The English Classroom

A GUIDE TO IMPROVING STUDENT LITERACY

The Situation

You want to introduce an abstract concept to students, such as power and weakness.


The Solution

Concept Attainment is a way for students to use their prior knowledge to compare and contrast qualities/attributes of a concept. Confusing? Absolutely. See below for an example of concept attainment.

Present the following image to students. The purpose here is for students to identify patterns in the images. For example, they might look at colours or the angle of the camera. Anything that might suggest a pattern in the images on the left-side and the right-side, respectively.


After presenting the above image, begin to show the images below. Do not prompt students others then reminding them that “the images on the left-side show a particular idea, while the images on the right-side show a different idea”.






Afterwards, let students discuss for one minute what idea could be shown.

Eventually, they should begin to say, “the images on the right showed power and the left show weakness.” You may need to prompt them. Ask what the images had in common, or was there a pattern with the camera angles. This will allow them to form links between the images.

When choosing images, try to find images that might throw the students off the scent. For example, in the above examples, the last images are in black and white. There is not particular reason why, but if done well it will subvert students expectations.

Here is another set of images that I showed students for our study on how costumes reflect the characterisation of characters in film:

As you can see, I have chosen the same actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, across both categorises, just to throw students off the scent a little. Aside from that, they first two images suggest that sunglasses are the commonality, however the third and forth images rebuke this theory.

After students have identified the concept, we can now discuss the concept at they have categorised the information for themselves.

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