I am sure I’m not the first to hit upon the popularity of the Angry Birds as a teaching hook but I wanted to share this investigation as it has proven popular and I have got some great Science out of the Year 6 (transition) students in previous years and current Year 7s.
On entry to class the angry birds music is playing and I choose several students to have a go at one of the multitude of Angry Birds games I have installed on my iPad. Whilst playing I get students to describe the factors they can control to alter the trajectory of the bird. From there we go to the homemade “catapult” I have set up using an upturned stool, elastic material, and a sponge ball.
We identify all of the factors that could effect the distance the “Angry Bird” will travel and elicit making a fair test by only changing one of these variables, and identifying what we can do to control the others. The booklet I have made to accompany this investigation can be found here and this is the PowerPoint. We spent one lesson planning and making preliminary trials with students experimenting with Newton meters, rulers, and protractors to determine the best approach to ensure consistency.
The following lesson pupils collected results (developing in booklet) – we stopped several times to discuss issues arising and how to make changes (and to not be scared to) to the method they had decided on. Our success criteria concerned collecting a full set of results (with repeats) whilst controlling as many variables as we reasonably could. Some students focussed on the angle as the independent variable, with force / distance of pull a close second.
Lesson 3 was centred around analysis of results and drawing conclusions, although some groups still needed to collect further data. I provided students with the axis and scale drawn onto graph for them but in retrospect this took away the challenge for some and I need to stretch my more able students in this aspect.
Reflection was the focus for lesson 4 and identifying what went well and changes that would / should be made if repeated are the usual questions we ask. This is also the area where most are usually given least time to develop and this is apparent at GCSE level during the ISA – I am determined to develop this with the new KS3 curriculum.
Metacognition or learning to learn (from Building Learning Power (BLP)) strategies are attempts to get students to think about their own learning explicitly – what strategies or steps did they take in their own learning to complete the investigation? They identify their strengths in completing a task and build a range of methodologies they can call upon when completing another. In the booklet I include some possible ways to encourage students to start this process. It’s effectiveness, as reported by The Sutton Trust (http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/), is high (+8 months by their measure).