Introducing Concepts in Practical Ways

As many US teachers are not used to teaching concept-based curriculum, they may need assistance, ongoing modelling and professional development to support their attempts. In addition, in order to ensure that concepts are taught in a variety of ways, teachers can vary the ways concepts are introduced and taught. The teacher should thoughtfully plan how to introduce the concept to students so that it is relevant, meaningful and interesting to their students. The following are suggested activities for introducing a concept for a unit of study:

  • • Draw or sculpt the concept or related concept. This open-ended task allows students to draw either abstract or literal representations of the concept. For example, for the concept of power, students may draw a light bulb representing the literal idea of electrical power, or a pen, representing the more abstract idea of the power of an idea in writing.
  • • Apply Taba’s (1967) concept formation strategy:
    • 1. Create a list of 20-25 examples of the concept.
    • 2. Develop several non-examples of the concept.
    • 3. Examine patterns of the examples and sort them into three or four categories and label the categories.
    • 4. Develop broad generalisation statements about the concept based on the examples and categories created.
  • • Provide a list of several quotes related to the concept. Students paraphrase a quote into their own words, create a drawing or symbol to go with the quote and share their idea with the class relating it back to the conceptual theme.
  • • Ask students to brainstorm a list of several movies, stories or events that relate to the concept studied. Then, ask students to examine the list for patterns and similarities across their ideas.
  • • Ask students to define the concept in their own words and then explore various dictionary definitions of the word and related words. Examine the positive and negative connotations of these words and the nuances in meaning. This may lead to insightful discussion as students explore issues such as “Is truth the same as reality?” or “Is freedom the same as autonomy?”
  • • Show a series of short movie clips related to the concept. Several websites have searchable video clips sorted by theme (e.g. After viewing the clips, students develop broad generalisation statements about the concept.
  • • Students create similes and metaphors to make comparisons between abstract ideas and concrete details. This task was presented within a unit on truth. Student responses included:
  • - “Truth is like the binary computer coding system — it can either be a 0 or 1; truth either is true reality or it is not.”
  • - “Truth is like sweet and sour candy — it can be hurtful (sour) and beneficial (sweet) at the same time.”
  • • Ask students to complete a forced association (synectics) to demonstrate their understanding of the concept (Gordon, 1961). For example, ask, “How is truth like a tree?”
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