Q&A #4536

Concrete to conceptual transition

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Aug 30, 2000 at 18:35:17
Subject: Re: Concrete to conceptual transition

You have asked a very difficult question to answer. I say difficult because this is the basis of what education is all about. As teachers we generally choose examples and the concrete to present what we wish children to learn. Unfortunately, when we talk about a "sailboat" as something that floats, we frequently are not sure that children understand until they demonstrate to us what it is they "imagine," "believe," or "picture" the boat to be. Some ideas that might help could be: 1. Revealing preconceptions: Asking students to draw what is being described or discussed. Then to ask the different students to share their drawings. Some may not be able to do anything. Let these students talk about what they don't know. It helps you to know that some children have misconceptions and that others know so little that they may have none. 2. Creating conceptual conflicts: this is done by the sharing. Don't give the answer or tell a student that they are correct or wrong. It might have just been a guess that they are correct or wrong. When you say this students who are not correct will stop thinking. It is better for the discussion to be held where students bring out their conflicting ideas. Perhaps there is more than one answer. (A way to regularly do this is to create several answers as possibilities and discuss why that might be the right answer.) A teacher might also ask the students to determine what might constitute a correct answer. In this way, students are establishing criteria for judgment. 3. Accommodating all ideas: this is not to say that everyone is correct. Rather it is to say that perhaps most of the students had the general idea. The teacher's role is now to clarify, stating what is correct and what is not correct and the reasons for each. Now after all of that verbiage I will tell you a story, which is not fabricated. I was the teacher and the occurrence was over 20 years ago. I drew a right triangle on the board, labeled it and said: Triangle ABC is a right triangle. A student raised his hand and said: Mrs. D. that is not a right triangle because it is pointing left. Apparently, I had always drawn my right triangles pointing to the right. - From that day forward I learned to draw right triangles in every orientation: right, left, upside down, sideways where the hypotenuse is the horizontal, whatever. Marielouise, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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