n this blog, I am sharing my experience of constructing central ideas with our Grade 5 bilingual learners.
For our third unit on Ecosystems, the 5th graders explored types of ecosystems, and relationships and balance within ecosystems through various engagements, such as making their own artificial ecosystems, exploring our school’s nature, interacting with experts, enjoying games related to food chains, provoking students thinking through their physical spaces and exploring their personal inquiry. The unit culminated with the construction of central ideas and a mini-exhibition.
Constructing Central Ideas
As constructing central ideas was an initial experience for our 5th graders this year, I was more concerned about helping them go through the process rather than writing the ‘right’ one. I added that central ideas are ‘big ideas or understandings’ that are enduring, and that they are true across time and cultures. Some learners expressed that central ideas are important because they ‘show what you learn in a deep way.’
Learners were encouraged to write their central ideas in either Vietnamese or English; all of them directly wrote their central ideas in English. Finally, each group went through one session of conferencing and made one revision and editing of their central ideas. During our conferencing, I was very careful not to change much of the words and ideas that they were articulating to me as we wanted it to be as authentic as possible.
Reflection with My Students
We reflected on what helped and what limited us when constructing our central ideas. The students shared:
What Helped Us & What Challenged Us:
The value of this experience to me is the affirmation that central ideas are important for both teachers and students. While creating a central idea involves higher order thinking and knowledge, this experience affirms that 5th grade learners are developmentally ready to construct central ideas independently, if they are provided with tools and opportunities to develop transdisciplinary skills and knowledge. This also affirms the importance of conceptual learning and vocabulary building in bilingual learners. The next steps are to address the barriers that my students identified and for the students to create a criteria for a ‘good’ central idea. These strategies would hopefully contribute to our readiness for our PYP Exhibition.