Thursday, September 19, 2013

Using Concept-Based Charts to Focus on Conceptual Goals

While my previous post looked at students using facts skillfully based on what students should be able to do, we must also be supporting students in their development of conceptual ideas.  (Jeffco teachers will notice that report cards elevate these two descriptors as 1) demonstrates understanding of social studies concepts and content and 2) applies skills and processes of social studies effectively...see the blog post that digs into those descriptors.)

Conceptually speaking, every content area has its most significant concepts.  The most significant concepts of a content can be seen as big ideas or as organizing concepts.  In addition, essential questions are written so students apply inquiry to uncover what we want students to understand.

As a classroom tool, teachers might consider creating a chart that communicates all of the concepts for a unit.  The essential questions can be used to help students and teachers stay focused on the unit's conceptual goals, while the words and phrases (big ideas and organizing concepts) can be included to help students and teachers discuss and use the conceptual language of history, geography, economics, and civics. If we build expectations around the regular use of academic vocabulary, then students will eventually view the use of academic vocabulary as the norm.

Some of you might be interested in looking at the framework for Preschool-12th grade Social Studies. This 

For teachers interested in viewing examples of the social studies concept-based classroom charts by grade level, access the appropriate grade level document.


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