Unpacking the IPC: Its Harvest Time!
In a previous article, our colleagues Virva Palosaari and Becky Chi wrote about the first stage of the IPC learning cycle – the Entry Point. Here, we tell you about the next two stages – Knowledge Harvest and Explaining the Theme – and we continue with the same IPC unit, ‘Living Together.’
After the exciting Entry Point activities, students’ interest in this unit has been piqued. This excitement needs to be channeled towards achieving the learning goals set for the unit. The Knowledge Harvest stage is where we start the channeling process. In order to route their curiosity in the right direction, we must first know what our students already understand about living together and working in communities. Remember that they have experienced it in parts during the Entry Point activities.
Harvesting the Old for the New
As teachers, we harvest the students’ knowledge through individual or team activities. In the case of this unit, the first activity involved individually drawing groups or communities a student belonged to. After this, students worked in teams to discuss the question: What is the key to working in a group successfully?
The two activities are stages in the harvest. While in the individual activity, students may provide a sense of what they know about communities, it is in the group work that their own understandings may shift, or be challenged because of discussions with other students, leading to a collective understanding and compromise. Each group summarizes their discussions, and shares with the rest of the class.
Teachers can harvest, what the IPC calls, a mind-map at this stage. At times, teachers make a physical map of what was harvested. This helps teachers to add new knowledge on to the map of what they already know. It also helps students see how their learning has progressed, and how the new knowledge is connected to the old. This stage where students tell us what they know is quite exciting for the teachers too.
Mapping the Big Picture
Now it's the teacher’s turn to do some talking. In the ‘Big Picture’ stage, otherwise known as ‘Explaining the Theme,’ the teacher maps out the key elements, general concepts and overall objectives of the unit for the students. This prepares the students for the rest of the unit, and helps teachers stream their curiosity more systematically. Research has proven that students perform better when they are aware of the learning expectations.
It benefits kids to know the objectives in advance. As the unit progresses, students remember the learning goals, understand them, and internalize them. This is also where we introduce the subject-specific links conceptually, whether it is Society, Geography, History, Arts or international mindedness. Mapping the cross-disciplinary links is an addition to a student’s preparation for the unit.
So, while the Entry Point lets students explore and experience the core of an IPC unit without prior knowledge of it, the Knowledge Harvest and Big Picture stages shift gears to situating their experience within the learning goals of the unit. Firstly this process allows students to take ownership of their learning, and secondly teachers can better design lessons and instruction based on the student’s existing understandings. It may seem that the fun is over, but it is only beginning. Wait for the next installment of the IPC series to know more.
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