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