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In a Constructivist Classroom...

Student autonomy and initiative are accepted and encouraged. By respecting students' ideas and
encouraging independent thinking, teachers help students attain their own intellectual identity. Students
who frame questions and issues and then go about analyzing and answering them take responsibility for
their own learning and become problem solvers.

The teacher asks open-ended questions and allows wait time for responses. Reflective thought
takes time and is often built on others' ideas and comments. The ways teachers ask questions and the
ways students respond will structure the success of student inquiry.

Higher-level thinking is encouraged.The constructivist teacher challenges students to reach beyond


the simple factual response. He encourages students to connect and summarize concepts by analyzing,
predicting, justifying, and defending their ideas.

Students are engaged in dialogue with the teacher and with each other.Social discourse helps
students change or reinforce their ideas. If they have the chance to present what they think and hear
others' ideas, students can build a personal knowledge base that they understand. Only when they feel
comfortable enough to express their ideas will meaningful classroom dialogue occur.

Students are engaged in experiences that challenge hypotheses and encourage discussion.
When allowed to make predictions, students often generate varying hypotheses about natural phenomena.
The constructivist teacher provides ample opportunities for students to test their hypotheses, especially
through group discussion of concrete experiences.

The class uses raw data, primary sources, manipulatives, physical, and interactive materials.
The constructivist approach involves students in real-world possibilities, then helps them generate the
abstractions that bind phenomena together.

These suggestions are adapted from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by
Jacqueline G. Brooks and Martin G. Brooks (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 1993)
ritten activities and exercises alone do not go to the heart of constructivism,
but books have laid the groundwork for this approach to learning. The basic
writings in this field are sometimes interesting and often illuminating, even
though they cannot "give" anyone constructivism. Teachers, however, can
use these works to build their own understanding of constructivism and its
place in the classroom. Here are some representative selections of
constructivist thinking and of useful guides to constructivist ideas.

As a philosophy of learning, constructivism can be traced at least to the


eighteenth century and the work of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista
Vico, who held that humans can only clearly understand what they have
themselves constructed. Many others worked with these ideas, but the first
major contemporaries to develop a clear idea of constructivism as applied to
classrooms and childhood development were Jean Piaget and John Dewey.

For Dewey education depended on action. Knowledge and ideas emerged


only from a situation in which learners had to draw them out of experiences
that had meaning and importance to them (see Democracy and Education,
1916). These situations had to occur in a social context, such as a classroom,
where students joined in manipulating materials and, thus, created a
community of learners who built their knowledge together.

Piaget's constructivism is based on his view of the psychological development


of children. In a short summation of his educational thoughts (To Understand
is to Invent, 1973), Piaget called for teachers to understand the steps in the
development of the child's mind. The fundamental basis of learning, he
believed, was discovery: "To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by
rediscovery, and such conditions must be complied with if in the future
individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and
not simply repetition." To reach an understanding of basic phenomena,
according to Piaget, children have to go through stages in which they accept
ideas they may later see as not truthful. In autonomous activity, children
must discover relationships and ideas in classroom situations that involve
activities of interest to them. Understanding is built up step by step through
active involvement.

The Russian Lev. S Vygotsky is also important to constructivism, although his


ideas have not always been clear to the English-reading public both because
of political constraints and because of mistranslations. Some commentators
believe that Vygotsky is not a constructivist because of his emphasis on the
social context in learning, but others see his stress on children creating their
own concepts as constructivist to the core. Mind in the Society (English
translation, 1978) is a popularization of some of his ideas for an American
audience; also available is a collection of shorter works, The Vygotsky
Reader (ed. Rene van der Veer and Jaan Valsiner, 1994). Vygotsky believed
that children learn scientific concepts out of a "tension" between their
everyday notions and adult concepts. Presented with a preformed concept
from the adult world, the child will only memorize what the adult says about
the idea. To make it her property the child must use the concept and link
that use to the idea as a first presented to her. But the relation between
everyday notions and scientific concepts was not a straight development to
Vygotsky. Instead the prior conceptions and the introduced scientific
concepts are interwoven and influence each other as the child works out her
own ideas from the generalizations that she had already and that have been
introduced to her.

References
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: Free Press, 1966.

Piaget, Jean. To Understand is to Invent. New York: Grossman, 1973.

Vygotsky, Lev S. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological


Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978.

The Vygotsky Reader. Rene van der Veer and Jaan Valsiner, eds. Cambridge, MA:
Blackwell, 1994.

