revision resource for pupils.

Once again, thanks to Kenny Pieper for his excellent idea. Be sure to check out his blog for more great ideas: IMAG0070


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