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What is Concept Based Instruction?

Concept Based Instruction? Is this just a new fad? Hoping it will pass and nothing will change? This is the new direction in education and we believe is here to stay even if it isn’t mandated. It just makes sense! It took us awhile to wrap our heads around what this looks like in a classroom…practically. And we are still learning! Here is what we’ve learned so far.

What is it?
Concept based instruction focuses on using content (topics, facts, and skills) to uncover the actual learning concept and the relationship between different concepts. It is multi-dimensional and looks at what students need to know, understand and do. The learning of overarching concepts helps students to transfer the learning to new situations. The goal is to get students to think at higher levels, to have students move from just learning facts to being able to make generalizations that apply to new learning. Familiar with Understanding by Design? Planning concept based instruction parallels backwards design. Familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy? Concept based instruction includes different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

What does “concept” mean?
A concept refers to a big idea that students must understand and not just know and do. It is abstract, timeless and universal. For example, a traditional unit of study might include the study of the War of 1812, or World War I or World War II.  Using a concept based approach, the concept could be: power, technology, conflict or identity (among other possibilities).  If identity was the chosen concept then the big idea could be framed as:  War can shape the way a country thinks about itself and the way other people perceive it. If technology was the chosen concept then the big idea could be framed as: Technology can change the outcomes of war over time. In both of these examples the War of 1812, World War I and World War II are used as ‘case studies’ to exemplify the chosen concept.

This post just barely scratches the surface but gets us thinking about the idea of concept based instruction. We will be exploring the different aspects of concept based teaching in a series of short posts. What do you already know about concept based instruction? What are you hoping to learn? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Books Language Arts Professional Learning Reading Research Skills

Research Skills: Text Features

How often do you give your students a book and they can’t find any information in it? It seems if a page isn’t blinking and flashing they can’t seem to work it. Explicitly teaching text features can help your students understand how to process information better. This won’t just help with their reading, but it will help with all of their research, following directions and locating information quickly in all their subject areas. Continue Reading

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Interactive Math Notebooks Representing Numbers

We use interactive notebooks in our math class. We have found creating a reference book of concepts and procedures that students can refer to when working in math helps them build confidence and develop independence.

We’re not going to lie. They are a lot of work, but the working is meaningful. We found on average our math grades improved and students were able to retain more of their learning year over year.

Our notebooks are created using two pages for each concept. Continue Reading

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Five Things We Learned From Interactive Notebooks

When a colleague told me we should try interactive notebooks in math, we agreed and then went on our merry ways and did math the same old way for another year, so at the end of that school year, she approached us again and DEMANDED we buy this Interactive Math Journal by Jen Runde. We took a look, bought it and then went on summer vacation. Near the end of the summer I opened it up and it CHANGED MY WORLD. I will never teach math the same way again. That being said, there are a few things I learned and will change for the upcoming year to get the most of math journals.

Interactive math notebooks are an investment, but like all good investments they take time to show a good return. Patience is the key! They take time, but they result in deeper understanding, so here are some things you need to consider before starting your interactive math notebook journey.

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Research Skills: The Library

When you want to do research in your school library do you often find your school just can’t afford the resources (or even the librarian) you need? This is why so often we take our students online to do research. In doing this, we often teach students that libraries are not a valuable resource because nothing could be further than the truth.  Continue Reading

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What About Critical Thinking Challenges?

What do you do when you want to challenge students, but you also want them to learn? We give them critical thinking challenges. Critical thing requires many skills-problem solving, collaboration, design thinking, and perseverance. When a critical thinking question is carefully crafted, you can get students to explore learning outcomes while having fun and being engaged in their learning at the same time. Continue Reading

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Why You Should Give Students Choices

How would you feel if you knew you were a wonderful writer but the only way you could express yourself was through modern dance? What would you do if you have to recite your report card comments by memory to each and every parent? How would you feel if you were given the choice to write your report cards any way YOU want? (Ours would be invisible!)

Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that make you want to write the best report cards the world has ever seen?

So why are we so determined as teachers that there’s only one way to assess our students? Why can’t they have choices too? Continue Reading

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Work Through the Design Process

Here’s a quick lesson you can do with your students to learn how to use your Makerspace while teaching students to enjoy the process.

Give your students a selection of pieces. These can be any material you have available. We used bottle caps, straws, tape, index cards and string. We also had scissors available. You can use these materials or use what you have in your Makerspace. The items should be flexible enough to let students explore. Continue Reading