Initial Consensus Model
The teacher also should make explicit what conventions will be used in this and other drawings that represent the phenomenon (i.e. What do we all agree that arrows will mean? How will we agree to draw molecules? How will we show that time is passing?).
As the students engage in upcoming rounds of activity and discussions, they should (with your assistance) decide how they want to change the model. This could be 1) revising parts of it, 2) adding more to it in terms of specifics, it could be 3) removing some parts of it, or it could be 4) making new links between parts of the model.
At first, these drawings should be spare (simple, not cluttered). Kids may have only idea “fragments” of ideas to contribute that are not necessarily contradictory to the scientific explanation, only very simple. These are ideal for noting on the consensus model, because they can be built upon and changed later as students learn more. Also, use student language in the initial model rather than imposing scientific language at this point. It’s their model.
If there are clear misconceptions that kids think should be part of this model, then you’ll have to think of a way to label these as “still in doubt”— you can for example label them with large question marks to indicate the tentative nature of these ideas. Next to the drawing or below it there should be space for “Questions we still have about…” This will tell you a lot about what parts of the big idea they are interested in. You should capitalize on these questions in your instruction and use their questions to identify where their “gaps” currently are.
Click her to see Mallie talk about how she used a consensus model in a middle school earthquake unit »
Click her to see how Anna used a consensus model in her high school chemistry unit on solubility »