"I Can Explain!"

Developing children’s scientific literacy

Created by PSTT Fellow Alison Eley, “I can explain!” consists of beautifully illustrated, high-quality picture cards and language prompts to facilitate rational discussion. Children work in small groups to explore scientific concepts. Through developing and practising effective group talk skills, they link ideas with evidence, and use scientific vocabulary with confidence and understanding.


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  1. Ten sets of eight ‘sound’ pictures
  2. Ten sets of eight ‘hot and cold’ pictures
  3. Ten copies of a pirate ship (floating and sinking)
  4. Ten copies of a garden habitat picture (plants and animals)
  5. 46 page Teachers’ guide that includes:
    • a series of activities for each set of pictures
    • comprehensive science background knowledge
    • alternative ideas children may hold
    • language prompts
    • additional resources for further work


  1. Generating simple explanations
  2. Challenging the ideas of others
  3. Sequencing, generating more complex explanations
  4. Grouping and classifying
  5. Describing, using scientific vocabulary
  6. Justifying a new idea

The children work together as a group rather than individually. They talk and listen to each other, while justifying what they think and, where appropriate, they will be challenging what others think. The activities are designed to be done in a given order as they tend to increase in complexity, although it is not essential to stick to the order, or to do them all.

ISBN: 978-0995481121



  • Children learn to talk effectively in groups.
  • Children learn to link scientific ideas with evidence.
  • Pupil participation is high, including SEN and EAL children.
  • Assessment for learning opportunities are built in.

Teaching children to think and explain their scientific ideas provides opportunities for them to explore why they believe something to be true. Children often accept given ideas as truths without having the chance to consider why they might be true, or whether alternative explanations may exist. This makes it very difficult for children to explain their ideas to anybody else.

Equally, children need opportunities to consider and explain why they think an idea might be wrong. The conflict between children’s everyday experiences and the experience in the classroom is often inadequately explored. Without the chance to consider their ‘wrong’ ideas, it is difficult for children to give these ideas up.

By constructing their own explanations, children have the chance to explore scientific terminology and use it with genuine understanding. Children might learn to use scientific words but not actually know what they mean, or they might find using the scientific vocabulary hinders their understanding of concepts. Learning science through argument will present children with opportunities to establish a shared language of science, where new vocabulary is used with understanding.


Supporting the development of effective group talk skills

These resources are free to download:

  • Developing talk skills: a video introduction to developing group talk skills and to using “I can explain!”
  • Organising group talk
  • Vocabulary of discussion
  • Activities for developing talk skills
  • Language prompts


Organising group talk



Vocabulary of discussion



Activities for developing talk skills



Language prompts


Safety Notice and Disclaimer

PSTT advises teachers to refer to either the CLEAPSS website or SSERC website for up to date health and safety information when planning practical activities for children.

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.