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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Defining concepts is not an easy thing. There are concepts which are easy to define, usually they are concepts which are within the frame of a particular subject, of a curricular subject. Whereas if you think of cross-curricular subjects, you’re going for much, much more difficult territory. Just to give you an example, it may be pretty simple looking at the world, at the subject of music. It may be pretty simple to explain or to deal with the structure of a sonata or a symphony. But it may be much more, and in fact, it is much more demanding to explore the cultural, social, historical background and environment in which Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony was composed.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds So that would be an example of cross-curricular concepts, whereas the first one we’d do would be well within the limits of music. OK. First you have the technical words, because you are talking about electricity. You’re talking about chemistry. You’re talking about electrons. So that’s not common language. They have not learned that language during these classes. So you need to give them that as special words and that’s what they find out, what they need to learn. And sometimes, they are teenagers. They don’t like learning things by heart. I mean so that could be the hard part because you need to be precise when you use technical language. And sometimes, OK, that’s a bit hard for them.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds An aim of my subject is to teach to my students how to read the complicated equation, for example, when it’s a necessity to know a very specific vocabulary. I’d say it’s particularly vocabulary. I mean I think we do insist a lot on widening the vocabulary range. Because geography is a science. And sometimes we need to be very precise. I mean if we’re talking about the term ‘amplitude’, that’s the word that you’re supposed to be using. I mean you can’t talk about this stuff or that thing or that sort of thing. I mean, you need to be very precise.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds So sometimes, yeah, some students do find it quite difficult to make the difference between, for example, words like sources and resources - sometimes they keep mixing them. And I think it’s very important to set the difference and the right definition at the very beginning so that they feel more kind of, more comfortable about using that kind of lingo. So if I’m defining a concept in science, I might take in rock samples and define the concept of an igneous rock by saying what it is. I think supporting students through the scaffolding is very important. Actually we always use that, because we gave primary sources, secondary sources, excerpts from books, for example, visual support materials, pictures, portraits, whatsoever.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 seconds So I used scaffolding the most. It’s not so easy to make learners understand the concept of what you’re heading for. One basic rule I think is use as simple a language as possible. The words KISS your learners - keep it short and simple. So the simpler your instructions, the simpler your definitions are, the more likely you succeed.

Giving definitions

You’re going to watch our subject teachers talking about helping learners to understand key information, words and concepts for their subjects.

For example, Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who outlined how various city states were run.

While you watch complete this table:

Teacher Subject Key information / words / concepts Helping learners
Franz Music    
Javier Science    
Anna Maria Physics    
Roberto Geography    
Kay Science    
Peter History    

Check your answers with the document in the downloads section.

Do you think it’s important to plan how you will define key information, words or concepts to your learners? Join the discussion and tell us what you think.

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Teaching Your Subject in English

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