If your child has been hardworking enough to read the science guides and pay attention in class and she or he is still losing half a mark here and there for incomplete answers or clueless about how to answer Application, Process Skills and Higher order thinking skills PSLE Science questions, then here are some suggestions.
When clueless about where to start when looking at a question or if losing lots of half marks, get your child to:
- Highlight key words in the stem of the question. (To ensure answer is to the point)
- Identify the topic. (if at a loss as to where to start)
- Identify the key concept they are trying to test.
- Identify the related keywords. (Scribble down the keywords in the margin in pencil. This will minimise the loss of half a mark here and there for writing answers in haste and missing out key points.)
- String together an answer.
- If still really clueless after all that, consider taking the time to visualise what is happening or even drawing a diagram of the verbal description in the question.
- If still really clueless, try imagining yourself in the situation.
- If that still does not work, think of what would happen in an opposite scenario or
- draw the example to the extremes and consider what would happen.
Example 1: How to avoid missing out keywords.
- Highlight parts of question.
- Topic: Heat
- Key concept: Conduction, Melting, Heat travels from warmer to cooler region.
- Keywords: Poor conductor of heat, Gain heat, Melt.
- String it together: Air in the gas bubbles is a poor conductor of heat. Heat from the hot oil does not travel to the colder ice cream at a fast rate, hence the ice cream does not gain enough heat to melt in the short time it takes for the dough to cook.
Example 2: How to tackle a question a child may be clueless in:
Comments on the above question:
- Topic: adaptations.
- Keywords, powerful forelimbs or claws.
- Still clueless: Imagine or Draw a wombat with a young tunneling down some soil. Draw one with a pouch forwards and the other backwards. Or consider yourself digging sand in a playground with a huge pocket infront of your dress/shirt/pants. What do you use to dig?Hands or Feet? What problems would you face. I think you may end up with a pocket full of sand. Now if your pocket were upside down, then in cannot collect sand.
a) The words “dig and burrow” and “pouch facing backwards” should clue in the child to consider things like dirt and soil collecting in the pouch or hitting the young’s head if forward facing, or digging down a hole may cause the young to fall out if the pouch was facing forewards.
b) digging would involve powerful forelimbs.
If its an experiment type question, ask your child to:
- Spot the difference between all the given set-ups. Highlight the differences. That should give you part of the aim of the experiment or the “independent variable” …i.e. the variable you are suppose to change.
- Identify controlled variables if neceessary (this is when questions ask for: State “ANOTHER variable that should be kept constant”)
- Identify topic and keywords (scribble keywords in the margin)
- String answer together.
Example 3: Experiment type questions.
- Variable changed (Independent variable): Substance A, B, C or D
- Variables kept constant (Controlled variables) stated in question: amount of water, same container.
- Topic: Solubility. Not directly related to any taught topic: Common sense.
Answer: a) Temperature of water. b) B. Substance B cannot dissolve in water so B cannot be washed away by water.
(Note: If a child has never been allowed to wash clothes or table cloths, or step into a kitchen to make milo, dissolve sugar in tea or coffee or make jelly, then yes, they may be at a disadvantage. I know many children who grow up being served by maids, never poured water into a cup at home, never ever seen the whole fruit because the maids cut up everything nicely for them. However, to me, it is a reasonable expectation that an 11 year old has washed a piece of cloth or prepared some food and drinks and have a basic set of skills that they need for independence. Children in Singapore know a lot in theory. But for many children their self help skills are terrible. They don’t know how to wash, use a knife to cut confidently. Even some secondary school kids are like that. No matter how busy you are or how free your maid will be, a sound piece of advice is the day your child is able to, give them some household duties. Its free tuition for common sense and life skills which are more important than passing an exam. Plus it really helps in secondary school when they have Science Practical Assessment, and this time it is counted for the O and A levels.)
Regarding Section B, when students answer questions, they often forget its a Science Exam, so the explanation must be based on some science concept they have learnt before. Their first response is often to panic and say to themselves “But I’ve never seen this Q before”.
Children need to be empowered with confidence instead to think “For most of life’s problems that I face, I would never have “seen” or experienced them before, but i have to solve the problem with my given knowledge.”
Many children actually need more help in motivation and developing tenacity, which is actually partly eroded by the most common reward system which praises marks, grades and results. For more info, refer to:
Also refer to blog entry on minimizing careless mistakes if that is an issue with your child.