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.
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