this idea in your classroom
webs are web diagrams that help with comprehension and learning. They
are suitable for
curiosity about a new topic before you begin it;
a topic that has just been completed.
are also introducing children to the use of web diagrams, sometimes
called concept maps.
you ever started a new topic in (say) science or history, only to find
that the children are not "with you"? Their expressions tell
you that either they "just don't get it", or they "know
it all" already.
happens when we launch into a topic before checking how much the students
already know about it.
a way of finding out what the students know about a subject before you
start to teach it.
strategy works for any grade level K-8.
an example, suppose you are teaching a unit on the solar system at grades
day before you start this topic, jot down on a sheet of paper
some of the key words or phrases that you expect to use when teaching
this topic. The words should be well spaced out and in no particular
photocopies of the sheet and hand the copies around, so that the children
can work in pairs, two to a sheet. [Why
tell the children what this is all about! Say simply, "See if you
can find any connections between the words. If you can think of a connection,
draw an arrow and write the connection on it."
the board show them an example of what you mean:
Notice that the
arrows show the direction in which the sentences are to be read. For
example, the arrow shows that we read from Earth to ice caps:
"Earth has two ice caps."
more arrows are added they will form a web.
out that if they can't fit a word into their web, the children should
highlight that word with a question mark. [Why?]
they have had time to build their webs, ask the children to suggest
what the mystery web is all about: "What would be a heading for
this web?" Accept a variety of suitable answers: The Planets; The
Earth in Space; Earth, Sun and Moon; and so on. Ask children to circle
a word on the sheet that they think would be a good heading for the
web will look a little different. There will be many good results, all
different. There is not a single correct answer. Here is one possible
this example "planets" has been circled as the topic word,
or heading. Blue has been used for
connections the writer believes to be true. Red
has been used for connections about which the writer is doubtful.
collect the sheets and tell the students that you will start this topic
tomorrow. Don't mark or grade the sheets! They are available to you
to examine tonight, before you start teaching the topic, to find
the children already know,
the knowledge gaps are,
may be able to offer a presentation on an aspect of the topic, and
you might pair children with complementary strengths.
are we doing this?
children are now very interested in the topic. Why? First, they
want to see if their predictions are correct. Second, they want to find
out what those puzzling phrases like "a giant dirty snowball"
are about. Above all, you are offering them a puzzle to solve, in which
curiosity and the desire to learn have been stimulated.
when the children don't know all the answers (since they can't fit all
the pieces together), there is no sense of failure here. They see these
mystery phrases as a challenge and are speculating about the meaning
of them. Their curiosity will be your friend tomorrow, when you start
teaching this topic.
the topic has been taught, children can revisit this sheet to compare
what they know now with what they knew before the topic was introduced.
This comparison focuses them on what they have achieved, and helps children
to see the point of school and learning.
key concepts visually in a web diagram helps children to notice (and
remember) the main connections and relationships. By comparison, making
a list of unconnected facts does not help children to see these relationships.
about that giant dirty snowball?
that "a giant dirty snowball" and "the air would crush
you flat" could not be fitted into the web? Are you wondering what
they are all about?
is exactly the effect this activity creates in the children. They now
want to concentrate on what you have to teach. This is also the
reason why "mystery webs" are an effective comprehension activity.
And this is why it is a good idea to include a few surprising (but true)
facts in any similar web you design for your class.
giant dirty snowball is Pluto. The crushing air is on Venus.)
overuse this strategy. Keep it for those topics where you believe the
children need additional support.
what if I am not teaching this topic?
is a strategy that will work for any content-area topic. It is
not just meant for teaching the planets. "Mystery webs" help
children learn especially those topics which involve unfamiliar concepts.
may help to show children some examples of web diagrams first, so they
are familiar with how webs work. Books on this site that have webs in
Do They Eat?
mystery web strategy is explained in
See What You Mean, pages 6466.
solar system topic was prepared using these books as reference material:
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