In this article you will find out what makes a good central idea.
EXTRACT FROM: The purpose of a central idea
For years I have heard many PYP teachers arguing about what makes a good central idea or that central ideas are often too broad or inaccessible for students (especially lower primary).
One thing that bugs me about central ideas is that it stifles any chance students have in making their own generalization about their inquiry. The teacher has already made the generalization for the students, so why should they even bother?!
Are we undoing all of the great thinking that students have by limiting to a teacher’s perspective?
Instead of spending time going through the motions of ‘unpacking’ the central idea, teachers ‘unpack’ the key concepts selected for the unit. Students do not have to try to understand a long, convoluted sentence. They just have to understand (the difference between) a key concept and a related concept.
Instead of using a key word or phrase for a line of inquiry, develop central ideas (or enduring understandings) for the lines of inquiry. These lines of inquiry are for teachers only. Use these stronger lines of inquiry to make stronger, conceptual teacher questions (using a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question). These are the questions to be displayed in the classroom and help guide students inquiry. They do have to be used wisely though.
Develop factual questions (what, when, who, where questions) to be the basis of your learning engagements, developed around the conceptual questions. Again, this develops stronger inquiries to scaffold student thinking. Using their knowledge developed from these factual questions, allow students to try to answer the conceptual questions in any form they wish. The factual questions allow teachers to feed in the content needed for the inquiry. An example can be seen here. Allowing the students to answer conceptual questions allows them to think deeper and allows the teacher to see if the student is reaching the conceptual level desired.
At the end of the unit, using the student’s conceptual understandings, allow them to produce a generalization summing up the unit. This will require some scaffolding through a thinking template or discussion. I have seen some success with this approach, which will only grow stronger as the students have more chances to make their generalizations.
The teachers shared their central idea at the end of the unit, prompting further debate with the students and the tweaking of understandings. Students were also given an opportunity to display their understandings of their own generalization in any form they chose (great summative task).
It may be time to see for ourselves who actually needs a central idea. Maybe the central idea is best kept on a planner.
Full article at Inquiring Minds.
Adam McGuigan is a PYP workshop leader and has taught in IB schools in Japan, Singapore and Germany. His passion lies in bringing forward different perspectives on inquiry-based education. You can follow him on Twitter @mcguiganedu.