Talking and Doing Science in the Early Years – Tunnicliffe

I finally got my hands on Sue Dale Tunnicliffe’s Talking and Doing Science in the Early Years: A practical guide for ages 2-7 (2013). It is a book “designed to provide educators who interact with young children aged seven and under with starting points to help them develop play and talk with the children in their care. It is not about teaching the theory of science but about noticing and experiencing everyday science in action. Science is based on observations that give rise to learning language, formulating questions and further investigations, as well as developing communication and social skills.” (p.2)

I already like what she has to say…

“…the attitude of preschool teachers towards science influences children. If the teacher [-p.6] displays wonder and excitement, children think science and its associated subjects are exciting too. Presumably the same effect us noticed in the behaviours of any adult with whom these early learners are in contact. It is thus important to remember that it is not the content knowledge of the adult that is important, but the curiosity and enthusiasm that s/he shows.” (pp.5-6)

“In many countries in the world, … it is a goal to promote scientific literacy for citizens, although among under-represented groups, science learning divorced from everyday life alienates many children.” (p.6)

“Observation and experience are the foundation of science learning, together with informing the child of names of things and processes; but this early stage has to be experiential and in partnership with a facilitator who can provide the labels for the phenomenon and activities observed, such as pouring and pushing.
Young children ask questions incessantly when given an opportunity, a behaviour that often disappears in the formal education environment where classic triadic dialogue takes over. However, there is a move towards developing dialogic talking in classrooms, and argumentation. Yet young children can be inducted into such an approach before school tuition begins; indeed, many carers of preschool children carry out this type of dialogue, asking ‘Why?’ to a child: ‘Why do you do that?’ ‘What did you see?’
Children need to develop the language needed to enable them to ask questions and justify their ideas as intuitive scientists. Learning language in a meaningful context, exploring the everyday world, is an optimum means of developing both language skills and prowess as well as learning fundamental science. Children should be encouraged to relate what they notice and observe to what they already know, interpreting and making sense of objects and other phenomena for themselves.” (p.7)

“Constructing meaning about the world is a social activity and meaning is heard through voices. Thus, analysis of conversations is a good idea, developing further from just assessing the initial form and function of talk used with different ages of children. Conversations can be categorized according to complexity of structure and content, known as ‘Labeling conversation’.” (p.7)

“Talking science obviously involves language, and talking is an important part of problem solving. This may be a process you wish to introduce to the children with whom you are working, challenges these early learners to find an answer through observations or experimentation in relation to a challenge you set; alternatively, you could encourage them to think about before and after situations and then ‘Think and Do’. Children should be encouraged to talk about topics that engage their interest, what they see and about anything that they remember about this situation or phenomena that they have met previously.
While these early learners may hear many everyday words that are sufficient for what you need to talk about, there is mathematical and scientific terminology that can be introduced into your conversations, as well as everyday English terms for different actions, positions, resources, movements and materials.” (p.18)

Once observations are made, which is very much what talking science is, children begin to question and ask, ‘Why?’ In many instances of physical science, you can ask ‘What happens if…?’ and suggest that the children could perform some action or investigation to find out, suggesting indeed what might happen. This is the beginning of putting forward a hypothesis, part of the science process and as children gather more concrete experiences of their everyday world, they begin to use what they have already learnt and observed in forming their ideas of what they want to do to text out their theories. They use rapaciously acquired skills and knowledge. In formal education these stages become slotted into levels and when a child has acquired competency in an action or thought s/he are said to have attained that level of development. In biological observations they often make longer observations by first looking and often touching or otherwise observing and then asking questions, which would lead to more advanced science investigations to formulate experiments to find the answer.” (p.18)

Young children are intuitive, emergent scientists – they observe, raise hypotheses, experiment and notice patterns. Most of our everyday actions at home and in other settings, inside and outside, have a scientific basis and it is through these early experiences that children formulate their ideas about the world in which we live.” (n.p. abstract)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Sue Dale Tunnicliffe (2013) Talking and Doing Science in the Early Years: A practical guide for ages 2-7. Routledge: Oxon and New York.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in early years education, Science education, scientific literacy, Teaching excellence and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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