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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ripped from the Headlines

How do we keep our lessons relevant and rigorous?  Use information ripped from the headlines and a critical thinking strategy. 
Some of the best lessons are ones that apply the skills we are teaching to relevant scenarios.  Just looking at the headlines for today, I can see at least 10 engaging complex situations that students could use to practice their problem solving skills.  Current events can and should be used to increase our student’s exposure to informational text across the disciplines, as required in the common core.
 Today’s headlines include obvious connections with science, social studies and language arts curricula.  Quick discussions in science can come from posing questions that will apply scientific principals and environmental issues to the news – Should we have a bear hunt to control populations? Should parents opt out of children’s vaccinations?   Should raw milk be legal?  Who is responsible for paying for flood damage?  Should fracking be allowed? 
In social studies, current events can be used to look at current laws, cultural diversity, and society -What are the criminal charges resulting from a suicide in connection with cyberbullying?  Should Egypt ban the drinking of alcohol, bikinis and mixed bathing for tourists? Should local police in Arizona help enforce immigration laws? Should we change marriage licensing laws to take advantage of wedding tourism?  What can be done to decrease the amount of homeless children? Should people be able to bet from their computers or cell phones? Each of these news items give perspectives on complex issues that ask our students to think beyond just facts. 
 Language arts teachers are given the daunting task of keeping our students engaged in reading and writing everyday.  All of these current events can be used in the language arts classroom to increase reading and comprehension of informational texts.  Using the SCAN critical thinking strategy rather than the usual: who, what, where, when, how, and why, students will not only gain a deeper understanding of the problem but they can take their thinking one step further and propose their own solutions.
Using the SCAN strategy is easy (SCAN-See the issues, Clarify the issues, Ask yourself what’s important, and Now, what should be done?).  You can provide a simple, relevant lesson by having students read the article,highlight or research perspectives (from the article or other sources), brainstorm the issues, clarify the issues, determine what is most important and propose what should be done.   
Check out this great article about a school policy on cell phones.  The article includes points of view from board members, the board attorney, students and parents.  There are also some great opinions expressed in the comment section! 
To use SCAN with “no tech,” have students read a hard copy of the article, put them in groups to represent a point of view and discuss the issues. They can record their issues on paper or on poster sheets.   Jigsaw students so that each point of view is represented in a group and have them clarify their issues, determine which issues are most important by voting with dots from different color markers on the issue lists. Have students work together to determine what action should be taken.  A simple article is the basis of a simple lesson that includes active reading, critical thinking, collaboration, and relevant content! 
Go high tech and have students discuss the issues online through the SCAN online tool.  The lesson is free through this month.  Simply go to, (register-it’s free), and set up the lesson through your dashboard, print out a student worksheet, give students the url and they will be guided through the SCAN process online!
Either way, combining current events and critical thinking is a simple way to bring rigor and relevance to your classroom!

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