Emilia 5

Delving Deep with the Iceberg Model

Helping to build thinking skills in young children
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Emilia Palmer

Access: Master Practitioners and Practitioners

Emilia Palmer is an Early Years and Lower Primary teacher  at Dulwich College in Singapore. She has using the Iceberg tool a lot over the past two years, working on ways to span across 3 year groups (4–7 year-olds). This resource captures some of that experience.  It is a tool she designed for colleagues to use at different conceptual stages, as they judge the children to be ready. It uses the context of a story to introduce the Iceberg tool as a way to understand stories more deeply. This version of the Iceberg is designed to support young children with the concept of an iceberg as a metaphor for deeper thinking. As their conceptual thinking starts to emerge and develop, concepts such as metaphors may need to be broken down into steps. Introducing the model by discussing the visible and invisible parts of an iceberg can help with the idea of deeper thinking. The resource also includes an example from a recent lesson using the book 'The Last Wolf '.

 

Emilia Palmer is an Early Years and Lower Primary teacher  at Dulwich College in Singapore. She has using the Iceberg tool a lot over the past two years, working on ways to span across 3 year groups (4–7 year-olds). This resource captures some of that experience into a tool she designed for colleagues to use at different conceptual stages, as they judge the children to be ready. It uses the context of a story to introduce the Iceberg tool as a way to understand stories more deeply. This version of the Iceberg is designed to support young children with the concept of an iceberg as a metaphor for deeper thinking. As their conceptual thinking starts to emerge and develop, concepts such as metaphors may need to be broken down into steps. Introducing the model by discussing the visible and invisible parts of an iceberg can help with the idea of deeper thinking.

Delving Deep with the Iceberg Model- helping to build thinking skills

The formative years are a crucial and busy time in children’s development. They are incredible years in so many ways. It is a time in which human young experience rapid cognitive development and when conceptual thinking starts to take shape, paving the way for abstract thinking. Towards the end of this period many children have the ability for conceptual thinking and can engage in conversation and learning that involves this.

Using Thinking Systems tools with young children such as the Iceberg requires some thought and planning. I trialed it for the first time with my Reception class and found the concept was too complex for many. I assumed they all knew what an iceberg looked like and would therefore grasp the idea of using it as a metaphor for looking deeper into stories. On reflection, I had overlooked what prior knowledge was necessary before using the tool and had misjudged the children’s readiness for conceptual thinking.

Following this first trial I set out to design a tool that starts with learning about icebergs, and leads to the idea of this as a metaphor for deeper thinking.

 

These visuals have helped children to develop the concept of this metaphor and understand where to position ideas, aligning their deeper thinking (starting with concepts such as why and how) further down the iceberg.

This first slide shows events from the story positioned on top of the iceberg, facts which are easy to grasp and therefore well placed on the visible part above the water.

 

 

This second slide introduces the idea of diving deeper with their thinking.

I have extended the resource further with the use of pictures and guiding questions to scaffold conversation (linked to the story The Last Wolf in this example), and brought in the concepts of problem, solution, and a broader message for children who are ready to explore these more abstract ideas.

Group Work

This resource is an example of a writing template used for group work where Year 2 children were asked to unpack themes and identify the underlying message in the story The Last Wolf. The children used it to discuss and record, working together to identify where their thinking needed to be placed on the iceberg.

Following this group work we gathered to feedback as a class and summarised our ideas and understanding onto the templates in the evaluation section below.

Evaluation

The children identified the problem immediately and worked together to place ideas such as trees being chopped down, the natural habitat getting smaller, and how this was effecting the animals who had less food to eat, under ‘problems’. As their discussion developed they were quick to make links with their existing knowledge of deforestation and sustainability and began talking about real life problems related to this theme. They shared their opinions and started talking about solutions which brought them back to the solutions the character proposed in the story and actions she promised to make. The conversation developed further as they made a link with solutions they have actioned in class to help with sustainability, leading them to the broader message in the story of protecting the environment and the planet. At this point the group were able to see clearly how this would be placed at the bottom of the iceberg.

More could be explored here as next steps to expand their thinking further. For example, thinking about how the character’s feelings towards these animals, and her understanding of them had changed at the end of the story compared with the beginning when she was all set to catch a wolf. This would link in perfectly with other Thinking Systems tools like the Behaviour Over Time graph and Connection Circles.

The impact this tool has had has been significant. It was evident the children needed the metaphor broken down into conceptual stages, aided by visual aids and guiding questions to help scaffold conversation for some. This template has helped them understand how an iceberg can be used for discussion, and how to pull apart ideas and break down their thinking systemically. Their ability to infer greater meaning from stories, to discuss themes and identify underlying messages, is a comprehension skill they are developing well as they now engage with texts at a deeper level. As well as becoming active readers, they display confidence and show a natural instinct to explore concepts in discussion, leading them to ask further questions, infer from a text and make intelligent connections.

Introducing the iceberg in his way also helps prepare the children to become familiar with the metaphor of an iceberg and how the events on the surface arise from what is happening below. When they encounter the full iceberg tool they can quickly grasp the different layers of ‘patterns and behaviours’ and ‘underlying structures’. 

 

ATTACHMENTS | documents

AUTHORS | CONTRIBUTORS


Early Years and Lower Primary Teacher
Dulwich College Singapore