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Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Thinking Classroom 2. The Structures of Knowledge and Process 3. Designing Concept-Based Instructional Units 4. Inquiry in Designing Concept-based Lessons 5. The Developing Concept-based Teacher and Self Assessments Resources A. Concept-Based Curriculum Glossary of Terms B. Sample Verbs for Level 2 and 3 Generalizations C. Concept-Based Graphic Organizers D. Unit Design Steps E. Checklist for Evaluating Concept-based Units F. Mathematics Generalizations for Secondary Grade Levels G. 3D American History Unit Web References

About the Author

H. Lynn Erickson, Ed.D., is an independent consultant assisting schools and districts with concept-based curriculum design and instruction. During the past 20 years Lynn has worked extensively with K-12 teachers and administrators on the design of classroom and district level curricula aligned to academic standards and national requirements. She was a consultant to the International Baccalaureate Organization for the development of the Middle Years Programme-the Next Chapter. Lynn is the author of three best-selling books, Stirring the Head, Heart and Soul: Redefining Curriculum and Instruction, 3rd edition (c)2008; Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching Beyond the Facts, (c)2002; and Transitioning to Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction: How to Bring Content and Process Together, co-authored with Dr. Lois Lanning, (c) 2014, Corwin Press Publishers. This publication, co-authored with Lois Lanning and Rachel French is the 2nd edition of Lynn's popular book, Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom: Teaching Beyond the Facts. She also has a chapter in Robert Marzano's book, On Excellence in Teaching, (c)2010, Solution Tree Press. Lynn is an internationally recognized presenter/consultant in the areas of concept-based curriculum design, and teaching for deep understanding. She has worked as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, adjunct professor, and educational consultant over a long career. In addition to her work in the United States, Lynn has presented and trained educators across the world in different regions and countries including Asia, Australia, South America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Cyprus. Lynn currently lives in Everett, Washington with her family. She and Ken have two children, and two grandsons, Trevor and Connor, who continually stir her heart and soul. Lois A. Lanning, PhD, is an independent education consultant. She presents and works with districts at the international, national, and state levels in the areas of literacy and Concept- Based Curriculum design. This book is a natural extension of her three previous best-selling books in the Corwin Press Publisher's Concept-Based collection, including Designing a Concept-Based Curriculum for English Language Arts (2013), by Lois A. Lanning; Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom (2nd ed., 2017), by H. Lynn Erickson, Lois A. Lanning, and Rachel French; and Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction (2014), by H. Lynn Erickson and Lois A. Lanning. In addition, Lois is the author of the bestselling book, Four Powerful Strategies for Struggling Readers, Grades 3-8: Small Group Instruction That Improves Comprehension, a joint publication between Corwin Press and the International Reading Association (2009), and a chapter in The Best of Corwin: Differentiated Instruction in Literacy, Math, and Science (2011), Leslie Laud, Editor. Lois was a classroom teacher, K-12 reading consultant, special education teacher, elementary school principal, district curriculum director, adjunct professor, and finally, an assistant superintendent of schools for the last 12 years of her career in public schools. Lois is the recipient of numerous educational awards and recognitions. Her hobbies include reading, biking, hiking, and traveling. Lois currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She has two children and two grandsons, whom she absolutely adores. Rachel French, MA Ed, Rachel is a full-time educational consultant and presenter. Through workshops and ongoing consultation Rachel supports schools around the world with the planning and implementation of Concept-Based Inquiry. She also coaches and provides feedback to teams of teachers on curriculum development. She is experienced in aligning Concept-Based Inquiry and the IB programmes. Rachel is an international teacher, who has worked in schools in South America, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. She is a certified Independent Consultant, Presenter and Trainer with Lynn Erickson and Lois Lanning. Rachel has presented numerous workshops in Europe and Asia, including workshops with Dr. Erickson, Dr. Lanning and Carla Marschall. Rachel is also the director of Professional Learning International (PLI), a company she founded to support international schools and educators in accessing leading professional development opportunities. Through PLI, Rachel French is now the sole provider of the annual Dr. H. Lynn Erickson and Dr. Lois A. Lanning Certification Institute for Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainers and Presenters. E-mail: Website:


