The key skills we were working on in English were reading for information, and reflection. From a Science perspective we wanted students to gain an understanding of heat transfer and use this to help them to explain what kinds of materials would be best to keep their water bottles cool.
Following an introductory lesson on The Snowman’s Coat (a famous Science concept cartoon), I gave the classes two ‘guided reading’ comprehension exercises, which I printed on A3. I have put images here but have deliberately blurred the textbook pages for copyright reasons. I used ‘Investigate red’ for questions where the answers could be found in the text and ‘Construct blue’ for questions where students would need to think about what they had read and construct their own understanding. I told the students this explicitly at the start.
A key component of this was to give students plenty of time to read and think – and not to answer their questions directly immediately if they asked for help, but to guide them back to the places in the text where they could find the answer. We have noticed that lessons can be quite bitty, moving from one task to another every 10 minutes or so. While in general this can be good teaching practice to keep a group engaged, it is impossible to really engage with reading a source carefully in short time periods like that. We spent the whole (hour) lesson on this task, with breaks every now and then to discuss common misconceptions. This task modelled how to find answers to questions in a complex scientific text by showing them with arrows where to look. Then the next lesson I gave them a choice of a range of pages from different books without any guided reading questions and asked them to make notes on the different types of heat transfer using this structured graphic organiser (see right, witheditable PPT copy here).
In the (‘Construct blue’) water bottle outline, I asked them to use that knowledge to suggest what types of materials would be good at keeping their water bottles cold.While they found this challenging, many exhibited a level of understanding beyond what would usually be expected in the Year 6 curriculum in their notes.
Heat transfer poems!
In their other English lessons in the week they were studying poetry writing, so one of the English teachers suggested writing poems about heat transfer. This was a super cross-over activity – and interestingly of the type that might be criticised (perhaps justifiably) by inquiry opponents as a waste of time if it had happened in the Science lessons. In English, they were being taught how to write poetry anyway and needed a subject. Picking heat transfer was very natural because it was something they knew a lot about. I produced this stimulus sheet (plus a rhyming dictionary) and the English teachers ran the lesson.
Interestingly, this turned out also to be a very productive activity for the Science as well as the English, because in order to write a good, Scientific poem you need to really understand the subject matter. Many of Year 6 produced some super concrete poems and limericks on this topic.