The hardest part about teaching and learning in a concept based curriculum is….teaching and learning based around concepts! Instead of teaching about volcanoes you teach through the lens of “change” in the area of science.
This concept of…concept based learning…is especially tricky with new students (and new teachers). The definition of a concept reveals why: “an abstract idea”
Abstract. Existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence. So the learning journey is more blurry and not as prescribed. Which is great! You just have to plan it properly.
Whilst teaching MYP Design I deliver the subject through the lens of concepts and conceptual understandings and plan units around them. The students, through inquiry, can probe the concepts involved and experience the unit in a flexible but thorough manner. Along the way, they will learn the skills of Design that has been laid out in vertical curriculum planning and also gain new understandings around the conceptual framework.
Recently, I had students who were not at all versed in concepts or what a concept was or how to interact with concepts. I needed an activity that ramped up the enthusiasm, engagement, and communication. And fun. To be honest. It was a small class.
I began to start classes off with a game of team Pictionary and broke up double lessons with a little “halfway through class” game. I found an online Pictionary generator that had a number of different levels from easy to really hard. The really hard level is where the dissection and discussion of concepts and abstract words evolved. These were not easy words to visually illustrate on the whiteboard.
The unit where I really made a connection was a unit based around the Key Concept of Communication and the Conceptual Understanding statement of: “By understanding perspectives, we can communicate an innovative and unique message.” This conceptual framework would guide us through a logo design unit in which the students had develop a logo from a design brief that a number of random companies had pitched and generate a logo based off of that. A lot of these design briefs have qualities or adjectives the businesses want to convey in their branding. This led me to generate my own unit themed conceptual words that we could explore and try to visually emulate in Pictionary: Progressive, Classic, Unique, Fun, Quirky, Young, Old, Family, Supreme, Environment, Sustainable, et al. Having discussions about how to visually represent concepts and abstract words really helped the students and myself understand both the words and the ways in which we could communicate these words to a wide range of people. Which, in turn, leads us towards more Design oriented issues: “How do we ensure that everyone that sees our designs immediately understands the message we are trying to convey?” Which, in turn, in turn, was initiated all the way back with our conceptual framing of “communication” and “perspectives”. Ta and I may I add da.
So next time you’re struggling with concepts (or just really hard words), start a game of Pictionary. Have some fun, break it down, and talk it out.