Monday, September 24, 2018

Tidy and Sort: Investigating the properties of materials

Full details of the activity can be found in the CIEC resource 'Tidy and Sort' which can be downloaded from
This resource contains lots of ideas for separating different mixtures of materials from each other.  It would be a wonderful way to teach the materials strand of the science curriculum for Y1 or to introduce and then extend the topic with Y2s.

The Activity: Sorting Materials
  • Children are given a series of problems to solve including separating paper clips from stamps, Lego from marbles and rice from sand.
  • They are supported to consider how the different properties of the materials including their size, shape and whether they are magnetic, can all be used to make the job of separating materials much easier than laboriously separating them out by hand.
The resource has some lovely illustrations, in the form of a story book, which can be used as a starting point for children's explorations.
  • The activities also give children the opportunity to select and use a variety of scientific equipment.

  • There are a series of challenges of increasing complexity so that by the end children are invited to consider how they could separate the impurities from muddy water.

Cards to support children's thinking and planning
  • Although ideas are given for ways to separate the different mixtures we would encourage teachers to give children enough time to find their own solutions.  This may include introducing a problem one day and going back to it later once children have had a chance to think about it.  
  • A nice way to do this is to set up a hands on display in the classroom that children can return to as they have fresh ideas.  Don't make the mistake of providing too much equipment straight away; it 'kinda' gives the game away if you leave a magnet next to the box of stamps and paper clips!
  • Having given the children plenty of time to consider the problems you are more likely to see a wider range of creative solutions than if they are expected to solve the problem on the day that they first encounter it.
Y1 Everyday materials:
  • distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made
  • describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials
Working scientifically:
  • ask simple questions
  • observe closely, using simple equipment
  • perform simple tests
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions

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