Working with the Understanding Ideal

Exploring Curricular Connections

Because the module consists mostly of routines, it is necessary for teachers to bring appropriate content to the routine. Because understanding is so much a part of the curriculum at all levels and in all subjects, finding connections isn't difficult. Individual routines provide examples of types of content that might be appropriate. Some general guidelines for using the Understanding Routines involve looking at the curriculum for:

  • Occasions when you want students to make connections between ideas, concepts, skills, and knowledge.
  • Opportunities that call on students to make sense of new information.
  • Occasions when you want to have students go below the surface and delve deeply into something.
  • Opportunities for inquiry, guided discovery, application, and problem solving.

Activities: Thinking about Thinking

Throughout the module you will want to have students reflect back and think about their thinking about understanding. You could do this informally through a class discussion or by using a routine designed for reflection.

Connect Back Routine. This routine helps students consolidate their growing understanding of the concept of understanding. It helps students to reflect on the understanding routines they have been learning and see how they are connected to the larger concept of understanding as illustrated in the Understanding Map.

I used to think... But now I think... In this routine, students write and/or discuss what they used to think about the topic of understanding or about the process of developing understanding and then contrast this by writing down what it is that they now think.

Developing Awareness of Opportunities

An important part of element of developing students' disposition to seek understanding involves them learning to spot opportunities where understanding is needed. To do this, students need opportunities both to think about the types of occasions where understanding is an issue and to try to identify those as they naturally occur in their lives.

A Discussion about Understanding: Sometimes it's hard to understand things. To foster this awareness you can ask your students to identify occasions when it is hard to understand something. You can follow this up by asking students what they can do to help themselves to develop understanding in situations like the ones identified. By focusing on when understanding is hard, students are often able to identify particular trouble spots and think about strategies to address them.

Understanding Moments Activity. This activity asks students to detect occasions when they made the choice to invest personal energy in developing understanding. Since opportunities for understanding are abundant, this activity focuses on when students felt it was important to invest energy in understanding, what they did, and what they might do. It not only makes students more aware of understanding occasions, but also more self-directed.