Monday, 25 July 2016

Abstract vs Concrete

A couple of times a term, the group of Beginning Teachers who are working towards completing their registration meet. We discuss challenges, goals, our practice and our development holistically. I enjoy these sessions, because we are able to discuss a variety of things happening in our lives inside and outside the classroom, and support one another with any struggles we may be having. Even though many of my friends are BTs, every school is so different, so I like having discussions with colleagues in similar shoes to me.

Today Lyn Groves, our meeting facilitator, posed the question: do you teach and talk in abstract or in concrete? I had no idea what she was asking, but Lyn and the group broke this down to discuss further. The word abstract itself I found difficult to relate to and make sense of, as it is not a term I use often. After discussion, I concluded we were talking about terminology and jargon we use in our classroom that may be perceived in a variety of ways. Terms that are subjective, not easily defined - the example used was fitness. Fitness is an abstract term as it can be defined differently by many, which is exactly why I avoid using this word. However, if I do use this term, I follow it up with a description of what I am referring to - this is the concrete Lyn was alluding to.

We discussed the need to consider the jargon we are using in our classrooms, to ensure the greatest understanding possible our students can have. As we have many English Language Learners, or students who are learning/speaking English as their second language, using as little words that are subjective, or abstract, as possible, may enable students to comprehend more of what we are teaching, rather than possibly switching off when they hear a word they don't understand. If we do use any abstract terms, it is important to then concrete them with explanations and examples, so they are no longer abstract. These concrete terms provide students with word associations they may be able to relate to, which can help with the terminology they need to become familiar with in the classroom. I am going to be more conscious of the words I use both in and out of the classroom, when explaining/teaching, and never assume who I am talking to/with understand all the words I be may using.

The infographic helped me to make sense of the two terms a little more. For a more wordy, yet simple clarification, Ginger Grammar Rules helped me also.

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