Introducing Scientific Language

science-languageI was on a primary school visit recently, and as usual I was interested to find out at what age ‘scientific’ language for practical work was introduced to the children.  The answer, as it always is, was to slowly introduce the odd word until by year 6 children have a grasp of the correct language to use. I pointed out, as I always do, the need to include this language from the beginning – what is the point of keeping this language from a 5 year old?  Even if they are not using it themselves, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be hearing it in context so they can start!

I have become fascinated when I walk in to a primary classroom and see displays including words such as digraph, mnemonic and grapheme, but no mention of accuracy or variable.  I would even argue that these words have more ‘real world’ value than the very specific phonics language that we introduce (but that may be the scientist in me speaking…).  Importantly, how can you expect a child to discuss the results of their practical work without this language? Why not let them know what accuracy means and then let them decide just how accurate they were? (For reference – accuracy is how close you are to the ‘real’ answer)

I say let us meet in the middle and introduce the core language that is needed for all subjects as early as we can – it would mean a lot to take in for children at an early age, I don’t doubt that, but it is conversations that will be happening anyway.  If we start using the right words at the right times, children will start using them too!

About the author: Matt Stanford

Matt Stanford
Matt has been working in education for 10 years, teaching science to all ages from preschool to degree. Before he became a teacher he studied chemistry at Masters level and completed his PhD at The University of Warwick. It was during his time at university that he got involved in outreach work in local primary schools and found his passion for inspiring learning.

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