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Friday, December 7, 2012

Simple Questions lead to Complex Learning

Watching the news this morning there was a story about a baby panda growing stronger in the zoo.  Isn't it ridiculously cute?  As usual, it got me to thinking about zoos and breeding programs and endangered species….and off I go!
With the new Common Core, teachers can turn their focus from “the test” to teaching students to think for themselves.  Sometimes it just takes a simple question.  That seems to be the basis of “Problem-Based Learning.”  Think about the question posed by the NYCDOE Nonfiction Reading and Opinion/ Argument writing task for 5th grade:  “Should zoos exist?” or for older students, Room for Debate’s “Does Captive Breeding Distract from Conservation?”  These simple questions can be the basis for some great informational reading and research-based writing and some great critical thinking.  

Check out these resources that provide different perspectives on the debate on zoos:

The same resources can be found here, all neatly arranged in this “live binder” – a digital binder that will allow you to share all of these resources with your students in one easy place.  Have your students do the research and use this great persuasion map from to get their writing started!

Jumpstart their thinking!
Having a discussion before students start writing can help them understand new perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of the issues.    The SCAN tool  at has a great new scenario “Should Zoos Exist?” (always free) complete with scenario, four perspectives, resource links and a private discussion format to get them started.


  1. Love the idea of this as an argumentative essay prompt! So many good points for both sides. Thanks for collecting some resources to get started.

  2. You're welcome. This happens to be one of the prompts being used in NYC schools. Animals are a very engaging topic for all ages!