Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ramblings on what to do in Year 9 if you do a three year KS4.

I was asked by Greg Seal what I was doing with my students in Year 9. He told me "and don't say segue". Of course my answer was 'Segue'. It is well known that it is by far and away my favourite scheme of work. 

Both Greg's department and mine use the OUP scheme at key stage 3, Activate. They have a Year 9 course that might be suitable, but it is expensive to buy for only one year of use. 

When I went to the ASE conference in January Mary Whitehouse gave some advice on what to do if schools were starting a there year key stage 4 when there wasn't going to be much out their to support it from September. She said that there was a lot of overlap between key stage 3 and 4, and when thinking about where to start with GCSE start there. 

I have been thinking about this. I wondered what makes SEGUE so good, and I think it is because the writers have thought about which areas of GCSE lend themselves to deep understanding via their philosophy. I love teaching the key stage 4 concepts in such a way that I am concerned about the understanding of the students and not concerned about the mark scheme. 

With this in mind I wanted to look at where key stage 3 and 4 overlap as a starting point and then think about where to go with those topics. It is important to realise that the exam boards don't get to add their own personal touches in the new GCSEs, so you can work from the national curriculum and be happy you are considering all the aspects students will be examined on. 

Thinking about it now, I actually can see an advantage of doing a two year scheme of work for key  stage 3. There is a great deal of cross over, why not hold that cross over and teach it in key stage 4? Having a longer time at key stage 4 could mean the fundamental ideas are covered and learned more securely. 

An interesting aspect to the key stage 4 curriculum document is that each subject area has a summary of the key ideas as an introduction. One idea might be to look at that and ensure that these background ideas are at the heart of what you teach in Year 9 bridging between key stage 3 and 4. 

The key stage 3 biology curriculum is split into the following sections:

Structure and Function of Living Organisms
  • Cells and organisation 
  • The skeletal and muscular systems 
  • Nutrition and digestion 
  • Gas exchange systems 
  • Reproduction Health
Material cycles and energy 
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular respiration
Interactions and interdependencies
  • Relationships in an ecosystem
Genetics and evolution
  • Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes

And key stage 4:
  • Cell biology 
  • Transport systems 
  • Health, disease and the development of medicines 
  • Coordination and control 
  • Photosynthesis 
  • Ecosystems 
  • Evolution, inheritance and variation

With this in mind, it might be useful to use Year 9 to review cells, inheritance and ecosystems within biology? I would guess that the chapters in Biology for You would be a good place to start in devising a scheme of work! Or of course, you could start with the areas that are not in key stage 3...

In Chemistry at key stage three the topics are split under the following headings.

  • The particulate nature of matter
  • Atoms, elements and compounds
  • Pure and impure substances
  • Chemical reactions 
  • Energetics
  • The Periodic Table
  • Materials Earth and atmosphere

The headings at key stage 4 chemistry are:
  • Atomic structure and the Periodic Table 
  • Structure, bonding and the properties of matter 
  • Chemical changes 
  • Energy changes in chemistry 
  • Rate and extent of chemical change 
  • Chemical analysis 
  • Chemical and allied industries 
  • Earth and atmospheric science
Chemical Analysis and Pure and Impure Substances have overlap, Chemical Changes and Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table also has overlap with key stage 3. Climate change overlaps in the Earth Science sections of chemistry also. And energetics overlap, understanding end/exothermic reactions will help when students move onto relating this to bonds. But despite all this I think the most important aspect of Year 9 is helping students to get the idea of atoms and how the rearrange without vanishing/appearing to create a balanced equation and what this means. 

Physics at key stage 3 contains:

  • Calculation of fuel uses and costs in the domestic context
  • Energy changes and transfers
  • Changes in systems
Motion and forces 
  • Describing motion
  • Forces
  • Pressure in fluids
  • Balanced forces
  • Forces and motion
  • Observed waves
  • Sound waves
  • Energy and waves
  • Light waves
Electricity and electromagnetism 
  • Current electricity 
  • Static electricity 
  • Magnetism 
  • Physical changes 
  • Particle model 
  • Energy in matter 
Space physics

At key stage 4

  • Energy 
  • Forces 
  • Forces and motion 
  • Wave motion 
  • Electricity 
  • Magnetism and electromagnetism 
  • The structure of matter 
  • Atomic structure 
  • Space physics

The first thing I would say is that space physics, for a reason I cannot understand, does not involve the big bang or the life cycle of stars. So this might be something to include in Year 9 if you feel you can afford the time. Red shift overlaps nicely with waves so that would give a recap.

Quite a lot of the physics curriculum seems to overlap to be honest. I would use the time to ensure that students have the fundamentals of forces, matter and electricity (because it is my favourite).

Probably more important than the content is the aspects of working scientifically. A lot of these will not be easy to pick up from a revision guide and not necessarily relate well to the topics being studied at GCSE.

If I am honest, this part of the national curriculum does seem to develop from key stage 3 to 4. I might be inclined to look only to the key stage 4 version and work on helping my students work directly towards that. Selecting topics that allow students to appreciate how ideas change over time, that allow analysis of data, that lead into students planning their own lessons, that involve calculations and drawing conclusions would be very useful. Health and fitness is a useful topic for that in biology, electricity in physics and rates in chemistry.

The headings in key stage 3 are:
Scientific attitudes 
Experimental skills and investigations 
Analysis and evaluation 

And at key stage 4 are:
1. The development of scientific thinking 
2. Experimental skills and strategies 
3. Analysis and evaluation 
4. Vocabulary, units, symbols and nomenclature

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