Monday, January 21, 2013

Big Ideas - non-fiction learning

So I got a big idea this year. It's actually a big idea about Big Ideas. You know, the fundamental concepts, the enduring understandings, the BIG PICTURE. I'm all about the Big Picture. It may not seem like it should be a lightning bolt moment, but I realized that if kids don't have these Big Ideas then they grow up lacking some of the fundamental understandings they need to have and can be left with holes in their schema. We all know what happens if you try to build a house on a foundation that isn't solid; at the worst the house can fall down. 

Our curriculum calls for a lot of reading of expository texts in social studies. I'll be honest, I can't hardly stand it. I know how hard it is for me to read an article or chapter and feel engaged. Most of the time I remember the information for a little while and then it quietly slips from my memory and goes to live where all lost learning goes. When I have to assign my kids a reading I'm racking  my brain on how I can help them store their info using the very small amount of time we have for SS (about 20 minutes - on a good day). 

Now this may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a small a-HA moment for me. In fact, I might actually have jumped up and yelled "A-HA!" during snack time. We needed to read a chapter about the archaic people of Wisconsin. I didn't have the kids read the chapter individually, which I knew would result in 2 students remembering the information due to their freakishly awesome memory skills while the rest of the Fab Fours stared at the ceiling, pretended to read (even though their book was upside down) or rolled around on the carpet not even caring if they got caught. Instead, I had them read one paragraph and then discuss what they thought the BIG IDEA was in it. This takes a lot of practice. I'm just sayin'. Most of the time they pick a supporting sentence, but this actually spurs great conversation on why it isn't the Big Idea. 

The Fab Fours worked in their table groups and it became a bit of a competition which table could come up with the Big Idea first. 

You can almost hear the gears turning... dude is actually trying to persuade them to use his idea (which was correct, btw). Look at the critical thinking going down!

These two were always the first to have their hands shoot up. It made me do a little happy dance when none of the kids were looking. 

This Fab Four was our recorder. It freed me up to do what I needed to do: teach. 


  1. Amazing what a "contest" can do for learning! Great BIG idea!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  2. What a great idea!! I need to use this with my fab fourthies! Thank you so much :)