The Underrated concept of form…

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It can be easy in PYP to assume that all teaching will include learning about the concept of form, so why have it as a key concept? I have certainly subscribed to this perspective before, however. In my understanding, “form” needs to play a key role when conceptual knowledge is likely to be new and challenging for students. Science based units can be a good example of this.

In a recent UOI under sharing the planet, we looked at the sustainability of natural resources and our actions to preserve them. I have seen many units like this end up with kids making posters about saving the rain forest or presentations about the 3 R’s of environmental sustainability. Of course these are important subjects, but how do kids take action if they have not first uncovered why they need to take action? We wanted students to first make a connection to where natural resources come from, how they are used and develop an appreciation of how limited they are. The prior knowledge of the students showed they had a very ego centric understanding of where “natural resources” came from and how they were connected to them, so developmentally it was a good time to move them to the next level.

In this unit “Form” was extremely useful to support language development, classification systems, and the investigation of patterns. Students identified and investigated the natural resources they used and how we misuse them. This opened up opportunities to build upon personal connections; artefacts were brought in and we explored the school environment as a learning resource.  Using one thinking tool, students were able to add their ongoing knowledge to a huge concentric circles display. The display was an excellent resource for making the learning visible and became an important tool for formative feedback and stimulating further provocations. It felt good to refer children back to evidence of their own thinking in a very visual way and further supported independence of learning. Exploring mathematical patterns as a related concept of form worked really well, we were able to use tables to make predictions about the consumption of resources like plastic bottles and then represent them in visual ways. I enjoyed helping the group of girls who stuck together all the old homework papers and worked out that in a year, if we stuck them end to end we would have the equivalent length of about 4 football fields! (We’ve still got a little way to go to become a green school! 😉

So did the students become more environmentally responsible and take action? We hoped once students had made the connection between themselves and the resources they use they would be better able to appreciate why action is our responsibility. Feedback from parents was useful, conversations were happening at home and a number of students had introduced new practices to their families. On the whole exploring the concept of form definitely enhanced this unit and did not detract from the actions the students took.

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