Keeping the Concept Alive – Part II: Planning with the Concept in Mind

Last time we talked about the importance of tuning-in to the Key Concept and looked at the importance for all learners – students, teachers, administrators, coordinators, councillors, parents – to tune-in to the Key Concepts. 

Today, we will take a look at how to keep the Key Concept alive throughout the unit by planning with the concept in mind.

Step 1. Connect the content to the concepts: 

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Once teachers have tuned-in to their Subject’s Key Concepts, they need to opportunity to find out more about the Concept. For this, our teachers went straight to the source. Using MYP: From Principles into Practice our teachers were able to find out IB’s definition of their Key Concepts. This process however, is not as valuable without the step of sorting out this information. Once they had found out the definition of each of their subject’s Key Concepts, our teachers extracted some of the key words from the definition. Looking at these key words, they jotted down some ways in which that key piece of their concept could be brought to life via the content of their classrooms. This finding out/sorting out phase has provided our teachers with the beginning of planning tool that they can use continually connect their curricular content to their Key Concept and, hopefully, keep the concept alive throughout the course of their units.

Step 2. Devise a concept-driven summative: 

It is important not to lose sight of the concept when you are devising a summative assessment. For example, a math unit using the Key Concept of Relationships whose summative assessment is a multiple choice test about factoring binomials, will have a hard time in keeping the concept alive. In order for the students to get the most out of their journey with concepts, they need the opportunity to apply their newly refined conceptual understanding in a meaningful way. In my opinion, the best concept-driven assessments make explicit reference to the concepts itself. A good place to start is by using the following framework – “How does your understanding of [insert content area here] contribute to your understanding of [insert Key Concept here]”. How students demonstrate this understanding is up to you…or, to create a more meaningful experience, leave that up to the student. Explicitly connecting the concept to the summative assessment will help you avoid the concept getting lost during the course of the unit.

Step 3. Plot a road map to get there…but do it in pencil: 

Once you have connected your curricular content and the Key Concept and have planned an opportunity for the students to demonstrate their newly refined understanding of the concept, the final step is designing a loose plan of how you will guide your students towards greater conceptual understanding. At our school, we follow Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle as a means to provide a framework for our inquiries into the concepts. Be willing to provide your students with support and guidance, but also be willing to allow their questions to drive the unit – this questioning can only deepen their connection to and understanding of the concepts

Next step? Taking a look at how exactly one of our teachers is keeping the concept alive throughout a unit.

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