No Series: Too Hard? Break It Down!

Too Hard? Break It Down!

Lesson Objective: Simplify to make content accessible
All Grades / All Subjects / Scaffolding


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Ms. Park says, "Anything that can be broken down to the basics can be taught." How can you figure out what "the basics" are?
  2. How could you teach students to simplify hard concepts on their own?


  • Private message to Emily Hein

I liked how she used in the begining of her lesson explained that even highschoolers or scientiests are learning about the subject and she adresses the complexity as a challange. By breaking down the material and encouraging them to do challanging things she is getting them to work harder.

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  • Private message to Jade-Renee Vizena

1. To figure out "the basics", take the more complex subject at hand and dissect it until it is on a scale for the students to understand. Breaking it down to "the basics" give students a better understanding of the informationl. 

2. Students first start with the main question from that they continue to break it down into pieces where they are allowed to dissect each section. 

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  • Private message to Alyssia Kraemer

  1. One way to efficiently break a lesson down to the basics is to keep breaking down an idea into the concepts behind each idea. In this video, Ms. Park took something like global warming and broke it down further. She came up with greenhouse effects, plants and carbon dioxide. So then she was able to provide “mini-lessons” on each topic, and then group them together to the main concept she wanted to teach for the day.

  2. I think teaching students to critically think and formulate questions is a great way to get students to simplify hard concepts on their own. Starting out, you listen to the questions they may come up with, and then help them to learn to distinguish what questions are helpful, and which ones are extraneous.

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  • Private message to Carolyn Havard

Going off what you already know, you can build on that. Having a strategy works well. 

I would tell my students to take one step at a time. It would be like solving a puzzle. By breaking it down, and try to put the pieces back together.

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  • Private message to Anastasia McCoy

Being able to break things down or compartmentalize. Everything has a place. If the students are learning about global warming you first want to make sure they understand what global warming is. It is like building a house. The foundation then once it is laid you begins to build upon it. I think she did a wonderful job in breaking the information down. The student was able to identify with what she was saying and answer the question accordingly.

Thanks, Anastasia McCoy

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  • [00:00]
    Interviewer: I absolutely think that there is not anything out there that’s too hard. You just have to break

    Interviewer: I absolutely think that there is not anything out there that’s too hard. You just have to break it down, and know what to focus on and what not to. Anything that can be broken down to the basics can be taught.

    Do plants absorb heat? What on earth does that have to do with the greenhouse? What is your hypothesis?

    The students will always rise to the occasion.

    Yeah, what does the greenhouse effect have to do with global warming?

    Interviewee: Well, the main question is—well temperature change, if carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere.

    Interviewer: They’re hard concepts. For example, with climate change and with the greenhouse effect. What I do at the beginning I say, “You know what, college students are learning about this. High school students, and scientists who are a lot older than you. This is what they’re doing, but I’m gonna challenge you to do it.” They all want to, they’re like, “Bring it on.”

    Ready, set, go.

    Interviewee: Does more CO2 than regular atmosphere affect temperature.

    Interviewer: I know it’s complicated. We’re not hitting everything, but by breaking it down to their very basics, I’m sure that there is portions that they can understand. I do feel like we’re making mini-scientists, and active—proactive students.

    The eleventh graders who do the same thing as you, and you guys are younger than them, but you did it. Tell someone next to you, “We did it.”

    It makes me very proud of them.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Eastside College Preparatory School
1041 Myrtle Street
East Palo Alto CA 94303
Population: 336

Data Provided By:



Alma Suney Park
English Language Arts Math Science Social Studies / 6 / Teacher


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