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How to set up an experiment

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By Bev Longeducational consultant

Technical Development by Cambridge English Online Ltd

This on-screen resource allows children to practise sequencing skills in a practical, scientific context. They are invited to select equipment and sequence instructions for a floating and sinking experiment. They can then carry out a virtual trial experiment on screen and record predictions and results.


This resource is ideal for use before carrying out a real experiment on floating and sinking. Children can work individually or in pairs to support discussion.

Shared teaching and learning


  • Find out what the children already know about floating and sinking. Talk about objects that need to float or sink to work properly – boats, surfboards, submarines. Ensure that all children understand and can use the terms floating and sinking correctly.
  • Talk about previous science experiments performed. Prompt the children to think about the process, decision-making and recording involved.
  • Collect the objects used in the experiment: a cork, plastic tub, carrot, egg, metal car, pencil and an apple. Allow the children to handle these before they record their predictions on the on-screen prediction sheet.
  • After the children have used the on-screen resource, they will need to have access to a range of objects and materials that they can use in their own practical experiments.

Previous learning

Children should be able to: use talk to organise and sequence ideas and events; extend their vocabulary; attempt writing for different purposes, such as instructions.

Using the resource

  • Click on the letter to the professor to open it and provide support for the children to read it.
  • Clicking on the RSVP response will cause a speech bubble to appear. Again, provide support, if necessary, for the children to read this.
  • A further click on the sign on the laboratory door will take the children to the next screen where they are invited to help the professor set up an on-screen experiment by choosing the right equipment. When they select a ‘correct’ piece of equipment, a label pops up. Help the children to read each label and discuss what that piece of equipment would be used for.
  • Clicking ‘next’ takes the children to the next screen where they can complete a sentence sequencing activity. They must drag and drop the instructions on the page of the professor’s notebook into the correct order. Some sentences begin with sequencing connectives which can be used as a prompt. If children try to place sentences into the wrong order, they will bounce back.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To follow instructions accurately;
  • To make predictions;
  • To write chronological texts;
  • To use simple signposts in a text;
  • To give some reasons why things happen.
  • When the instructions are correct, the children can carry out a trial on-screen experiment, by dragging and dropping each object shown into the water tub to see if it floats or sinks. They are asked to first record their prediction and then their results for each object.

Follow-up activity

Using the instructions from the on-screen resource, support the children to set up and carry out their own experiments, testing a variety of everyday classroom objects, materials and containers, toys and fruit and vegetables. Use the activity sheet to record their results.


  • As a class, discuss whether the experiment was fair. What might have made the experiment better? Could they have tested more objects?
  • Look again at the instructions in the on-screen resource. Ask the children to highlight the sequencing words. How well did the on-screen instructions match the real tests? Could the instructions be made more helpful?
  • Model how you would rewrite the instructions using the past tense to describe what you did in the experiment.