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Indicator 15 – Explain Academic Concepts

Delivering Instruction

Presenting Instruction

Indicator 15 - Explain Academic Concepts UETS 4a., 4d., 4e.

Effective teachers include one or more academic concepts per lesson. Academic concepts are the key ideas students must understand to meet the objective of the lesson. In explaining an academic concept, effective teachers define the concept and provide examples and non-examples, rules that apply, distinctive attributes, or comparisons with related concepts.


  1. Provide a definition of the concept, including all rules and attributes that must be present.
  2. Present examples before you present non-examples of the concept. It is easier for students to understand what a concept is than what it is not.
  3. Provide a wide range of examples of the concept as students may make hasty generalizations if a variety is not presented. Begin with simple examples of the concept and proceed to more difficult, complex or unusual examples.
  4. Provide non-examples of the concept that are close in nature to the concept. A concept may be overgeneralized if close approximations are not analyzed, discussed and eliminated.
  5. You will be more effective in helping students learn a concept if you present both examples and non-examples at the same time.
  6. Provide very specific feedback to students about the accuracy of their understanding of a concept. Precise and comprehensive information on why a student has accurately or inaccurately identified a concept is essential to the learning process.
  7. Test students' understanding by providing additional examples that students must categorize themselves as positive or negative examples of the concept. Ask students to explain their reasoning for the categorization.
  8. Have students generate their own examples of the concept.
  9. Have students verbalize the attributes of the concept rather than merely provide an example as they are more likely to understand a concept if they have to explain it.
  10. Include opportunities to use manipulatives or other hands-on activities to teach or reinforce a concept whenever possible. For example:
    • A music teacher can teach the concept of musical patterns through creation of their own rhythm.
      • While teaching the concept of rhythms, the teacher might ask students to create a musical pattern in four measures with a specific number of instruments. Before this activity, you should have taught the class by example and modeling how to create a rhythm. Demonstrating a step-by-step procedure about creating a rhythm prepares students for the process they will go through to create their own. Break up the class into cooperative learning groups. Allow students to choose an instrument. Instruct the group to include only four beats per measure while letting them create their own rhythm.
    • A shop teacher can teach the concept of slope through hands-on techniques.
      • The teacher presents a unit on slope providing many examples that are practical to what the class needs to determine the slope of a walkway, roof and stairway. The unit also presents correct principles for determining angles. Students can then experiment by actually constructing what the plans call for, allowing them to apply the principles they learned in class. The instructions for the activity may be, "Here are the plans for constructing the forms and pouring the cement for a front door walkway leading down to the sidewalk. Determine what the slope of this walkway will be."

11. Use Advance Organizers to tell students what academic concepts they will be learning and why they will be learning them before instruction begins. A clear explanation of the nature of the assignment helps students focus on the main ideas and order their thoughts efficiently.

    • A physical education instructor could organize information about the concept of rules and penalties that can occur in hockey games. For example, the teacher may say, "Today we are going to discuss penalties that might be called during hockey games. We will discuss the differences between minor and major penalties and describe ten minor penalties and five major penalties. At the end of the period, I will show you twenty slides and ask you to name the penalty illustrated and state whether it is major or minor."

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