The floor(book) is yours…

Dec 9, 2020

Floorbooks are big books used to record shared learning in EYFS, right? Correct, although a number of schools have been successfully using floorbooks outside the EYFS, especially in science, for some time. As the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) explains, floorbooks “are used as a strategy for developing and assessing children’s understanding of science and can be used with any age group.”

Interesting. You’d better tell me more about them then. Let’s start with the basics – what exactly are they? Of course. We’ll turn to the PSTT again, who have some excellent resources on this topic. Floorbooks, they tell us, are “large book[s] for recording children’s science learning, individually and collaboratively…[and] can include photographs, children’s comments, drawings, tables, graphs, annotated diagrams, classification keys and writing.” You can see examples from the PSST here, and from Phoenix Primary School in Liverpool here.

OK, great. And what about the advantages of using them in science? There are almost too many to mention, but we’d particularly highlight the following:

  • The PSST has a comprehensive list of positives (also available in a neat PDF format to take straight to your SLT!)
  • This article by Alison Trew and Caroline Skerry (fellows of the PSTT) highlights the benefits particularly in the context of “younger children and for others who have limited writing skills.” By reducing the amount of writing required, floorbooks allow more time for “developing and justifying ideas and scientific concepts.” Children’s learning (and key vocabulary) can also be reinforced and extended by having the floorbooks available for them to explore across the week. Adding in questions or encouraging children to add their own questions will stimulate their thinking and extend learning
  • This article from the PSST highlights the role floorbooks can play in both formative and summative assessment in science. Demonstrating knowledge and understanding orally is as valid as doing so in written form, but generally harder to record. Floorbooks are, however, ideal for this, and so “can become an effective assessment tool for teachers”
  • Floorbooks can also be used to track progress on both an individual and a whole class level. As Trew and Skerry explain, “having a class record means that it is easier to track changes in children’s ideas and to understand how children are developing their understanding of science”. Misconceptions can be addressed in the floorbook by offering children alternative coloured sticky notes if they would like to change their ideas. This helps track progress

Wow, lots of positives. What about any pitfalls or things I need to look out for? The PSTT highlights a few, namely:

  • Differentiation – how will this be recorded?
  • Recording attainment – make sure this is recorded elsewhere
  • Misconceptions – make sure these are clearly addressed and include any changes in mind
  • Individual learning evidence – make sure you have evidence from all children
  • Marking – while not marked, ensure you reflect on the evidence gathered during each session to inform future planning

Would children have an exercise book as well? And if so, what would they record in this? Exercise books continue to be useful, with many schools shifting away from floorbooks and more towards individual books in upper KS2. Children need to be taught to draw diagrams, record data and draw graphs, which they can do in individual science books. They also need to know how to write scientific methods and conclusions, although you may decide to complete this writing in English lessons. Trew and Skerry suggest that “if children do not have personal exercise books, teachers may decide to include one or two samples of written work in the floorbook.”

Does it have to be a physical floorbook, or can I go digital? Digital portfolios such as Seesaw and Tapestry are already prominent in the Early Years. Using such a platform for your floorbook means children and parents can access the learning. Trew and Skerry suggest that for those not quite ready for an online floorbook, the use of QR codes to access film and audio recordings would allow for elements of technology.

In a nutshell… Focus more on scientific skills and less on writing skills by embracing the world of floorbooks.

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