... constructivist teachers structure lessons around big ideas, not small bits of information. Exposing students to wholes first helps them determine the relevant parts as they refine their understandings of the wholes.
The Courage to Be Constructivist
Always good for the student to "determine the relevant parts."
Determining the relevant parts being one of the most difficult tasks in teaching and writing, let's hand that off to the student.
I think I've mentioned that I spent many years at sea after Jimmy's diagnosis with autism. The disorder itself is bewildering, and the world that surrounds it is pretty well captured by Susan F. Rzucidlo in her short piece, Welcome to Beirut, a parody of Emily Pearl Kingsley's classic Welcome to Holland.
Susan R. beat me to the punch, btw. Almost from the time Jimmy was diagnosed, Ed and I had joked about writing a short piece we were going to call "Welcome to Beirut," and then someone else went and did it.
So.... read a few paragraphs of Welcome to Beirut and tell me how a person goes about determining the relevant parts in the middle of Lebanon.
I was a model learner.
I was reading everything I could get my hands on, I was attending conferences, I was taking Jimmy to doctors and therapists and special educators, I was constructing knowledge left and right, or trying to ...... and I remained deeply confused.
Then Shirley Cohen published her book. She had planned to call it "A Map of Autism," and that's what it was. Or, rather, it was a map of the world of autism: the advocates, the educators, the theorists, and the desperately mourning parents. What were they all talking about? Until Shirley wrote her book, I didn't know.
She picked up all the autism pieces -- the many moving parts -- that littered every surface of my house and life, polished them until they shone, and stacked and arranged one each in its proper places on tidy shelves she'd built after a lifetime studying the education of children with special needs.
At the end of her very short book, I saw. I don't know whether I can still find a copy of the review I wrote for Targeting Autism, but I do remember the last line: Shirley Cohen's book is a gift.
So.... I have to assume that Martin Brooks has never had to confront a "whole" in the shape of his own severely handicapped child. Shirley's book appeared in 1998; Jimmy was then 11 years old. He had been diagnosed at 4, and I had spent 7 years of my life trying to determine the relevant parts without success.
I often have the feeling that constructivism is not a very nice thing to do to children.
Maybe those 7 years after Jimmy's diagnosis have something to do with it.
wholes, not parts: Martin Brooks and The Constructivist Classroom