To launch Autumn Term 2014, we took 50 year 6 children to Cambridge to build and test rockets at Sidney Sussex College. It was part of our “Raising Aspirations” programme and a stimulus to our weekly writing.
Last year, we found that our pupils responded extremely well to writing scientific nonfiction. They enjoyed the challenge of using specific sentence types and advanced vocabulary, both of which were explicitly taught. This week, we are all about rockets.
I want to share the outcomes of this work and how we got there.
Our “Launch Day” in Cambridge was great fun; the pupils had hands on experience of building and firing rockets. It was an engineering activity – we didn’t do the science.
Back at school, the science input was my job. Dressed in my lab coat and safety glasses, I delivered a ten minute lecture to the assembled year 6 pupils (please note – we were on day one of an unannounced Ofsted inspection, but the inspectors missed my moment!) I was holding forth on Newton’s Third Law using this Rocket Presentation and surrounded by popping canisters and a strong whiff of vinegar.
The writing itself was lead by our excellent year 6 teaching team. The pupils had two hours to write an extended piece on the principles of rocket thrust.
The teaching sequence involved a model text and other sources of information (Wikipedia) which were used to model vocabulary, sentence types and style features. Pupil books are full of drafts, highlighter pen, mind maps and scaffolding sheets.
The text itself is written in the final hour. It isn’t long.
Up until this point, all of the feedback is verbal. Written feedback is now given. Pupils are given 30-60 minutes to respond, improving their texts and practising skills. We aim to give pupils a second or third similar text type to embed their skills. Next week I will be wearing a professorial gown and wig and hamming up my Sir Isaac Newton. We are writing a biography with a strong emphasis on Newton’s laws. I may use an apple. Expect a tweet.