Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Categories and Making Thinking Visible

The First Graders started a new social studies unit on Native Americans. Besides learning about the culture of individual tribes, Mrs. Laha and Ms. Carew are teaching their students about how to categorize information. To support the learning process, the First Graders are working in their technology class to make their thinking visible by using mind mapping software that is rich in graphics. 

The students use the library of images provided in the software and draw their own. They work to then match what they learning about their tribes to the provided categories of shelter, geography, clothing, food and location. This concept-based learning has the students thinking about information and how we group it. The mind mapping also extends the learning as the students see connections between the categories. As they build out their mind maps in the coming weeks, the students will have the opportunity to draw their own conclusions as to how the categories are interconnected (e.g., location affects food sources and shelter types). The connections are many.

What is also helpful about digital mind maps is how they provide an easily editable documentation tool with students adding new knowledge and understanding to them over time. The end result provides an excellent assessment opportunity not only for the teacher but also for the reflective student looking back at what he/she learned.

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