Using 'floorbooks' as a strategy for developing, recording and assessing children's understanding of scientific concepts and practical science skills
PSTT Fellows, Alison Trew & Caroline Skerry
We believe that using floorbooks in science promotes the development of children's ideas, thinking and reasoning skills, models the collaborative nature of science and supports effective teacher assessment.
The original Floorbook CPD unit was developed by Kendra McMahon (Bath Spa University) and teacher Rhiannedd Baker in 2002. The unit has been revised in 2018 by PSTT Fellows Alison Trew and Caroline Skerry who both use floorbooks in their science lessons.
A floorbook is a large book for recording children’s science learning, individually and collaboratively. Floorbooks are used as a strategy for developing and assessing children’s understanding of science and can be used with any age group.
Floorbooks can include photographs, children’s comments, drawings, tables, graphs, annotated diagrams, classification keys and writing. Having a class record means it is easier to track changes in children's ideas and understand how children are developing their understanding of science.
Floorbooks support teaching and children's learning in science in many different ways depending on how you use them in your own setting. Using floorbooks in science can:
Provide an insight into how children are working scientifically
Children must develop many skills to work scientifically in the classroom: sharing ideas, making predictions, planning investigations, observing and measuring, recording results, drawing conclusions and evaluating findings. To make a valid assessment of children's practical science skills, a teacher needs to draw on a body of evidence collected over time. However, some of these skills are only evident when children are talking in small groups or a class discussion, and some children do not have literacy skills to match their science skills and successfully record their ideas, predictions or findings in science. We suggest that all practical science skills can be recorded by the teacher in a floorbook. You will find examples of children’s science enquiry skills recorded in a floorbook here.
Provide evidence of all types of scientific enquiry
Over the course of an academic year, the children in your class will carry out several investigations which involve different types of enquiry skills: observing over time, identifying and classifying, pattern seeking, research, comparative and fair testing. It is important to consider that some children will be able to explain their science investigations orally but may struggle to present their work in written form. We suggest that all types of science enquiry can be recorded by the teacher in a floorbook and examples of how this has been done can be found here.
Support teachers' assessment
Teacher assessment in science should consider a large body of evidence of the child's knowledge, their conceptual understanding of scientific processes and their independent practical science skills. Some children will find it easier to explain what they understand, make predictions, plan investigations, or describe their findings from their practical work, orally, rather than in a written format. Using a floorbook enables teachers to record oral feedback from children (as well as written work) and use this when making formative assessments to inform planning and summative assessments.
Ofsted’s report, Maintaining Curiosity in Science (2013), states that schools “that were outstandingly effective at science retained a programme of monitoring, evaluation and intervention of science that was as robust as it was for the other two core subjects.” We suggest that a floorbook provides teachers with a manageable and meaningful way to do this in science.
Examples of formative assessment and evidence of pupil progress recorded in floorbooks can be found here.
Promote collaboration and group work in science
Science is a collaborative subject. Many investigations require that children work in groups in science lessons. A floorbook is an ideal way to record group work and avoids the need to photocopy outcomes for individual records.
After a teaching input on the characteristics of all living things, children worked in groups of 4 to make a poster to explain one of these characteristics. They then presented their poster to the class and were given feedback from their peers. After making small improvements, the posters were stuck into the floorbook and were referred to during the sequence of work.
Teachers using floorbooks which include a wide variety of recorded content have found that all children are excited and enthusiastic about having their work ‘published’ in the floor book. The advantages of a floorbook are that it provides an opportunity for the reluctant writer, the dyslexic child, the EAL child, SEND (and so many others) to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a safe environment because it removes many barriers to learning.
Feedback from children confirms that they do like using floorbooks in science.
Provide evidence of the quality of science teaching and learning for external ACCOUNTABILITY
Floorbooks can provide information and evidence for other people of what has taken place. This might be a classroom assistant letting the class teacher know what has happened within a small group. A floorbook could be shared with a parent interested in finding out what their child has been doing in science.
Another important use is in providing evidence of the quality of science teaching and learning that has taken place for external accountability, such as for an Ofsted inspection. They can be used to demonstrate that formative assessment is taking place in science.
Creating a floorbook is like writing a diary: it’s personal and it’s up to you what you include and what you don’t. You won’t be able to include everything that happens in your science lesson, so don’t try to. We have made some suggestions to get you started.
