Thursday, February 2, 2017

Argumentation Skills Using Current Events & Gatsby

By Kim Miklusak

This year I have decided to flip the order of how we access The Great Gatsby.  In the past we have read texts that center around the idea of whether The American Dream is accessible to all people at all time and have used supporting text as analysis and comparison.  This year I have decided to start with prior knowledge of The American Dream and wait until the end of the unit to analyze whether it exists today and for all people, using this information to analyze Gatsby rather than applying it to Gatsby as we go.  To begin the unit, students brainstormed and wrote a 1-page response that I hung up on the walls for them to read now and return to later.

Then for 3 weeks (3 days each week) students will work in groups of 3-4 to analyze an article about a given "right."  Some of the rights are more "traditional" such as the right to arms, freedom of religion, freedom of speech.  Other topics are less traditional like the right to select your own gender label, the right to clean drinking water, and the right to quality literacy education.  Each group pulls a random envelope with an article--all recent, all from various political leanings and sources.  The students read and annotate and look up any other information they may need.  They then state the author's argument and analyze the limitations, applications, and implications using sentence starters and guiding questions.

Finally, students randomly drew defend/challenge as their stance.  Their task was to respond to the argument and provide convincing evidence and analysis as support in a 1-page written argument.  I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged students were in these discussions: some partners separated their groups to work in secret before sharing their work with "the other side."  Some groups worked together with "the other side" to talk about complexities as they worked.  At times students argued stances other than their own beliefs to respectfully challenge their peers verbally and in writing.  We pushed each other to look at other implications such as states' rights, identity, laws, etc. They also discussed the best ways to frame the argument and how to be most convincing in a short amount of space and time.

We will be broadcasting this lesson via Periscope on Tuesday, February 7th.  Check out our @EGCollabLab Twitter account if you're interested in tuning in.  I will write more about the assessment for the unit and reflections later!

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