A baby grows up in a house with a dog. Quite early the child learns the word “dog” and can reliably use the word to refer to them when she sees, not only her own, but other neighborhood dogs as well. One day she goes to visit her aunt who doesn’t own a dog, but has a cat. When the child sees the cat, what does she say?
From A Story Told in Parts by Deirdre Forgione, art teacher
“Dog!” Why? Because she has an idea in her mind of what a dog is, perhaps something like “a dog is a furry animal that walks on four legs and has a tail.” This is the paradigm, the previous knowledge, she uses to name the new animal.
This is also the paradigm that allows the parents and aunt to teach a new word, “cat,” and with practice, the child will be able to distinguish a dog from a cat, goat, squirrel, and other animals. All of this learning happens through connections — links to something the child already understands.
Some concepts we teach are difficult to understand, abstract, or foreign. For students to learn them, we must make connections to something the students already understand.
Now that we’re clear on what I mean when I say “Big Idea” (See Big Idea 1 and Big Idea 2) let’s discuss how they are used for instruction. I won’t pretend that this is done consistently across my district, but there is a model promoted to the teachers through curriculum, resources, and professional development.
Continue reading Big Ideas for Instruction
This is part 2 of the Big Idea series. The first question I told you we would explore in this series is: What kinds of concepts are used for course themes?
Continue reading So, What Is a Big Idea?
It’s one of those buzz words in education: BIG IDEAS. And we need to talk about it. Why? Because big ideas can be anything from a bit of jargon someone uses to try to land a job, to an incredibly powerful instructional strategy.
Continue reading Let’s Talk About Big Ideas
I’d like to plead guilty. I am guilty of declaring that the arts feed the soul. I am guilty of reminding other educators that, for some students, arts classes are the only thing that gets them to school. But this week, as I heard another arts educator say these same things to a large audience, I found myself feeling embarrassed. What are we doing?!
Around the Moon by Nancy Hannans, artist and educator
Continue reading Feeding the Soul
I bet your students don’t draw like this! And I’m sure you don’t teach them to, and that’s good. You shouldn’t… Not because it’s not great drawing. It is… I’ll explain what I mean below. Besides, this isn’t really about drawing like this. I want to talk about experimentation.
Disperse 1 by John M. Adams, artist and educator
Continue reading Teaching Experimentation