Teaching Design and Technology 3 – 11


Douglas Newton

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Biographical Note

    Douglas Newton taught in schools for more than two decades before training teachers at Newcastle University where he is a professor. He is an inventor himself and has written several very successful books on science and technology education and has received awards for his work. He is also a Professional Fellow at Durham University where he contributes to the science and technology training of undergraduate and postgraduate trainee teachers. His research is largely to do with strategies that support understanding, particularly in connection with learning science and technology. Professor Newton's numerous publications have attracted a worldwide readership and have been translated into other languages.


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    Since the publication of Design and Technology 5 to 12 by Williams and Jinks in 1985, there have been hundreds of books written about Design and Technology in primary schools. I have read a considerable number of these books and they range from the very ordinary to those of high quality. Doug Newton's book fits into the latter category.

    From the opening chapter, where Doug looks at Design and Technology from a practical problem-solving point of view, through his description of designing and making as a ‘rather erratic and messy process involving false starts’, Doug displays a clear understanding of this most fascinating subject. His comment in the final chapter that ‘D&T can benefit from a guardian and a champion, someone showing diplomacy, forethought and the skills of persuasion’ demonstrates his clear, sympathetic understanding of a subject still trying to establish a secure place in the primary school curriculum. This book is packed full of sound advice and good ideas interlaced with the essence of what Design and Technology in primary schools should be. The middle chapters provide a plethora of imaginative design and make activities for children across the age range 3 – 11; they are divided into the age bands 3 – 5, 5 – 7, and 7 – 11. It is difficult to bring to mind other publications that offer more opportunities across a range of starting points covering materials appropriate to the age of the children.

    Whether you are a student working your way through an initial teacher training course, recently qualified facing the onerous task of delivering the subjects of the National Curriculum or a seasoned primary school practitioner, this book will be a most welcome addition to your list of curriculum subject favourites. I wish Doug success with his book and all primary school teachers success in their classrooms.


    Jerwood Laureate for contributions to Design and Technology Education


    A concern for technology teaching and for the plight of teachers (trainee, newly-qualified and experienced) working with children between 3 and 11 years of age has led to this book. It is a practical book which gives you what you need so you can fit in with the teaching in your school. I have avoided approaches that would make your teaching abnormal or eccentric and I have omitted esoteric debate that tells us little about the practicalities of the classroom. I see this as essential for hard pressed trainees and it is no less important for newly-qualified teachers who may have had no more than a taste of training in technology teaching, if that. The need to develop skills in this area is likely to figure in their plans for professional development. More experienced teachers will find the book useful both as a source of ideas and to add to their thoughts about what technology education can be about.

    Technology makes Western life what it is. Love it or hate it, that is reality. People have no urgent wish to put on home-cured skins, boil pots of gruel over open fires or cauterize wounds in the kitchen with hot pokers. They generally prefer technology's convenience, comfort and help. Children meet this technological world even as they are born and should be prepared for an adult life in it, prepared to make the most of what is good about it and prepared to reject what is not. This is not a matter of telling them what is good and bad. In the real world, few things are black or white and, even if they were, technology changes so children must be equipped to make up their own minds. Growing up with technology tends to make them take it for granted. Being taught Design and Technology can open children's eyes to it and begin to develop their critical faculties. At the same time, it can help dispel stereotyped thinking. Images of activities that are ‘right’ for men and ‘wrong’ for women and ‘right’ for women and ‘wrong’ for men begin to develop very early, even in five and six year olds. They can be well-established and hard to change once children reach the secondary school. An early start gives you a chance to help children widen their horizons and realize their potential, instead of denying themselves opportunities on irrational grounds.

    But technology has still more to offer. In England, for instance, the National Primary Strategy: Excellence and Enjoyment (2003), expresses the concern that children should have significant opportunities to be creative. Design and Technology can make a major contribution to those opportunities as it is about solving practical problems, an activity that exercises creativity. Amongst the school subjects, few can make such a clear and unambiguous claim and to ignore the creativity involved in practical problem-solving would be to neglect a dimension that is within the grasp of most of us. This kind of creativity has a direct relevance to the everyday life of the child and the adult. It may help to foster an independence of thought and action that helps children make the most of their abilities and avoid exploitation and manipulation.

    Given what technology has to offer, it is disappointing to find that it can be neglected. For instance, when schools find that they must give more time elsewhere, as to literacy and numeracy, technology tends to have time whittled from it and is pushed into a corner of the curriculum. Even science, a subject that can underpin much activity in technology, can suffer in this way. At the same time, although primary school teachers have to teach technology, it is astonishing that it can be optional in their training. Inevitably, many training institutions offer only a ‘taster’ course amounting to a day or two of instruction, if that. Books like this may be the only kind of training some teachers receive in this aspect of the curriculum. I hope it helps.

