Monthly Archives: September 2016

4MAT Content-Savvy Concept Teaching

A Continuation of Teaching Experientially with Content-Savvy Concepts

CirclesGraphic3The difficulty with 4MAT’s requirement for content-savvy conceptualizing is getting teachers to teach at the conceptual level where the core ideas of the content are the focus, and to develop teacher skill in translating these core ideas into experiences that resonate in students’ lives.

There are two crucial skills here: to know the content at the conceptual level and to know how to connect that concept to a particular group of students in a way that will engage and intrigue.

An example.  Teaching exponents. Essential Question for this unit, how does exponential growth happen?

Students walk in and are given a small cup of water filled half way. They are told to find 3 students and exchange the water in their cups. They do so and immediately find more than half their cups are turning pink. The teacher tells them only three students in the class of thirty three had a drop of dye in their water. The students must figure out how this has happened. The teacher says very little as the students go at it.  I tell you It is a joy to watch and listen to this kind of discourse.

After the explanations, the possibilities discussed and argued, the students arrived at a viable notion of exponential growth. All before any math formulas. The teacher crowned this savvy-content concept experience by asking for a metaphor for exponential growth.The students chose the way rumors go viral through their high school. 

The results from this kind of teaching are worth the time it takes—deep and relevant discussions, what Elizabeth Green* calls academic discourse. These are highfalutin words, yet true, as this kind of teaching calls forth this kind of discourse and with all student levels from primary to university graduate school.

To quote from Green’s book:

“The takeaway message is not that conceptual understanding is more important than memorization, it is that the two are inextricably enmeshed. Any supposed dichotomy between them is false. Children are “sense makers”…educators who assume that memorization takes place outside the context of concepts and principles do so at their own peril.”

Stay tuned for next Friday’s continuation of 4MAT content-savvy concept teaching.

• Building A+ Better Teacher’s 2015. Green. Elizabeth

Help Students See the Value of Learning

Teaching Experientially with Content-Savvy Concepts

Every 4MAT Design begins with a connect activity to engage students and to help them experience the value of learning. This connect must create an experience, an actual experience, that immerses students in the key idea of what’s being taught. And you cannot create an experiential connect without a concept. 

The twofold purpose of the 4MAT instructional framework is always the same; to bring people to learning agility by understanding how they learn and to help them achieve expertise in the material being taught.

But you must know your content and you must know your students to do this. And you must know what learning is. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.34.53 AMLearning: a process where prior experiences connect and arouse curiosity about what experts know and the skills that can be mastered in light of what the student already knows .

But you must know how to translate content into concepts that students experience in their lives.  So, you do not begin with content, but with a concept that relates to them. This connection is what transforms learning into the student’s world both in and out of school.

Many call it deep learning, or moving beyond surface knowledge. I call it concept-savvy content knowledge combined with intriguing experiential beginnings that engage and motivate.

How do we make these crucial experiential connections to the material we have to teach?

Here are some content-savvy concept connections from lessons and units written by teachers in our 4MATION software:

  • The US Constitution: the tension between freedom and order.
  • Nutrition: Choices
  • Probability and Statistics: Chance
  • Toxicology: Do No Harm
  • Workplace Safety: Risk
  • Place Value: Belonging
  • Magnets: Attraction

Because students can relate to belonging, or chance or choices but may not relate to nutrition or Probability. And that is where you begin by creating an experience of the concept!

Tune in next week for continuing insights on content savvy connections and a listing of how the units cited here were initiated with experiential strategies.

Why People Should Develop Right Brain (Intuitive) Approaches to Thinking and Problem Solving

Creative, out of the box thinking methods are the hallmark of all great entrepreneurs. And now leading educators from some of the world’s most prestigious universities are working to balance the use of both right and left brain thinking methods when delivering courses or designing curricula. 

• Northwestern University uses the term Whole-Brain Engineering™ to recruit engineers to attend its renowned engineering school. 

• Wharton Business School is developing both right and left brain teaching and promoting this in their ads about the university 

• Even Mercedez Benz is promoting how their cars appeal to both the right and left brain.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 7.52.01 PM

So, a key question for teachers…

How can I infuse right brain thinking skills into my classroom to prepare students for the challenges of a rapidly changing world? 

Left Brain teaching is more verbal, systematic, and factual. While right brain teaching is more open-ended creative and exploratory.  So, clearly teachers should balance the use of both. But sometimes teachers focus more on left brained vs right brained methods.

Want to Learn More? 

Request our Free Guide to Creating Right Mode Instruction and receive a free trial to the online HMI, a tool for assessing individual preferences for either right or left mode processing. 

Or if you just want to jump in and try some new things here are some things to try out…

1. Have students experience their own brain processing preferences at the onset of a course or a new section of content. That way, they will enter into the experience with a fresh and open mind and a better understanding of how to use both methods as they move through the learning process.  

2. Use visual assignments that tap into student creativity and their preferences to display information in their own creative and intuitive ways?  This is as simple as changing a worksheet assignment to a visual depiction of what they understand about a key concept. 

3. Use metaphors to deepen student understanding or mastery. 

4. Use creative project assignments, where student must search for the answer and devise their own conclusions.