I love teaching Science. Partly because I get to do all those fun experiments with the kids, but the main reason is that ALL my students are ‘A’ graders. (They did not come to me with ‘A’ grades though. I don’t “cherry-pick”.) It is therefore the least stressful subject to teach!
The most frequent grouses from parents and children are that they don’t know what are expected in the questions or they just can’t get that full marks.
My approach is simple. A Study Map™.
No, not mind-map. A Study Map™ is derived from the same principle as the Mind-Map only that it’s more effective for presenting academic concepts. Instead of single-word branches with lots of colours and drawings, a Study Map™ summarises concepts using short phrases with minimal colours and drawings. Example:
A Study Map™ is a much more effective tool for studying because it doesn’t take up too much time to produce (You don’t have to be artistic and you won’t be spending time trying to make it colourful and nice, I did the above using Prezi within 5min. Of course, you can easily produce one using pen and paper.) and it doesn’t take away important information that helps students answer questions in the examination.
With a Study Map™ that summarises each topic, you can easily answer any questions in the testpaper and get that perfect score.
a) Explain how the shadow is formed on the screen. (1m)
b) Will the shape of the shadow cast on the screen be the same if we switch the positions of the ping pong ball and the large piece of wood? Explain your answer. (2m)
.(Source: Past Year P4 Examination Paper)
Common ways of answering question (a) are
- Light couldn’t go through the object.
- The object blocked the light.
- The object covered the screen.
All of the above answers make sense but they are definitely not going to fetch you a single mark.
To answer the question, we have to remember that teachers are always looking for evidences that you have learnt the concepts and are able to apply them. Therefore, you have to write the specific concepts that were learnt as the answer.
This is when I will remind my students what they have learnt by recalling what was recorded in the Study Map™.
Refering to the map above, we see point 4 in the center circle that “Shadow is formed when light is blocked.” That’s precisely the concept the question is testing. Of course, you have to answer it in the context of the question, therefore, the answer should be:
Light from the torch is blocked by the piece of wood thus casting a shadow on the screen.
For question (b), most students struggle with answers like:
- Yes, because the wood is bigger than the ping pong ball.
- Yes, the ping pong ball is smaller than the wood.
These answers will fetch at most 1m for the “Yes”. The other 1m requires the students to use concepts they have learnt in the answer. Therefore, the answer should be:
The ping pong ball is smaller than the piece of wood so it blocks out the same amount of light no matter whether it is in front or behind of the ping pong ball.
The “blocking of the light”is the key concept tested here.
In a nutshell, to ensure students score, all we need to do is to help them identify the key concepts for each topic, present it in a digestible Study Map™, give them a few practices to ensure ease of application and viola, the ‘A’ is theirs.
The above map only showed one topic, I will usually summarise the entire year’s topic in one A4 size paper for children to revise before their examination (only a single-side is used, try it out!)