ReflectionsTeaching 1st years big concepts

Teaching 1st years big concepts

Opening up the new STEAM theme to 1st graders, I was asked, “Why are we doing this?” My answer was too quick: “To increase your critical thinking?”. Question back: “What is critical thinking?”. Pam pam!

My mistake was evident. Too much, too soon? Or is it? I had to face my own answer, and how should I do it so everybody can understand and not get bored? I started with an easy formal definition: to think about how you put your observations or something that you researched and planned into action. I could see some of their faces dropping. Definition blankness.

I needed an example and bite-sized information, but because my style of teaching is that of a facilitator, a mere guide, I needed to find this information from them. Constructing the definition through their own experiences, thinking, and appropriation is the best way for the students to retain their learning.

I remembered that a few classes earlier I presented them with a slideshow with careers in art. After doing a survey and asking the students after the presentation what job they would prefer to have if they chose a career in art, 70% wanted to be architects, 20% interior designers, and 10% others.

So I asked the students to write down the question: “Imagine you are an architect and your client wants you to build her or him a tower. Where do you start? What do you do?”. I left the students to think and write down for 5 to 10 minutes, and then I said that I’d pick up keywords from their answers and write them on the whiteboard. In 10 minutes, I had the best constructed definition of critical thinking, with students contributing pieces of puzzles that made the whole picture better than I would have possibly delivered in the moment.



Image credit: 1st year students of Sacred Heart Clonakilty

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