"This book is smart, and wise, and energizing. It honors the disciplines we teach by reminding us of their inherent meaning, rather than allowing us to accept them as collections of data. It honors teachers with the belief that they grow as human beings through understanding the power of what they teach and crafting approaches for sharing that power with young learners. It honors students by expecting them to become thinkers capable of reasoned stewardship of the world they live in and will inherit. It maps out a path for achieving the twin goals of content understanding and developing thinking-both too long absent in too many schools." -- Carol Ann Tomlinson, Ed.D., William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor
"This revised edition is essential for all educators! If you want to help students deal with the overwhelming rate of complexity and information overload they face, look no further. This practical guide will help you design units for deep learning that lasts." -- Julie Stern, Independent Trainer and Curriculum Designer
"This new, updated edition of Erickson's Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom provides deep insights on how to create a thinking classroom by developing intellect and preparing our students for the 21st Century. This is a research-based, practical guide to designing curriculum and instruction that focuses on conceptual understandings through utilizing an inquiry-based approach. This book is bursting with examples and systematic strategies to engage and motivate our students. A must read for all 21st century educators!" -- Jennifer T. H. Wathall, Consultant and Author of Concept-Based Mathematics
"The authors are justly intent on advancing the intellect of our students and ensuring schools are places that shape lifelong learners. The Concept-Based approach challenges teachers to think deeply about what and how they are teaching so that students deepen their understanding and retain and apply what they've learned. One of the greatest challenges any teacher faces is the transfer of agency from the teacher to the student. Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction does just that. If we are serious about promoting engaged, motivated, productive, creative citizens, our teacher preparation institutions must provide in-depth guidance in this powerful design process. It is imperative that pre-service teachers understand "how knowledge and processes are structured and the relationship of these structures to teaching, learning, and intellectual development." I know of no better resource to guide pre-service teachers in the development of thinking students than this text and others by these authors." -- Karen L. List, Project Director, PK - 3rd Grade Leadership Program, Executive Coach, LEAD CT

"Teachers must be able to engage and motivate learners before they can teach them. However, engagement and motivation only come when learning is relevant and intrinsically interesting. For learning to be relevant and intrinsically interesting, teachers must start by crafting deeper conceptual understandings of personal or transferable significance. Given the pressures of a coverage curriculum, developing students' critical, creative and conceptual minds is one of the biggest challenges our teachers face today. This brilliant piece of work by Lynn, Lois, and Rachel is what teachers need to address the challenge. The authors have beautifully presented a broad range of theoretically grounded and highly practical strategies to improve student engagement, thinking, and motivation through the principles of Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction. "

-- Ashish Trivedi, MYP School Services Manager, Asia Pacific
"What should students know in an age of search engines? As factual and procedural knowledge are a click away, education needs to foster contextualization and higher order thinking through a focus on transferable conceptual understandings. This should be the Holy Grail of a modern education, which needs to crisply redefine what type of content matter is most needed so as to reserve time and space for deeper learning to occur. This essential book translates the needed sophistication of concept-based learning into actionable classroom practices, which every teacher will be enchanted to have." -- Charles Fadel, Author of "Four-Dimensional Education" and "21st Century Skills"
"A must read for all teacher credentialing programs. A valuable teacher's guide on creating deep, passionate concept-based units of inquiry. This book artfully engages the reader's thinking and takes them through a journey merging best practices in teaching and learning with brain based pedagogy. Once again, the authors explicitly demonstrate why Concept-Based teaching and learning is essential for all 21st century learners." -- Guadalupe Arellano, Student Advocate and Instructional Coordinator

"The 2nd edition of Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction effectively brings together Erickson's Structure of Knowledge and Lanning's Structure of Process to present a coherent vision for Concept-Based teaching and learning across the disciplines. The enhanced focus on inquiry reiterates the importance of giving children the opportunity to form their own conceptual understandings inductively. I recommend this book to anyone interested in getting to the heart of Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction!"

-- Carla Marschall, Vice Principal and Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Consultant
"This book provides support for educators implementing a concept-based curriculum. The practical planning steps and concrete examples for a range of grade levels provide an invaluable guide for those who aspire to make learning powerful. The book does not shy away from the reality of what a challenging journey the transition to a concept-based curriculum will be; rather it embraces the challenge as part of the joy of learning." -- Caroline Joslin-Callahan, Primary School Principal
"Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom starts with a brief introduction on how our brains work and why it is important to look at each unit of study with a conceptual focus. The authors discuss the difference between inductive and deductive instruction and also show us how structured versus guided inquiry differ. There are lesson templates, examples of lessons, checklists, and even most frequently asked questions to guide us in continuing our challenging but rewarding journey into concept-based teaching." -- MiddleWeb

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