Photo by Sara Marlowe
The first grammar lesson in our reading program is titled “types of sentences.” Since nothing excites gifted 11 year olds less than the difference between interrogative and declarative sentences, I knew I needed to spice up grammar. Rather than use direct instruction, I used another model of instruction: concept attainment.
A concept attainment lesson utilizes inductive thinking and encourages students to construct their own understanding. Used strategically, concept attainment causes student engagement to skyrocket.
Begin with a chart: two columns and then a single cell at the bottom. Label the two columns: “examples” and “non-examples.”
Explain that you are thinking of a concept and the students’ job is to determine what this concept was.
Give Examples & Non-Examples
Under “examples” I put three sentences that exemplified my concept “imperative sentences.” I then wrote three declarative sentences under “non-examples.” During this time, students were copying my notes down and silently determining patterns, rules, and parallels.
Naturally, some students understood (or thought they understood) the concept already. I warned them to remain silent. No blurting allowed yet.
On post-it notes, I then wrote three more sentences on post-it notes, but did not place any in the columns yet. Some of these sentences were examples and some were non-examples. Students determined which column each post-it belonged to by writing in their own copy of the chart. I walked around to check my classes’ understanding.
I then called on students to help me place the post-its in the right categories. At this point, I put the post-its in the correct categories – hopefully confirming students’ predictions. There’s usually a chorus of “yessss!” from students.
Next, students determines the rules that the examples shared. I allowed them to collaborate. After calling on students, we wrote their rules under the respective columns.
At this point, students attempted to create their own “example” sentence. I walked around and got an idea of their understanding.
Name The Concept
I then asked if anyone knew the name of the concept that the examples represented.
Once the class named it, I wrote the concept in the cell at the bottom.
Students then practiced using the concept in an authentic situation.
I’ve created a product with 37 grammar lessons in this concept attainment form, conveniently packaged as a PowerPoint file.