In order to be an effective modeller there are a number of steps you should take. Prepare the lesson well, particularly if you are going to conduct a demonstration that is new to you. If you are about to model something new for the first time, you might write out a script and rehearse what you are going to say (more of this at the end of this booklet). As you grow in confidence, it will no longer be necessary to write out a script but you will still plan exactly what you want the pupils to learn.
Take into account pupils’ prior knowledge and experiences. Model your thinking to explain links between an idea they have seen before and the one you are about to introduce, for example, in chemistry you may have used ping pong balls to represent atoms but in Year 8 different sized balls are used so that pupils can build molecules. Think out loud the connections and the reasons for developing or changing this model.
See also the section on demonstrations in maintaining a view of the class while writing notes or instructions for them by using an OHP, a laptop or an interactive whiteboard rather than turning your back to the class. By your behaviour when you are writing you are modelling the technique.
Maintain the pace of the lesson by using modelling for short periods only, especially if pupils are not used to this way of working. Until pupils’ listening skills have developed, model just a small part of an activity, for example, the conclusion of an investigation.
Repeat the modelling of a process whenever necessary. Some skills are only acquired through repeated practice.
Modelling processes with pupils involves
- establishing clear aims;
- providing an example;
- exploring thinking – yours and the pupils;
- demonstrating the process;
- working together through the example;
- providing prompts (or scaffolds) as appropriate;
- providing an opportunity for pupils to work themselves (alone or in pairs);
- drawing out the key learning.
Teachers can model a range of processes in science, for example, how to use a particular piece of scientific equipment appropriately and accurately; how to record data from an experiment; how to evaluate an investigation; how to plan a more complex investigation; how to draw a particular graph; how to obtain specific information from a text or from the Internet; how to answer a test question; how to improve scientific writing. The last of these is considered in more detail in the rest of this guide. However, the points made and learned can be applied to the other processes described.