Since the groundwork of constructivism was laid several authors have added to it.
The following recent works (of varying levels of abstraction) provide further insights
into constructivism and its relation to classroom learning. Most of these works have
bibliographies that will be useful to those who wish to read more about these ideas:

Brooks, Jacqueline Grennon, and Martin G. Brooks. In Search of Understanding: The


Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development, 1993.

Duckworth, Eleanor, Jack Easley, David Hawkins, and Androula Henriques. Science
Education: A Minds-on Approach for the Elementary Years. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum,
1990.

Tobin, Kenneth, ed. The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education.


Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993.
Appetizing Adverbs
Subjects
Arts and Humanities
English
Writing
Art
Grades
K-2
3-5
Brief Description
Create a learning tool to aid students in their mastery of adverbs.

Objectives
Students
create a verb-adverb wheel to aid them in their understanding
and mastery of the adverb concept.
Keywords
adverb, verb, parts of speech, grammar

Materials Needed
Each student will need the following materials:

a donut hole (purchased from a store or donut shop)


8-1/2 inch oaktag circle
3-1/2 inch construction paper circle
1 brad (paper fastener)
crayons/markers
The Lesson
Are you looking for an "appetizing" way to introduce your
students to the concept of adverbs? In this lesson, students use
discovery and observation as they create a yummy way to
remember adverbs.

First, pass out to each student a donut hole. Before they begin
munching the donut hole, challenge them to brainstorm verbs
that tell how they might eat the donut hole. Write on a board or
chart the verbs that students share. For example, they might
share verbs such as

chomped, chewed, bit, devoured, and so on…


Next, have students provide words that describe how they are
doing the action of eating the donut. Write those words on the
chalkboard. For example, students might share words such as
slowly, quietly, noisily, excitedly, and so on.
Point out that the words that describe the action are called
adverbs.

Now that students know what adverbs are, challenge them to


add to the list they already provided.
After students have finished eating their donut holes -- quietly, I
hope -- pass out an 8-1/2 inch oaktag circle, a 3-1/2 inch
construction paper circle, and a brad to each student. Have
each student imagine that the small circle is the center of the
donut.
In the center of the 3-1/2 inch circle, have each student write
her/his name with a black marker.
Also on the smaller circle (around the student's name in the
center), have him/her write four of the verbs that were listed on
the chalkboard. Students might write one verb on the small
circle at 12 o’clock, one at 3 o’clock, one at 6 o’clock, and one
at 9 o’clock.
On the larger circle, have students select and write some of the
adverbs that describe the verbs.

Students have created a verb-adverb wheel. They can spin the


wheel to create a variety of sentences. For example…
Harry chomped hungrily/noisily/slowly…
Harry devoured hungrily/noisily/slowly…
Harry gulped hungrily/noisily/slowly…
Harry feasted hungrily/noisily/slowly…
At the end of the lesson, offer students time to “frost” or
“sprinkle” their donuts. They can do that by turning over their
“donuts” to decorate the side that does not have the verbs and
adverbs written on it. Watch as they turn their verb-adverb
circles into appetizing-looking donuts to go with the appetizing
phrases on the other side!
Assessment
Assess each "Appetizing Adverb" donut by checking for accurate
labeling of verbs and adverbs.

Lesson Plan Source


This lesson is adapted from and idea I saw in Mailbox magazine.

Submitted By
Laura Graham, Tri-City Christian School in Independence,
Missouri
Education World®Copyright © 2007 Education World
02/15/2007
Fortune Cookies Motivate Writing
Subjects
Language Arts
Grades
K-2
3-5
6-8
Brief Description
Students use fortune cookie fortunes as the basis for story
writing. Included: An art idea for creating a bulletin board.

Objectives
Students
create an original story that includes a beginning, middle, and
end.
create an original story that includes an interesting
character(s), a good description of the setting, a problem,
and a solution.
Keywords
fortune, fortune cookie, Chinese New Year, China, luck, writing,
creative writing, Six Traits, setting, character
Materials
M Needed
a box of fortune cookies, pencils, paper
paper and pen/pencil
The Lesson
Prepare students for this lesson by reviewing the basic elements
of a good story. If you teach the Six Traits process, remind
students of those traits of writing -- particularly word choice,
voice, and fluent sentences. This activity might also be used to
emphasize how a good story includes interesting character(s), a
description of the setting, a problem, and a solution.

Hand out to each student a fortune cookie. Have students open


their cookies and read their fortunes. Tell them that the fortune is
the basis for today's writing assignment. They can interpret the
fortune any way they like. Their stories must include certain facts
about the person who opened the fortune cookie and found the
fortune they just read. List those ideas on a sheet of chart paper
or an overhead transparency. Following are a few ideas students
might be required to include; feel free to adapt this list in any
w
way.

