As regular readers know, I’m in the process of completely revising how I teach the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course – for the first time in four years! It’s pretty easy to get into the rut of teaching the same thing year after year…

One of the tasks I’ve had students do is to read a chapter in our text book each week corresponding to the unit we’re studying (Knowledge, Language, History, etc.). Then, they’ve had to write what they think were the three most important concepts and why, and then choose a question at the end of the chapter to write an “ABC” paragraph responding to it (Answer the question; Back it up with evidence from the chapter; make a Connection or Comment elaborating on the point). Then, once a week, students in small groups would meet, share, and prepare short presentations to the class.

Though the presentations were always a high point of the class, I’ve never felt satisfied that the homework was that beneficial (nor of high quality), and the level of higher-order thinking exhibited in the presentations was generally a bit uneven.

I definitely want students to read the chapters, but I’ve modified the homework assignment. As important, I’ve prepared exemplars for the quality of thinking I’d like students to demonstrate. I’m punching myself for not doing that earlier. Students would still meet, share and use them as the basis for their class presentations — picking answers from different people in the group.

You can download the homework sheet with the questions and exemplar responses here. Please review it and let me know how you think I can make it better. I think it might be useful for others subjects, too.

Here are the questions minus the exemplar answers (I don’t have an exemplar for the last question):

  1. What do you think are the three most important concepts in the chapter and why you think they are important? Include examples that DO NOT come out of the textbook.
  1. Pick an important sentence that had an impact on you and explain why it stood out. Connect it to an example that DOES NOT come out of the textbook.
  1. Choose something new you learned from the textbook that you can apply in another class or out-of-school. Give an example of how you would use it. This can be a concept you already shared in the two previous questions as long as your example of how you would apply it in other class or out-of-school is new.
  1. Draw something that represents something you think is an important concept from the chapter (it can be something you already mentioned in answers to previous questions). Describe your drawing, what it represents and how it represents the concept.