    A Note on Safety

    You must ensure that the activities you provide for children are safe and comply with national and local regulations and recommendations. You must assess for yourself any risks associated with activities taking into account the children's attributes, the materials, the equipment and the context and then act appropriately. The author and publisher do not accept responsibility for this nor for any loss (however caused) arising from the practice of any suggestions, procedures or activities described in this book.

  • Appendix

    The following pages show some sheets that may support children in their thinking about various processes in design and technology. By their nature, worksheets are better suited to children who can read and write fairly well. You could use them as they are or adapt them to suit your needs or make them more specific to suit a particular task. You could also, of course, simply use them as examples and devise your own materials.

    These pages are not meant to replace you and your talk with the children. They may help you give more time where it is needed but your personal interaction can be very important for the quality of learning. Nor are these pages meant to be ends in themselves – merely products for marking. They are to help the children design and make thoughtfully.

    The final photocopiable pages are for you to use when planning activities. Step-by-step instructions are included.

    Tell Me about the Story

    Tell Me about the Problem

    The ‘How Many Ways?’ Game

    This is a game for two people. The aim is to collect as many points as you can.

    Step 1

    Cut out the shape by cutting along the lines.

    Fold the shape along the lines that are left to make a cube.

    Fix the sides in place using adhesive tape.

    Step 2

    Decide who goes first by tossing a coin. The one who gets heads goes first.

    Step 3

    Each person throws the cube and answers the question that comes up on the top. If they can do that, they get the points it says on those sides. They put crosses on that side if they answer correctly. Remember how many you score each time.

    Step 4

    Throw the cube again. If it comes up with a side on top that has a cross on it, throw it again. You answer questions only on sides without crosses.

    The winner is the one with most points.

    What Will I do?

    Sorting Out My Idea

    How I Will Make My Idea

    My Plan

    Getting Ready

    How did I do?

    Planning Activities

    The next photocopiable sheets provide a structure for your planning of practical activities. The first is to use when planning for 3 – 5 year olds. The second is to use when planning for 5 – 11 year olds. You may find it effective to proceed as follows:

    Step 1: Decide what the learning opportunities/targets are to support progress. List these briefly in the box provided.

    Step 2: Select or devise activities that will provide the learning opportunities (see, for instance, Chapters 4, 5 and 6). Note them in the Activity or Focused activity and Designing and making activity boxes. Think through each activity and consider carefully health and safety matters and ensure the well-being of the children and others at all times.

    Step 3: Consider the prior experience and knowledge the children might draw on in the activity. Note this in the Prior experience or Knowledge resource box. Ask yourself if you need to remind the children of it or develop it prior to introducing them to the activities. You may be able to do this naturally in the context of other activities or another subject, such as science.

    Step 4: Now think of interesting, motivating starting points or contexts for introducing or embedding the activities and note them under Starting points or Contexts.

    Step 5: Next, ask yourself how you will bring together and round off the children's learning. Enter this in the box for the Follow-up or Closing event. If it involves practical work, ensure that health and safety matters are taken into account.

    Step 6: Any ideas you have for related ‘Talkabouts’ to use later in a spare few minutes or as another lesson (see Chapter 7), note them in the box, Talkabouts. (These may appear in the Follow-up or Closing event boxes if you intend to use them immediately after the activities. Note that there may be times when they could be used to remind or develop experience, knowledge and know-how, so could introduce the topic.)

    Planning: 3 — 5 years
    Planning: 5 — 7 years


    Awdry, W. (1946) Thomas the Tank Engine, Heinemann, London.
    Davies, K. (1994) Amelia Earhart flies around the World, Zoe Books, Winchester.
    DfES (2003) National Primary Strategy: Excellence and Enjoyment, DfES Publications, Annesley, Nottingham.
    Carle, E. (1971) The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hamish Hamilton, London.
    Keillor, G. (1988) Leaving Home, Faber and Faber, London.
    Koestler, A. (1968) The Sleepwalkers, Hutchinson, London.
    Lindbergh, R. (1998) Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman, Walker Books, London.
    Milne, A.A. (1999) The House at Pooh Corner, Egmont Chidren's Books, London.
    Milne, A.A. (1999) ‘A New House for Eeyore’, in The House at Pooh Corner, Egmont Children's Books, London.
    Nesbit, E. (1960) The Railway Children, Penguin, Harmondsworth.
    Peppé, R. (1986) The Mice and the Clockwork Bus, Viking Kestrel, Harmondsworth.
    Saxon, V. (1998) Flik the Inventor, Disney Enterprises, London.
    Scarry, R. (1996) Busytown Race Day, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, New York.

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