Creating Scaffolded Explanations for Tough Concepts (plus an AI cheat!)

"Bridging worlds with words, we turn tough ideas into something every student can get. Join me in exploring how we make the complex feel like second nature, one student at a time."

When teachers aim to make learning more accessible, they often find themselves having to explain ideas and new terms in a way that connects with students. The goal is not to simplify the content but to help students understand complex concepts by gradually moving from everyday language to academic terminology. This thoughtful approach prioritizes depth, over simplicity ensuring that students fully grasp basic concepts before diving into complex topics. 

It’s more of an art than a science to transform academic ideas into something concrete and accessible. What does that look like for you? Recently, I was exploring ways to help younger students understand the concept of volume. I’ve completed this task many times over the years and it can sometimes pose a challenge or require extra work. This time, I had the idea of using AI to “explain volume in simple words” (or my favorite cheat, ask AI to “ELI5: volume” (Explain it Like I’m 5: volume)). Customized explanations bridge the gap between concepts and what students already know by laying a foundation that is both accessible and engaging. However, this journey doesn't end with an explanation; it involves building on that foundation to deepen students’ understanding and help them progress toward more challenging levels of academic discussion. Transitioning from aids to thinking requires skill – it calls for patience, creativity, and a strong grasp of student readiness.

In today’s world, blending teaching methods with cutting edge technology offers hope for the future of education. By tapping into the wisdom of our communities and leveraging AI’s capabilities, educators can craft explanations that not only aid students in retaining information effectively, but also spark their curiosity and foster engagement with academic material. This combination of support networks and technology goes beyond strategy—it reflects a philosophy that champions the belief that each student can advance with confidence and enthusiasm from simple concepts, to more complex ones.

Learn, Do & Report

After engaging with the insights shared in this post, take a moment to reflect on your current teaching strategies, particularly in how you convey complex ideas to students. Identify one aspect of your approach that you can adapt to further bridge the gap between academic concepts and your students' understanding. Perhaps it involves incorporating a new AI tool for simplifying explanations, or maybe it's about integrating more relatable examples into your lessons. Whatever it is, commit to this change. Share your thoughts and this blog post with your colleagues, discuss the potential impact of this adjustment, and together, pledge to implement this single, impactful shift in your teaching methodology.


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