Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science, Vol. 1
by Page Keeley

Price at time of review: $29.95
123 pp.
NSTA Press
Arlington, VA
ISBN: 9781936959518

Grade Level: K-2

Reviewed by Kathy Renfrew
Elementary Science & Math Specialist

Wow! Page Keeley has done it again. This time, Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science begins to fill a huge gap in the formative assessment realm for primary teachers. This book will be invaluable to teachers striving to understand children’s ideas about a science topic.

The format of these probes is developmentally appropriate for young children. Each of the probes contains a visual representation of the topic, with some of the probe being concept cartoons. It will soon be clear to the reader that while the author understands the research that young children are cognitively capable in science, she also values the fact that they are young children and knows that visuals and dialogue will enhance their learning in science. The introduction to this book provides access to important parts of quality science instruction. I appreciate how this section introduces the teacher of young children to how a probe could be used in his/her classroom.

Another important component of the introduction is Table 2 which provides a link between the formative assessment probes and the science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards. And there is more...Keeley has made an explicit connection between the formative assessment probes and using discourse as part of science instruction. The Common Core Speaking & Listening standards are also explicitly linked to the formative assessment probes. Each probe is its own chapter in the book and they are all written in the same format, making it easy for teachers because no matter what probe they choose, it will be laid out in the same format. The probe itself is the first page of the chapter followed by the Teacher Notes. Those notes include: the purpose, related concepts, an explanation, curricular and instructional considerations, and much more.

Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science is very self–contained. It is loaded with good information for primary teachers striving to provide quality science instruction in their classrooms. The Eleanor Duckworth quote which opens the Introduction says it all, “The having of wonderful ideas is what I consider the essence of intellectual development.”

Review posted on 8/5/2013

Customer Reviews
A valuable resource!
  Reviewed by: Erin Orth on June 5, 2016
  This guide for primary elementary teachers will be a valuable resource for those looking to utilize formative assessment strategies in their science classrooms. Organized by the three science domains, Life Science, Physical Science and Earth and Space Science, each section provides several probes that each address different concepts within the domain. A concept matrix is included at the start of each section to help teachers in selecting appropriate probes. Each student probe comes with information for the teacher including its purpose, related concepts, explanations, curricular connections, and suggestions for administering as well as for further instruction or assessment. The purpose of these probes is to allow the teacher to gather valuable information regarding his/her students’ prior knowledge and/or misconceptions of science content. The probes are open-ended, many of them beginning with a question and/or a picture and then finishing with “What are you thinking?”. Students’ responses and justification provide insight into their ideas and allow teachers to plan further differentiated instruction to help students construct meaning. These probes can also be used to assess students after learning content, to help determine if more instruction is needed to address gaps and misconceptions. I have used several of the probes in my own science classroom and have found the book to be very user-friendly. There is little preparation of materials needed to administer most of the probes. For example, the probe ‘Is It Matter?’ only involves copying the sheet with the question and pictures, though one can always choose to provide actual materials along with the sheet if they wish. The ensuing discussion and the students’ written responses helped me to determine what ideas they already had about matter, and if any of them realized that EVERYTHING is matter (none did at the beginning). I was able to plan future instruction based on what I had learned from this simple probe, and used it again at the end of our lessons on matter. It was interesting to have the students compare their ideas from the beginning of the unit to those at the end of the unit to see how they had changed. I would highly recommend this book to any elementary teacher! Ready-made, inquiry-based formative assessments are a great tool that will help you plan appropriate science instruction based on your students’ needs. A bonus - there are several volumes in this series, including a set for K-12 students as well. They are definitely worth checking out!

Great Resource for Teaching Science
  Reviewed by: Emily C on June 22, 2014
  One key point that drew my interest of this particular book was that it was created with the intent of helping teachers teach more effectively by starting with students' ideas and adapting instruction to support conceptual change. The material provided in this book is targeted for students in grades K-2. The content is divided into three sections: Life science, Physical science, and Earth science. Each probe is followed by a section called Teacher Notes which gives ample information on how to deliver the probe, suggestions for assessment, other related information, as well as additional resources that can be used in addition to the probe. Overall, I feel this is a great purchase for any beginning or experienced teacher looking for some new ideas for teaching science in the primary classroom.

If you wish to add your review, click here.