Fears, Rules, Words, Questions

A quick lesson description here; I’ve been far too focused on political stuff recently. I thought I’d blogged this before, but apparently not. (And while I’m reviewing – 120 posts. Yeah, really.)

Anyway. It’s the time of year, after summative exams for our KS3 classes, that we teach Reproduction to year 7.

Stop giggling at the back there!

This is my approach to starting off what can be a challenging topic. It comes with no guarantee, and you need to be pretty confident – especially with the ‘Words’ section. Of course, you can adapt or use parts of it, and probably already do. I’ve found that the combination works pretty well, so far at least. I assure them before we start that there will be no practical work during the topic.


“What might make a student nervous about this topic?” I ask. I am careful not to ask why they are scared. They discuss it, then I write their ideas up on the board, rewording as needed, and ask the class to write the bullet points down. There are no solutions, yet. This is to identify potential problems, and it’s fairly easy to predict what will show up. “People laughing at me/what I know/what I don’t know/what I say” is usually near the top of the list. “Being taught with boys/girls” is another. It’s usually straightforward to adapt one of the comments to be “People making it personal” or something similar.


I remind the students of the rules we have agreed and followed all year. We talk about how applying these will solve some of the problems, but that it’s worth having specific Dos and Don’ts for the topic. Your students probably did something similar in PSHE. After a few minutes discussion time, we draft some fresh rules, ticking off the fears as we go. It’s easy to include something about the language we will use – sometimes I do the Words exercise below first. Addressing the ‘personal comments/questions’ fear is a good chance to remind students of trusted adults, in and out of school, who are good people to turn to for individual worries. I emphasize that what we do in Science will be Biology, rather than the ‘social’ side of reproduction. Again, students write the rules down. It’s then time to put away folders.


I write ‘F***’ on the board, with asterisks, and explain over the gasps and giggles that we all know which word this is. I then point out that all kinds of words can be used in all kinds of situations that link to this topic, and invite them to suggest them. Anything. No holds barred. Everything gets written on the board. Keep a straight face – I raise an eyebrow over the more obscure or silly ones, but have so far managed not to laugh or let my horror show. (I mean, they’re eleven. You’ll be surprised.) If needed I remind them that we’re considering words used by people of all ages, and prompt them to think about a primary school child’s language.

I then circle the ‘polite’ words and explain that we can consider these as ‘classroom English’. These are scientific language, so no need to blush or be embarrassed by the word (even if the body part would be shocking). These aren’t used as insults or swear words, so less mature students won’t get distracted from learning. I also point out how odd it is that some body parts owned by half the human race are used as insults.

Important: clean the board very thoroughly. 🙂


I give each student a piece of paper and ask them to spread out, as if doing a test. This is their chance to ask a question about the topic. It might be something they’ve always wondered about, or something they’ve heard in the playground, or anything. Everyone has to write something, even if it’s a line from a song or a quote from a film. This means that nobody will know who’s asked a question at all, let alone who asked which one. As they write I explain that I won’t answer them now, but make sure that where needed I’ll address the issue while teaching the topic. Many of them, of course, will not write a question. Those that do, ask questions that probably would have been answered anyway. But it means they feel involved. And as I collect them from the box they’ve been put into, I assure them that we’ll repeat this exercise at the end of the topic.


Obviously this is only one way to start a topic which is guaranteed to get some giggles. I’d be interested in other approaches, obviously. And I’ll try to make sure a few more posts are pedagogy-relevant before I get overwhelmed with something political again!

Speaking of which, I’m seeking volunteers who would like to contribute thoughts, comments, criticisms on Science controlled assessments at GCSE. I’m going to blog my thoughts in a little while, inspired by the current call for evidence from Ofqual, but I’ve no experience with boards other than AQA. It’ll either be one epic post or more likely a series, one for each board. So if you’re interested in a guest post (or just a link to your blog!) please get in touch, by email or twitter.


3 thoughts on “Fears, Rules, Words, Questions”

  1. I’ve never discussed what fears they might have so I’ll try using that tactic next year and see how it goes, cheers.

    This year (as I’ve always taught it at the beginning of Yr7 when they’re almost CERTAINLY eleven) I had the unique position of talking about MY pregnancy whilst delivering the topic and it seemed to make the topic a little bit more “real” for the students. We could talk about how my baby was getting nutrients and how my baby was pushing my organs out of the way.

    Luckily none of them linked what I’d HAD to have done to be in that situation in the first place ;-D


  2. This topic was the first lesson I ever taught as a trainee teacher – I would NEVER do this to my trainees now!! – I only wish I had been able to read this post all those years ago, it may have saved mine and the pupils’ blushes!!

  3. In recent years most of my Yr 7 students have been very comfortable asking all sorts of questions without taking the option of the anonymous questions box! I make a point of talking about ideas through history and how people weren’t stupid, they just didn’t have the evidence to help them think otherwise! I invite the children to talk to their parents about what stories they had been told, but as some individuals have parents who might not be so comfortable discussing this with them I make sure all children know it’s an optional discussion to have with an older relative if they can..
    And I can’t resist getting them to think for a moment about what their Mum and Dad did to get them here. Just love the looks on their faces when it clicks!

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