Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
The Purpose of a Concept Essay
Are you interested in moving your students toward deeper and more abstract thinking? One way you can do this is by getting them involved in writing concept essays. Concept essays ask that students take a concept, or a big, often intangible idea, and expound on it. Each concept essay should define what the idea means, offer an example, and sometimes offer a counterexample.
When students write concept essays, they're pushed to really explain themselves and find the definition of things that can be quite hard to put into words. Because concept essays can be challenging, it's important to start with some topics that really make sense to students. In this lesson, you will find topics for concept essays around a variety of different themes.
Social Studies Topics
The topics in this section will help your students think about concepts that are relevant to history, geography and culture.
Wants and Needs
What's the difference between a want and a need? Focus on one of these two concepts and explain exactly what it is to want or need something. As you describe the concept, write about how the meeting of either wants or needs has shaped human history and the development of culture and civilization over time.
Focus on the concept of economy. In your essay, describe not only what an economy is but why economy matters. You can elucidate a few different kinds of economies that have existed over the course of history. For the most part, however, your essay should describe the concept of economy and think about why economics have come to take up such an important role in social studies.
Describe the concept of geography, with an eye toward understanding the relationship between geography and human life. Your essay should take up the definition of geography as well as why it is something worth learning about. What does it mean to learn geography? Why is geography, as a concept, relevant for you to learn about?
Culture can be an extremely difficult concept to define, but it's so important for understanding human behavior, history and society. Take up the concept of culture in your essay and try to delineate exactly what culture is, what it is not and why it's relevant or important to study.
What is a stereotype? How do stereotypes impact the way we live our lives? Write an essay that describes the concept of stereotyping and your views on how stereotypes evolve. Discuss any advantages or disadvantages you see to stereotypes and your reflections on how they influence human life on micro and macro levels.
Daily Life Topics
Sometimes, students do their best conceptual writing when they are allowed to focus on the topics near and dear to them.
What is popularity? What does it mean to be popular? In your essay, think about the concept of popularity and how it might have come to be. Reflect on what it does and does not mean to be popular, and consider why popularity might or might not be important to certain individuals and groups. You can also write about how popularity influences people's decisions and behavior.
Describe friendship as a concept. Your essay might consider the ways a definition of friendship evolves as a person gets older, and you can think about what is or is not important in a friend. Remember to write about friendship broadly, rather than focusing on only one specific friendship. A reader of your essay should come away with a clear understanding of what the concept of friendship means to you.
Think about the concept of family, reflecting on different ways people might define a family. As you write, try to go beyond your own family and define the concept of family in the broader sense.
Imagine that you're describing the concept of community to someone who has never been a part of one. Explain what it means to be part of a community, as well as what it does not mean. Your essay might include examples of communities you're part of, but it should also take up why community does or does not matter as a concept and overall phenomenon.
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