Concentric Circles of Learning

I like collaborative work and social constructivism, i.e. learning from and with others. Today, I got to use this method in collaboration with another year 8 maths teacher.  This post is both a lesson idea as well as a reflection on this type of learning.

As an introduction to the new topic of Circles, this lesson was designed to assess (for learning) what the students already knew about Parts of a Circle. Instead of the usual questioning and Diagnostic Test methods, we decided to do this:

Lesson Idea

1. Pair up students within each class. We used class buddies.

2. Each pair list as many parts as they can remember in 3 minutes. Materials: PostIt notes or small piece of paper

3. Each pair is paired up with another pair, i.e. group of 4. We had 9 groups with one having more than 4 members.

4. On butcher paper, each group constructs (draws) circle/s and labels the parts accordingly.

We were only going to give them 10 minutes to do this but the students were engaged in discussion and construction (some got very artistic) so we extended this to 15 minutes. Materials: butcher paper, compasses.

5. Each group presents to the whole group (2 classes) their posters and is asked to describe one part in detail, e.g. Diameter as a line passing from a point on the circumference to another point on the circumference passing through the centre (or something along those lines).

This was actually a good conceptual review as well as literacy exercise.

6. For homework (and reinforcing what was learned), give a worksheet on labelling parts of the circle.

Concentric Circles of Learning

Concentric circles are circles within circles, all sharing the same centre point. I think this is a beautiful metaphor for learning. At the centre is the individual learner. When this learner learns from and with others, his/her learning circle radiates outwards and gets bigger and bigger, as does personal learning and knowledge. As in the lesson above, each learner brings his/her own knowledge to share firstly with one other, then with another two, then to a bigger group and so on.

While there were technically two teachers in the classroom, more teaching and learning happened between students. Today, we (my colleague and I) did not teach. Today, we facilitated learning at individual and group levels. Collaboration happened at many levels today (and before today where planning was concerned). Today was a good day.

Where this metaphor falls short is that in fact, there are many concentric circles and these circles overlap as they do in Venn Diagrams. But, that’s perhaps another post!

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