“If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.”
Identify content you want students to know, and make a list of key vocabulary and concepts associated with the content. The terms can be new words or commonly known words, but they must be purposeful for the day’s lesson.
"Splash” these words across a sheet of paper by writing them at cockeyed angles all over the sheet. You might want to provide the words in little envelopes at every desk cluster or table group – that’s fine, too.
Now ask students to help you put them in logical order. Wild connections are often made, especially since it’s new material and students have no frame of reference. Once groups finish, ask them to share their thinking. Note the varied and occasionally entertaining interpretations. Then ask students to zero in on what it is they’re going to study and what they will be looking for as they read or learn. Then get to it.
Pass out the content reading material, conduct your lesson, do your demonstration, watch the video, and whatever else you were going to do to teach the material. Once done, ask students to go back to the words splashed on their papers or desks. Working as a group, ask them to place the words in a logical order that creates a summary of the material they just learned. They must be accurate and complete. Each group will mix and match terms, physically moving them around the page or desktop. They will discuss what belongs with what and what should be moved to the next sentence.
Once they have the words arranged, ask them to fill in around the terms with phrases and transitions that create full sentences and finally a well-constructed paragraph or two summary. Before asking groups to share their paragraphs, ask student groups to revisit the lesson or reading. Ask them to make sure their summary incorporates all that they learned, and that it is accurate and clear.
After they’re done, ask each group to share their rendering of the information for class critique. While one group presents, the other groups evaluate the accuracy, completeness, and clarity of the presenting group’s summary. f you have five groups in your room, the whole class will listen to five different summaries, critiquing them all. By the time you’re done, students know the information very well. Ask the class to vote on the best summary of the batch and have that one photocopied for the whole class, if possible.
Take the time to debrief with students. Ask them if their initial understanding was correct. If not, what changed for them? If it was correct, what background did they have prior to the lesson that enabled them to make those successful connections among the words?
Debate Ask your students to prepare and conduct a debate on a topic you are studying. Divide them into four opposing teams, two teams per debate. Two teams of students each take a position regarding a question or a statement: affirmative or negative. Each team spends time gathering data and research to support their position and to counter arguments from their opponents. Remind students that it is not a war of opinions; everything must be backed by data, research, and logic.
Suggested Sequence for Middle and High School Classes:
[This is a suggestion. Change the sequence and timing to suit your needs.]
Statement of the General Debate Topic and Why it’s Important – 1 min.
Affirmative Position Opening Remarks – 3 min.
Negative Position Opening Remarks – 3 min.
Affirmative Position Arguments – 5 min.
Negative Position Arguments – 5 min.
Caucus – Students on both teams consider their arguments and rebuttals in light of what has been presented. – 3 min.
Affirmative Rebuttal and Questioning of the Negative’s Case – 3 min.
Negative Rebuttal and Questioning of the Affirmative’s Case – 3 min.
Closing Arguments Affirmative Position – 2 min.
Closing Arguments Negative Position – 2 min.
Steps 7 and 8 are interactive. Both teams are allowed to respond. Positions can be given my one person or several.
An alternative format allows each position to make one major presentation of its arguments for no more than 6 minutes, then the opposing side cross-examines the arguments of the presenting team’s position for three minutes immediately afterwards.
Journalistic vs Expository Writing
Ask students to write the journalistic (narrative) version of expository text, or to write both versions of information they are studying. Examples:
Journalistic Style: “The breathing of Benbow’s pit is deafening, like up-close jet engines mixed with a cosmic belch. Each new breath from the volcano heaves the air so violently my ears pop in the changing pressure – then the temperature momentarily soars. Somewhere not too far below, red-hot, pumpkin size globs of ejected lava are flying through the air.” -- National Geographic, November 2000, p. 54
Encyclopedic Style: “A volcano is a vent in the Earth from which molten rock (magma) and gas erupt. The molten rock that erupts from the volcano (lava) forms a hill or mountain around the vent. Lava may flowout as viscous liquid, or it may explode from the vent as solid or liquid particles…” -- Global Encyclopedia, Vol. 19 T-U-V, p. 627