How to prepare before the lesson
- write the date
- write the learning objective which could be either to acquire knowledge or develop a skill, or both
- write the questions that you will ask
how to record children's ideas
- Write down exactly what children say on post its or into the book
- Ask another adult or another child can scribe their ideas
- Ask older children can write their thoughts themselves
- Record just a few children, perhaps those you rarely hear from, or you might want to collect everyone’s thoughts to check understanding
- Show progression in children’s conceptual understanding by using different colour sticky notes if children change their ideas
- Stick a collaborative piece of work straight into the floor book
Idea: Give every child a sticky note to record their own thoughts (in words or pictures). When some are ready call, “Post it Pit Stop!” and children can place their sticky notes directly into the book. A blob of glue under each one secures them and saves a lot of cutting and sticking after the lesson.
how to develop enquiry and questioning
- Ask differentiated questions
- Direct the enquiry through pre-planned questions
- Leave the book out so the children can access it during the week between science lessons
- Put a question in the book during the week to elicit further learning
- Make the book accessible so that children have time to think and can return with new ideas or share further thoughts having tried or researched something and changed their minds
- Encourage children to put their own questions in the book
How to include everyone
- Ensure that there are examples of all children’s work
- Scribe for reluctant writers
- Share children’s ‘wow’ moments and ideas with the class and record it in the floorbook
- Celebrate the children’s ideas in assembly
- Allow children to change their minds and put a new idea in the floorbook
- Have a ‘Did you know?’ page and invite all the children to share their ideas
- Use a discussion drawings, e.g. Science Concept Cartoons, because some children find it is easier to agree or disagree with an existing idea rather than come up with an original idea of their own. This provides an opportunity for less confident children to justify their thoughts which can then be recorded.
How to demonstrate children are working scientifically
There are so many skills involved in practical science: sharing ideas, making predictions, planning investigations, observing and measuring, recording results, drawing conclusions and evaluating findings.
You could build a portfolio of evidence of children's skills by recording their actions using photographs, and theirs ideas using sticky notes or examples of their work. Examples of children's practical science skills (working scientifically) recorded in floorbooks can be seen here.
How to show evidence of different types of enquiry
Over the course of the school year, the children in your class will carry out many science investigations. By recording some of the children's significant ideas and actions using sticky notes, photographs and examples of written work, you could provide evidence of all types of science enquiry: observing over time, identifying and classifying, pattern seeking, research, comparative and fair testing.
Examples of different types of enquiry carried out by children and recorded by the teacher in a floorbook can be seen here.
how to assess
A Floorbook is a great tool for formative assessment. Spend a few minutes at the end of the lesson looking through the children’s comments to check conceptual understanding. Make a note of any children who have any misconceptions and address this in the next lesson. Rather than leave misconceptions in the book, offer these children different colour sticky note / pen to change their ideas. When you have a record of children changing their minds (as real scientists do), it is easy to show progress for individual children and the class.
Floorbooks also provide teachers with a means of making summative assessments about children's level of achievement. By looking at a child's comments or photographs of practical work over a period of time, a picture can be built up of how they respond in different situations and what their strengths are.
Examples of how floorbooks have supported teachers' assessment of children's subject knowledge and practical science skills are shown here.
who to share Floorbooks with:
- Share the floorbook with the children. Make it accessible in the classroom during the week so that the children are exposed to the science ideas and vocabulary.
- Share the floorbook with other adults in the classroom. A classroom assistant could provide information after working with a small group of children or scribe for chosen children. No teacher can see and hear everything!
- Share the floorbook with other teachers. At the end of the year, the floor book can move to the next teacher with the children so that they can see what science teaching and learning has happened in the previous year. This can be extremely useful when the children say, “we didn’t do that” and you can show them that they did!
- Share the floorbook with parents interested in finding out what their child has been doing in science. Remember only to include positive comments about the children if you share with parents.
- Share the floorbook with outside agencies. A floor book provides evidence of the quality of science teaching and learning that has taken place for external accountability, such as for an Ofsted inspection.
how to make use of technology
- Ask children to photograph their investigation and email or airdrop it to you.
- Use student driven digital portfolios, such as Seesaw, Tapestry.
- Use a tablet or phone or digital camera to film an activity.
- Use vocal recording, such talking tins, to record ideas .
- Use QR codes in a floor book to link to related educational websites, school website, or student-driven digital portfolios.
Be aware of...
It is important that you consider how you will address the following aspects of teaching within your floorbook:
- Differentiation - you could record one piece of work per ability group where appropriate.
