Friday, 26 October 2012

Could I write a science textbook?

Disclaimer: It is the end of half term. I am very tired. I have a glass of wine and no glasses....they are in the car and it is far too cold to be going out to get them...

For a few weeks now I have been feeling 'left out of the loop' at school. It has not made me feel good at all but I think I am getting to grips with why this is happening. What I have done with science so far in 3 years is more than the school ever expected and they are leaving me alone to concentrate on other things....I get it.

Obviously, English and Maths are far more important than Science for the SEND students I teach and have been a bit of a problem for a while. If we can send them out into the world literate and numerate this is better than illiterate, innumerate but with a Science GCSE.

Anyway we are having a real drive on literacy, and when I say drive I really really mean it. This is a good thing it really is and I totally support it for reasons which will become clear but also because I appreciate how lucky I am to read and write with ease and confidence, something my younger brother for example was not blessed with. Watching him and my mum struggle day in day out with word cards and spellings and seeing him carted off kicking and screaming to 'reading lessons' are things I will always remember.
I digress. is not a 'priority' at the moment, fair enough. Then a survey was carried out with the kids. One question concerned which subject they found it hardest to read in. I wonder what came out on top...oh look, Science. SMT had a mini field day, why was this? What was I doing? What was I not doing? (read as 'it's your fault, sort it.)

So I sat there and said to the kids and staff  'well are you surprised? You do know the average science textbook is always above the chronological age of the child using it due to the level of specialist and technical language?'
I sort of shrugged my shoulders I suppose. What was I supposed to do? If the kids arn't reading at their chronological age it is hard enough but below that it is hard to simplify texts enough to make them accessible. I spend a lot of my time as it is stripping scientific concepts back to the bare bones for teaching, keeping it straightforward and to the point but in this new age of exams where the written and reading elements are so important this is not going to work for much longer. I guess I felt despondent, exasperated and tired....what is one teacher with a very hectic timetable meant to do, nothing is going to change this instantly...

I have grand plans for my school science curriculum in the future. Once we have an idea of what Key Stage 3 is going to 'look like' (once Mr Gove et al make up their minds) I will review all of what I have and make it engaging, contextualised and 'user friendly' including the reading, writing and mathematics elements which are held in such high regard, I do a lot of this already, it will just be good to get it down into the schemes properly embedded rather than a 'bolt-on'. It will also allow me to review my choice of Key Stage 4 course and see whether I should 'stick or twist' with the choice.

In the mean time whilst all these thoughts are going through my mind with no one to vent them to (you are probably gathering reader that at my school science seems not to be a priority....) the English teacher and I enter into a discussion about textbooks.
It turns out he had covered some of my lessons in my absence and was 'surprised' by the level of text students are required to read in textbooks and exam papers. Yes, I said, it is a lot, this is what I battle with every day, science is hard for foundation level students, technical language etc. etc. etc.

Then I did something silly. I said 'there isn't really a suitable textbook to be honest....maybe I should write my own!' It was a joke, I wasn't being serious......

The English teacher asked me 'Well why don't you?'

Aside from the practical issues such as that I have a full time job, I don't have the first clue about how to write a book and....oh yes it was a did get me thinking?

Why is it such a difficult thing to publish a science textbook that works for SEND and foundation level students? Which supports them learning the subject without being 'scary looking' full of text and technical language? Is it not possible to go 'back to basics' and create something that works for them so they can develop a positive attitude towards the subject? Supported by (of course) great teaching from whoever stands in front of them on a day to day basis and the use of practical work.

I think I have some idea what they would want from it...once they stop swearing at me and telling me how much they hate science that is....I mean I have a living (mostly...for some this is questionable), breathing test group if I wanted to try this.....if I had the time. 

Just imagine if I did......


  1. I think you might find the science text books 'Thinking Through Science' just what you need for SEN and more. Format is very appealing and very good for learning.
    Also see Thinking Science which is an intervention programme. Long term changes to children's thinking not just teaching to the test.

  2. I'm going to have a look at them, thankyou very much for your ideas. Definitely agree about it not being about teaching to the test. I'm a firm believer that all kids need a grounding in the basics and it isn't all about exam results. I'd much rather my kids enjoyed the experience of science more!