Constructivist Design Models
Lesson Planning with Prompts and Tips
Lesson Planning with Prompts and Tips
Try building a lesson plan yourself using one of the three constructivist design models we outlined -- the Learning Cycle design,
of discovery, concept introduction, and concept application.
In the following pages, you will find sets of questions to consider
when developing each step of your lesson plan. You can use the
blank boxes to fill in your own ideas for your lesson plan.
What big topic are you addressing?
Do your students have any previous experience with this topic?
How relevant is this topic to your students?
What connections to the students' lives can you offer? What
connections do the students see?
Opportunities for Open-ended Discovery
What materials will you make available?
You may wish to review Section 4 of Session I in the "Tapping into Multiple Intelligences"
Workshop. The organization of the classroom into Multiple
Intelligence Learning Centers may be a natural way for you to
provide opportunities for students to make meaning.
What stories or experiences can you relate?
What learning stations might you set up?
For Using "Learning Centers"
Organize each of your learning centers so that it contains materials
appropriate to the concept(s) the students are exploring.
How will you structure students working together?
How will you foster dialogue necessary to assess your students'
Once you have given students the time to determine what they
need to know and "discover" the new knowledge, lead them into
the introduction through what Gagnon and Collay call the "bridge,"
as we saw above. Introduce the concept you wish to visit by
addressing their questions.
- What investigation(s) might students undertake to frame
questions and hypotheses?
- Will it (they) be:
- class discussion?
- a game?
It can be simple or elaborate. (A large multiclass project,
for example, introduced the concept of conservation and depletion
by having each student in the school represent X million people.
The students were then placed on a world map that covered a
Estimate the amount of time students will need to explore this
Help students to scale the "size" of their investigation to
what is manageable in the time allotted.
Time (Days, Weeks, Class periods)
Reflect on your understanding of students' readiness. Do you
need to present any other information or develop any other skill?
Are there films, videos, recordings, or slide shows that might
provide opportunities for meaning-making? What Web collections
can you make available? What resources can be gathered from
your library media center?
In this phase of the learning cycle, students often work on
a new problem -- a problem with different parameters, different
contexts and, in general, different variables, but with similar
underlying concepts as the original problem.
As students work through the problem, help them plan appropriate
ways to construct and demonstrate their solutions.
The following list of exhibit, presentation, and demonstration
methods will provide you with some useful starting points. (They
also build nicely on the Multiple Intelligence techniques mentioned
in the first workshop.)
Students can construct additional knowledge by figuring out/analyzing:
- solutions to problems in your school or community
- math formulas to explain a problem, or pose a solution
- categorization method for some plants or animals in your
area based on careful observation (perhaps a small collection,
or homemade "museum")
- a plan for a scavenger hunt
- a treasure hunt (in which clues involve vocabulary from
- a collection of objects from nature
- the night sky, food chain, water cycle, or other science
- local, national, or international environmental concern
Students can construct additional knowledge by writing:
- short plays
- screen plays
- legal briefs
- song lyrics
- letters (or e-mail) to experts
- original advertisements
- new endings for stories or songs
- "what if..." thought experiments
Students can construct additional knowledge by making/inventing/designing/drawing:
- board games
- concept maps
- multimedia presentations
Students can construct additional knowledge by performing/presenting:
- a play
- a concert
- role-play lecture (such as a well-known person from history)
- a dance based on literature or historical event
- collected songs about a topic from another era
Are there field experiences or other special events that can
provide an extension of research opportunities?
How will you gauge the students' understandings of the concept?
What strategies will you use to merge assessment with teaching?
See the Exploration section of
this Workshop for a variety of methods for students to demonstrate
Be sure to provide plenty of time for reflection -- your own,
as well as the students. Provide guidance in how to reflect
with a focus. Help students to eliminate general statements
like "This was fun." Or "I really liked the activities." Or
"Writing is boring." Help students replace those general statements
with statements like "Mary told me that my question about the
tone of her poem helped her gain a new insight into what she
had written." Or "Keeping track of how high the ball bounced
each time helped me to see a pattern that I didn't see yesterday
when I didn't keep track of what I was doing."
Here is a list of formats for reflection that you may wish to
- audio tapes
- video recordings
- online conferences
- knowledge maps
Which of them suit an assessment of learning?
Do the students have ways to assess their imaginative growth,
attitudes, skills, and content knowledge?
As you are developing your lesson plans, consider sharing your thoughts and questions with other educators.
Once you have tried out one of your new lessons, share your results with colleagues. What you learn can help others learn too.
Investigating the nature of how human beings build knowledge is a rich and rewarding area in which to develop your teaching.
Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation
Concept to Classroom | About the Series | Resources | Sitemap | Credits
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