Search this blog

Friday, November 20, 2015

Not Yo Momma's Current Events: Use the news to get them thinking

 Watson Glaser Interview Report
In my never ending quest for Truth, Justice and the American way, oh wait, I mean teaching kids how to think, not what to think (which should lead to truth, justice and the American way), and to provide curriculum that is “challenging, exploratory, integrative (I had to look ‘integrative’ up, but now that I know what it means, I am in) and relevant,” I am always in search of great new resources and topics to get kids thinking and writing.
The focus of my search is to find hot topics that get kids to debate, collaborate and negotiate.  Using their natural enthusiasm for arguing, and the SCAN critical thinking strategy, my objectives are to:
1.      Make curriculum relevant by connecting standards to real world events
2.      Use the right questions to go beyond the standard who, what, where, when and why
3.      Provide great resources for finding kid-friendly articles
4.      Provide a tool that pulls 1-3 together and allows students to share their work globally (the SCAN tool at is free and does just that!)

Recently, I worked with a 6th grade class at the Mt. Olive Middle school and helped them develop their own topics for critical thinking (SCAN) scenarios.  SCAN is an acronym for four critical thinking questions that goes beyond the 5 W’s and can help students take apart complex problems, look at other perspectives and collaborate on viable solutions.  (Training our future world leaders – imagine if our leaders right now worked on some of the very serious and complex issues with a visible strategy and respect for different perspectives?  But I digress…..)

Lesson plan and resources to get them thinking
Groups of four students worked collaboratively on a template shared through google docs.  The template asks for a summary of the scenario, four different perspectives and short constructed paragraphs for each point of view.  While I was armed with some suggestions for hot topics in the news, they preferred topics that were closer to home! (Funny, I tried to steer some teachers this summer into doing a SCAN on The African Lion Hunt, and they, too, preferred to write their own on a topic close to home – Blizzard Bags –or Should Schools embrace Edays? Check the SCAN library for the lesson they wrote).

This was the plan:  
Copy this SCAN Lesson template in your google drive and share with the kids
1.      In groups of four, find a topic that people with different viewpoints were talking about.  This could be posed as a question (ex.  Should we have four day work weeks?)
2.      Identify four roles (stakeholders) with differing viewpoints.
3.      Together, write a short introductory paragraph for the scenario, including some of the viewpoints.
4.      Individually research a point of view, find evidence that supports it and record the link. (Sometimes, I provide articles, sometimes they have to find their own).
5.      Individually, write a short constructed response for each perspective.  Each perspective should include 3 issues or ideas that is important to them with supporting evidence or reasons.
6.      Provide links to articles that provide evidence or reasoning for that point of view.

Here are the topics that the students chose to research and write for SCAN lessons along with links you can provide to kids as informational text.  You can have your students work through the SCAN questions in an online discussion by setting up the lessons from the SCAN library, or have them write their own.
Should we have longer lunch?

Should we have recess in Middle School? 

Do we need a double period of Language Arts?

What should we do about our aging technology?
·         Technology Refresh

Should MS students be allowed to select their own schedules?

Highly motivated by the relevant topics and the knowledge that their work would be shared with me and the rest of the world through the SCAN tool’s library, the students worked diligently to complete their scenarios, which were then posted in the SCAN tool.  Why not have your students check out and evaluate their lessons?  Or better yet, challenge them to write their own?  Select topics in your subject area and get them writing and thinking!