Who opened to cookie to reveal this fortune? What sex is the


person? How old? What kind of job does s/he hold? Have
tthey family?
Under what circumstances did s/he happen to receive the
ffortune cookie? Where did s/he open it?
How did s/he react to the words on the fortune? How did the
people around him/her react?
p
What happened later, and how did others react to that?
Once stories are completed, have students edit or peer-edit
them. (This might be done using a word processing program.) If
you are using a rubric, have students evaluate their own/peers'
work based on that rubric.
Then display the stories for others to read. Students can create
paper fortune cookies and glue their stories. They might glue the
actual fortune to the corner of the story page.
Extend the Lesson Students might create a bulletin board to
display their fortune-cookie stories with paper fortune cookies or
fortune cookie decorations made from felt.
Assessment
Create a rubric on which to students will be evaluated. (That
rubric should be shared in advance of the assignment so students
have a clear understanding of what you expect.) The rubric might
be based on the Six Traits of Writing, such as this example does.
Submitted By
VaReane Heese, Springfield Elementary School in Springfield,
Nebraska

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Home > Teacher Lesson Plans > Archives > Language Arts,
Literature, Life Sciences> Lesson Plan

L E SS O N P L A N

Animal Diaries
Subjects
S

Language Arts
Literature
L
Animals
Grades
G

3-5
3
6
6-8
9-12
Brief Description
Get kids excited about research by creating diaries of animals or
insects. The children's story Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin, is a
terrific tool for launching this lesson. Don't be fooled -- older students
will enjoy listening to this fun children's book too!

Objectives
Students
S
learn about an insect or animal and record simple notes as they
r
read.
summarize key ideas.
s
iincorporate research into original writing.
create original stories that demonstrate an understanding of
p
personification.
apply rules of grammar, mechanics, and usage to their original
w
writing.
apply steps of the writing process
a
cite sources by creating a simple bibliography (if grade-appropriate).
c
use technology to locate facts (optional).
Keywords
diary, diaries, research, sequencing, sequence, note-taking,
summarizing, creative, insect, animal, personification, writing process
bibliography, citation, citing sources

Materials
M Needed
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. This book, published by
Scholastic, is widely available in libraries. If your school or local
library does not have the book, you might ask your librarian to
check with your state library system. Additional sources
highlighted below.
The Lesson
Begin this lesson by asking students if they have ever kept a diary.
B

W
What did you include in your diary?
What might the diary tell someone who read it? Students might offer
that they/others often write in a diary about the events in their
lives, their feelings about what is happening, what they plan to
do tomorrow, and their dreams for the future.
Read aloud to students from one of Diane Cronin's fun, factual books:
R

Diary of a Worm
Diary of a Spider You might read the entire book, or you might
choose excerpts to share with your students.
For this book, Scholastic also offers a
F
skill-builder lesson ideas and
a study guide to accompany the video of the book.
After reading, discuss what is unusual about this diary. What did you
learn about worms based on reading the diary?
Next, it's time to introduce today's writing lesson. Challenge students
to choose an insect or another animal that they don't know much
about. (If each student chooses a different animal or insect, sharing
the diaries will be more fun.) Students will use the information they
learn to write a Diary of a(n) _____.
Give students time to do some research to learn more about the
animal they chose. They might use encyclopedias, nature books, other
library books, or the Internet as their source(s). As they read, they
should record interesting facts about the animal. Young students will
need at least a few facts; older students might gather about ten facts
to work into their Diary of a(n) ____.
You might have students copy facts about their animal onto note cards
-- one fact per card. The cards will be easy to manipulate when it is
time for them to organize their thoughts and writing.
Once students have organized their facts, they can begin creating a
diary "written by" their animal. Younger students might write one or
two diary entries; older students might write several entries or more.
When students have completed an edited "sloppy copy" of their diary
entries, they can transfer those entries into a "diary" book (folded
paper). They can illustrate each entry.
Older students might include a bibliography page on the back cover
as a way to cite their research source(s).
End the assignment by allowing students to take a "gallery walk" of
their classmates' animal diaries. As they walk around the room they
can look through each other's books.
Extend the Lesson

Have students share their diaries with students in another class.


Older students would enjoy reading their diaries to younger
children.
Display diaries in the library along with Diary of a Worm so the
whole school can enjoy the stories.
Assessment
Evaluate students' note cards and final diaries. Observe students as
they read their own diary and as they listen to others. Assess the
quality of students' grammar, punctuation, and word use. If you teach
older students, you might also assess the diary contents.

Submitted By
Mary Pat Mahoney, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine, Texas

Education World®Copyright © 2007 Education World

Originally published 03/16/2006Links last updated 10/31/2007