teachers help students learn subject matter, it is often neither necessary
nor practical for them to use an inductive (discovery) approach. Depending
on the academic material, presentations (lectures and readings) can
effectively help students learn, as long as teachers organize their
direct instruction to ensure that students' minds are being actively
begin, it is important for teachers to understand each student's existing
cognitive structure as it relates to new material being presented.
For example, as 4th graders learn about California History, they will
learn about many aspects of "culture" as they relate to
various historical periods.
But do students
know what the concept "culture" means? It is unlikely, as
4th graders, that they do.
In the ACTIVITY,
"What is Culture?" a teacher uses a whole group instructional
approach and advance organizers.S/he begins by presenting and giving
a brief overview of the concept, by using What
Next, s/he generates
a discussion using Thinking
About Our Modern Culture in the United States to determine, clarify,
strengthen, and increase students' understanding of "culture"
by relating this big-picture concept to various examples with which
students have prior experience.
The teacher leads
a whole group discussion with students to identify modern day aspects
of culture. During this discussion, the teacher also helps students
see how aspects of modern culture are (in general) different than
This advance organizer
Modern Culture, was generated during a presentation/discussion
(using a computer + video projector) with a group of twenty-three
4th graders. The teacher structured her questions both to gain an
understanding of students' existing cognitive structure and to give
students the needed underpinnings for their new learning.
During the ACTIVITY,
students constructed their own meaning either by listening or by active
participation. Because this was a public discussion, students listened
to and learned from one another. New ideas were generated and built
upon as the discussion progressed.
After the initial
presentation, students then worked in partners to conduct research
and complete their own graphic organizers and to reinforce their understanding
is Culture?" advance organizer can be used from time to time
during the school year to remind and reinforce students of the larger
concept. This advance organizer, and others, will provide a support
system for students as they read and learn about new subjects in fourth