Concept Cartoons Blog Series: Using text to promote talk

Posted: 1st Mar 2016

Innovative Tagline 2 E1456844270132

Jo Moules discusses some tried and tested, and completely new ways to use one of our most well known resources.

Last time we talked about the tried and tested way of using Concept Cartoons, give pupils a cartoon to think about, discuss what they think, use the follow up activities to help them find out more.

Have you looked at the text sections in the book yet? Some people seem to miss them out of their thinking and in some ways those are the bits that we spent most time writing. It’s great that the cartoons stand by themselves and don’t even really need any instructions for pupils to see what they have to do but are you missing a trick?

The information sections are really useful and so often forgotten. After looking at the follow up activities have a look at the rest of text. You will find a very carefully written explanation for the science behind the cartoon. It isn’t “the answer” to the cartoon, it just explores the issues the cartoon raises and what scientists currently think. It is written with pupils in mind so the reading age is quite low. For the Concept Cartoon Set 2 text, which is aimed at 14 -19 age range the text has a reading age of about 14 years old. Much of that is because of the technical language so with a bit of support weaker readers can still access it.

We love it when we hear about people using this aspect of the books, and are keen to hear about your experiences with it. We would be really keen to hear about any active reading strategies you have used. Here is one idea…get pupils to look at the cartoon and discuss it. Then get them to read the text in threes. One pupil keeps the text as a reference and the other two are not allowed to look at it. Then get the two pupils to debate the cartoon again seeing how many of the points from the text they can get into their discussion. The third pupil keeps a check.

This idea sums up much of our approach to all our resources, getting pupils to talk through the science they know about and practice their ideas through dialogue with you and with each other. We believe that as teachers we are not the ones who decide what is right and what is wrong, we need to suspend our judgments about pupils ideas and help them explore them and move towards a better understanding. Guide on the side, not sage on the stage!

I want to use the word facilitator…but it is over used and I recently went to a CPD session where I was told we should now call ourselves Activators! You can imagine my reaction. Oh well, I’ll just wait, give it a few years and facilitator will come back in fashion, everything come round again in education. Someone once said that if you don’t change your practice one bit you will still be at the cutting edge at least twice in your career.

If you don’t own a copy there are always some sample ones to try out. Try out a sample Concept Cartoon on maths, primary science, secondary science or English today.

Jo Moules is a Secondary Science Consultant at Dudley Local Authority and CPD Provider at Millgate House Education. He has recently been involved in writing Science Concept Cartoons Set 2 and is currently working on a new publication, Let’s talk about Data.