Conceptualizing in the Classroom

conceptStudents need to see the big picture in order to move into deep learning.  In the book Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making authors Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver provide the following tools for helping students conceptualize ideas in the classroom in order to learn at greater depths:

  1. Concept attainment – Teachers encourage students to define concepts using inductive processes and by comparing examples and non-examples.  Think about our large scale concept of collaboration. Students would ask questions to further understand the concept. You might show a picture of two people working independently as a non-example, and then show a picture of people working together as an example. 
  2. Concept definition map – Teachers encourage students to visually depict and further clarify the concept being studied.  Students can update and adapt the definition map as they learn more. If students were to define collaboration, they might use synonyms, brief descriptions of positive collaborations, and show pictures of people working together.
  3. A study in . . . Teachers use “a study in” to help students understand the larger concepts being examined in the unit or lessons presented.  Thinking again about the concept of collaboration, teachers may indicate that a musical duet (specific) is a study in collaboration (larger concept).
  4. Adding up the facts – Teachers help students understand that facts help construct the large scale concepts being studied.  Continuing with our subject of collaboration, students might list increased problem solving, increased communication, and increased efficiency as facts that add up to the sum of collaboration in the workplace is a positive thing.
  5. Connect-the-concepts – Teachers encourage students to connect relationships in and around the concepts under examination.   An example of connecting concepts might be a statement such as communication fosters collaboration.  

As you prepare for next week, identify the concepts you will explore with your students.  Consider how these five tools might be used to help clarify the concepts for your students, and use them as you are able.  Your students will benefit greatly from your efforts!

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