"Class, take out your babushkas..."
June 13, 2010 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Need help brainstorming a list of ~15 nested/related concepts on virtually any topic, in the style of a Matroyshka doll or an onion.

I have a great idea for a class activity but the implementation is killing me. I teach English (EFL speaking) and I often have students read and/or listen to two passages, then speak for 60 seconds in response to a question about the relationship between the two passages. For example, they can read about how youth soccer development affects World Cup success, then listen to descriptions of youth soccer in the USA and the Netherlands, and finally use the principles (reading) and details (listening) to explain why the Netherlands has been more successful in soccer than the USA. The relationship can be anything-- principle/example, statement/argument, announcement/opinion, etc.

I'd like to make this activity more interactive:
1. Each student receives a different passage.
2. Student #1 listens to the teacher say something, then forms a response about that and his reading passage.
3. Student #2 listens to Student #1's response, then forms a response about that and her reading passage.
4. And so on.

My first thought was science. For example, I could start with at the cellular level or below, make my way to an organ, then to a disease, then to an epidemic... with many steps in between.

Another option is history. For example, I could start with very basic principles of military strategy, going deeper until I describe a battle, a war, and an outcome.

My other idea is tobacco, from the soil to the courtroom.

What are other big chains of related concepts? They can be any topic that a 15 year old would understand. Non-academic stuff, about culture or sports or whatever, is really great too. I'd also welcome specific examples of my current ideas (wars/epidemics) that you think would be particularly successful.
posted by acidic to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's one from school: ocean - clouds - rain - snow - torrent - river - irrigation/consumption/industry - cleanup - ocean.
posted by knz at 11:59 PM on June 13, 2010

Best answer: I thought of beans before I saw your tobacco example. Soil, seed, water, bean shoot, sunlight, photosynthesis, trellis, bees, bean pods ripening, harvest, sorting, cooking in a sauce, canning, cooking at home, eating. Phew, finding 15 is actually quite hard!

Maybe one about music? Finding/sourcing materials, making an instrument (steps can be things like making the body, making and adding strings, etc), how to get it to make a noise, how to read music, learning to play songs, joining a group or orchestra, scoring a paid gig, recording an album, publicity interviews, touring, topping the charts, dying bloated on the toilet (OK maybe not the last one ...).

My boyfriend loves the old TV show Connections which does this kind of thing. There are books too. I haven't seen it myself but might be worth a look?
posted by shelleycat at 1:46 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: food chain? sun>plants>rabbits...lion>(lion dies then) beetles>fungi>bacteria

economics? work hard>earn money>investment>stocks....economic crash...economic reform?

oil spill? industrial revolution> cars> petroleum dependence> BP> off-shore drilling>broken oil rig> oil leak> oil-covered animals> dead animals> ruined ecosystems> angry citizens> public outrage> burn BP execs alive?

human development? sperm and egg> zygote formation> embryo> fetus> birth> infant> todler> adolescent> puberty> teenage raging hormones> sexual peak> receding hair lines> slowed metabolism> menopause > sagging skin> grey hair> brittle bones> death.

progressions of academia a la xkcd?
posted by cmchap at 2:13 AM on June 14, 2010

In terms of chains of related concepts, maybe there are some fun processes that are pop culture related. For example, it probably isn't linear in reality, but movie-making, generically: write the script --> storyboard --> cast --> film --> edit --> market --> release the movie.
posted by jdherg at 2:19 AM on June 14, 2010

There is a classic lesson in economics about how the whole world is connected just by looking at the manufacturing of a pencil. It's not a nested concept exactly, but it might work well for your purposes.

By the way, a russian nested doll is not a babushka. It is called a matrioshka. A babushka is a grandmother. 15 nested grandmothers might work on the internet, but I probably wouldn't bring it into a classroom. ;)
posted by achmorrison at 4:45 AM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: Manmade disasters and disease vectors are perfect for this sort of thing... and exactly what my 15-year-old brain would have loved. Someone above mentioned the oil spill, but also try Typhoid Mary, Chernobyl, the 1918 flu pandemic (spread by soldiers in WWI), the 1992 Chicago Loop flood.

If you prefer to use primary sources for the students' readings, more recent events are best because there will be so much out there.
posted by juniperesque at 8:48 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome. Thanks very much. I'm going to use all of these ideas.
posted by acidic at 10:15 PM on June 14, 2010

« Older How Long Do I Have Before My Bill Is Sent to...   |   How's my volume? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.