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Part-whole thinking map in the junior classroom

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The staff at Halsey Drive School have been developing a concept based curriculum which features a process of learning (inquiry) and a language of learning (SOLO). In this video Bridget Casse explains how she uses the part-whole thinking map with her junior class, and encourages even the very young children to discuss their thinking and talk about their learning.

There are four videos in this series:

  1. An introduction to the concept curriculum, the big picture
  2. Teaching and learning at Halsey Drive School
  3. Using the part-whole thinking map in the junior classroom
  4. Using the part-whole thinking map in the senior classroom

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Learning to learn

Pupils’ learning is more productive if it is reflective, intentional, and collaborative, practices which may not come naturally but can be taught and can lead to pupils taking responsibility for their own learning. 
Black et al., 2006, page 126


Using the part-whole thinking map in the junior classroom

Probably the most important thing that I would advise teachers is don't underestimate the ability of young children, as young as five that have just started school to be able to use the vocabulary and terminology. I think maybe as teachers and as adults we put a bit of fear onto children of using such complex long words when in actual fact they really enjoy the challenge of tackling these long words and it is almost, it's exciting for them to be able to tell us that they have come up with a generalization. And it may mean that we need to teach them a little rhythm or it may mean that we need to say it over and over again so that they can hear the language and become familiar with using it. But they really can do it.

So the children in my class are new entrants, obviously when they come to school they are prestructural they know nothing about using solo language. The shift that we see with those children, is, to them now after only several weeks at school some of them, they are able to talk more about their thinking and give examples about what they need to do to become, to get their learning outcome to the next step. So they are becoming much more confident in using hand signals. It is imperative for us to build a culture within a classroom where learning talk is just the norm and using that language to be always discussing: what are we doing, why we are doing it, what are our next steps? It just happens and it is just expected that it happens. My children are often giving each other feedback feed-forward, discussing their thinking, and it is not uncommon for little children in our class to remind each other to focus, and they are using those words with each other, so that thinking language is really evident within our school.

We went on to analyze the different materials that we use commonly to stay safe in the sun and to check the effectiveness of the materials that we have chosen. So to do that we used a part whole analysis map. We then used ICT to actually get a visual representation of each of the different parts. Obviously new entrant children aren't able to read all the words that we give them so having those visuals there helps to bring, draw them in, draw their attention in a little bit.

So we go through each part and we talk, what would happen if that part was missing from the whole. So we talked, what if sunglasses were missing, one of my children said, your eyes would get burnt. Okay so it is as simple as that for our new entrant children. We are teaching them the process at this level. It is really important that we are not expecting them to use these maps independently. We are actually introducing them to them and introducing them to the language they need as they grow and move through the school.
We then go on to look at each part again and talk about what the function is. So they have now thought what is the whole, what is a part, what would happen if we didn't have the part, and what is the exact job of the part.

We then go on to write an analysis together. So we use the ideas that we have put on here to get a more holistic understanding of the thinking that we have done. To do that we use the rubric. Now my children, the new entrants, have an understanding of the basic levels of solo. Right from day one they understand that there is a common language of learning that is going on in our classroom and to go with that we have hand signals to help them match up the different levels. So we start with the prestructural, unistructural, multistructural, relational, and then extended abstract.

So when they said that you have to go under the shade to keep cool, this is where we stopped. And we thought, okay where is our learning outcome at now. And we decided we would try and code it using our rubric. Now obviously I had been taken them through the steps of the rubric to come up with this analysis. So we identified that it was relational. And they showed me this because they were explaining we need the materials. So then I talked to them about okay what can we do now to become extended abstract? And we look at our rubric again and we look at our target vocabulary. And when we break it down like that and we think okay, well we've got our target vocabulary for relational was using 'because' and explaining why. Then we think okay what can we do to make it a higher level learning outcome and we look over here and we go 'overall' or 'I think' or 'I believe' so we chose to use that word 'overall'. And I said well what do you think is the most important. This is beginning to make a generalisation. And they said that overall they thought the most important was the shade because it actually protected your whole body. So we then coded our analysis all together and they thought they had come up with an extended abstract comment, or an extended abstract analysis because they had come up with a generalisation.

As teachers we teach our children to read and write and count using correct terminology, so I think it only sort of stands to reason that we actually teach them the correct thinking terminology to use as well.

Published on: 07 Feb 2011