- Recording attainment – have a separate assessment file (e.g. for TAPS focused tasks) to avoid including any negative comments about children’s achievements or understanding.
- Misconceptions - assure these are addressed in the floorbook and allow children to change their minds.
- Individual learning evidence - ensure all children are included in book.
- Marking - floorbooks are not an excuse for not marking, just a different marking system. It can take a similar period after the lesson to review the evidence collected during a lesson and to decide what to include. As you are reviewing children’s ideas, thinking and reasoning skills, this can give you a greater insight into their understanding of science concepts and possible misconceptions and be an effective assessment tool.
To introduce floorbooks in your setting, you might find the following resources useful:
WHY use floorbooks [195.32kB]
A summary of some reasons to use floorbooks which you may find useful to share with the senior management team in your school.
How to use floorbooks [2.16MB]
This slide show includes examples of how a floorbook has been used and may be useful to share with teachers in your school.
Slide notes can be found at the end of the pdf (pages 31-37).
Working scientifically Progression [200.66kB]
A summary of children's developing science skills from ages 4 to 11.
what if the children say something 'wrong'?
Responding with interest to a child's idea is important - even if you see it as 'wrong'. If you dismiss or ignore a child's response they are less likely to trust you with their ideas in the future.
This doesn't mean you are encouraging wrong answers. You accept it as the child's idea, though you may well ask another question to find out a bit more about why the child holds that idea. Also go back to the child later and ask them if they still agree with what they said. It becomes part of the culture of science lessons that it is okay to say what you think, but it is also okay to change your idea as you go along. This is an early introduction to the tentative nature of science!
how many children can use a floorbook?
It is possible to write a floor book with the whole class, but this does mean that fewer children's ideas can be included at a time. One strategy when working with young children is to choose a time when a learning support assistant is available, and they can either make a floorbook with a group or do something else with half the class freeing the teacher to work with the other half.
Older children can make their own floorbooks as collaborative groups, either with each child contributing, or with one child scribing the ideas of others.
A flip chart can be used in a similar way to a floorbook with classes of older children.
how can you write every child's ideas down?
You can't write down every child's idea about everything - you try to get each child to contribute something over the course of the floorbook. Also, over time you might want to target questions at certain children to find out about particular aspects of their learning.
Making a floorbook makes it very obvious if a child's ideas are missing from the record and so can help to involve 'invisible ' children and make sure that the discussion is not being dominated by one group.
how long does it take to make a floorbook?
A floorbook could be finished in a thirty-minute lesson, or it could be gradually built up over several lessons. It may record all of the children's science across the year.
should you write it up to make it neater?
With practice it is possible to write children's ideas down clearly enough that there is no need to change it. Presentation isn't the most important part of this. Having prepared printed questions at the top of the page does help to keep the overall look of the book attractive.
Good use could be made of interactive whiteboards to make an electronic floorbook.
what should I do with 30 copies of children's written work such as tables or graphs?
That’s really up to you. Sometimes it will be appropriate for all the children to produce a diagram, table, graph or some writing and you will need to decide where to put 30 copies of similar work. You could select work showing a range of ability (perhaps 3 pieces) to put in the floorbook. Be aware that if children or parents will look at the floorbook, you should not label the work according to attainment. If the floorbook is shared regularly with the children, they will be pleased to see their work in the book. It can be an incentive to children to produce their very best work in the hope that it will be chosen to go into the floorbook.
If you prefer all the children to keep a record of their own written work, you can simple write in the floorbook, “see books or folders” as a reminder to the reader (mainly you) that the evidence of learning in this case in in the child’s book.
if I have a floorbook, should the children still have individual science books?
Some teachers like the children to have their own small books running alongside the floor book. Having somewhere to keep children’s individual work demonstrates that every child’s work is valued and allows progress in skills such as drawing diagrams, tables and graphs to be evidenced. Some teachers use only a floorbook.
Safety Notice and Disclaimer
PSTT is not liable for the actions or activities of any reader or anyone else who uses the information in these resource pages or the associated classroom materials. PSTT assumes no liability with regard to injuries or damage to property that may occur as a result of using the information contained in these resources. PSTT recommends that a full risk assessment is carried out before undertaking in the classroom any of the practical investigations contained in the resources.
All materials are ©Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and are freely available to download and share for educational purposes. Whilst educators are free to adapt the resources to suit their own needs, acknowledgement of copyright on all original materials must be included. Rights to images included in the resource have been purchased for PSTT use only – as such, these images may only be used as part of this resource and may not copied into or used in other materials.