Living Things and Their Habitats Year 5: Mapping Prior Knowledge

Teaching living Things and Their Habitats Year 5? In this blog post, we explore how pupils’ pre-existing knowledge can help them better understand the unit. In part 2, we’ll organise new knowledge and look at ways to embed learning. Finally, we’ll discuss strategies to teach the necessary scientific vocabulary. For more information about the resources mentioned in the article, click here.

According to David Ausubel, The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.

The more you already know about a topic, the easier it is to learn something new about it. Prior knowledge from within and outside of science can help pupils understand Living Things and Their Habitats Year 4 better. In particular, we will look at four types of pre-existing knowledge that can be used to develop understanding.

  1. Subject-specific
  2. Cross-curricular
  3. Cultural and social experiences
  4. Misconceptions

Subject-specific Prior Knowledge

Firstly pupils in key stage 1 are familiar with common animals and plants, their parts and simple functions. Additionally, in previous key stage 2 units, their teachers taught them how plants and animals affect each other’s lives and habitats. So, this will help them to understand how plants and animals are adapted to survive during the different stages of their life cycles.

As well as this, they were taught sexual reproduction in flowering plants and humans. In this case, they were taught that plants and animals need two parents to reproduce. Now, we expect them to extend this to sexual reproduction in other types of plants and animals in year 5. We also teach them about asexual reproduction, which only needs one parent.

2. Cross-Curricular Prior Knowledge

Secondly, children can use their knowledge from other subjects to help them understand science.

  • Geography: Pupils learn about different habitats and how natural processes like seasonal change, earthquakes, and volcanoes affect living things.
  • Maths: Pupils create tables and charts, which can be used to compare gestation periods and life expectancies in science.
  • English: Pupils use techniques for reading non-fiction texts and descriptive writing, such as comparatives and superlatives when looking at similarities and differences.
  • Art: Children present their scientific ideas creatively through problem-solving and critical thinking. They can represent their ideas in the styles of a particular artist they are studying, like Picasso.

3. Using personal And Cultural experiences

Thirdly, we can also use children’s wider personal and cultural experiences to develop a better understanding of the topic. We call this Hinterland knowledge. For example, in the booklet, we learn about the experience of the young bear cub. This helps pupils understand that wild mammals are also fed milk, not just humans. The Komodo dragon who reproduced without having mated with a male reinforces the fact that it’s not only plants that reproduce asexually.

It’s important not to overuse these experiences and to keep them relevant to the topic. By doing this, we can help children make strong connections between their personal experiences and the concepts they are learning, which leads to a deeper understanding and engagement with the material.

4. Misconceptions In Living Things and Their Habitats Year 5

Finally, misunderstandings, cultural beliefs, or even previous teaching can create misconceptions. It’s important to prepare for this by being aware of this inaccurate or incomplete pre-existing knowledge. That way, we can identify and address them as early as possible. If we don’t, pupils build incorrect schema and can’t correctly apply what they’ve learned to new experiences.

Some examples of common misconceptions in Living Things and Their Habitats Year 5, are shown below:

As educators, it’s important to identify and address these misconceptions as early as possible. If we don’t, pupils build incorrect schema and can’t correctly apply what they’ve learned to new experiences.

Key Takeaways

Teaching science to children can be made easier by using pre-existing knowledge to deepen their understanding of the topic. By making connections with other subjects, using personal and cultural experiences, and addressing misconceptions in pre-existing knowledge, we can help children build a strong foundation of knowledge that they can apply to Living Things and Their Habitats Year 5.

Action Points for Improving Understanding in Living Things and Their Habitats Year 5

Use these tips to enhance your teaching and make learning a more enriching experience for your students. You can download a copy here.