Our Pro Se Court on Zoos

We finished our fifth week of instruction with a Pro Se Court. After spending the week reading through four different articles on the value of zoos, students were divided into three groups: petitioners, respondents, and justices. The petitioners had to argue that zoos needed to be closed, respondents had to explain the value of zoos, and justices had to weigh the evidence and the strength of the arguments. In turn, the justices had to rule in favor of either the petitioner or the respondent.

There were eight groups and the justices were split 4 to 4 on closing zoos.

Structured Academic Controversy: Lunches

On Friday students completed a Structured Academic Controversy. It is a strategy that has students collecting evidence from multiple sources and using that evidence to create and support a claim. In this case students learned about how some school systems are banning lunches from home and requiring all students to eat school meals.

What is important about this strategy is that students did not learn until moments before the debate which side they would have to defend. Consequently, the preparation for the day had students attending to both sides of the issue.

Our Pro Se Court

Today we did our first Pro Se Court. This was the culmination of reading through four different sources on zoos and identifying evidence to support claims about the value of zoos. All of the source material (here) is written at the 7th grade level and this required students to navigate complex text and work with challenging vocabulary.

The term pro se is Latin and means “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.” Students became defendants, prosecutors, or justices before creating triads to allow for rich discussions.

Ultimately the justices ruled 6 to 3 in favor of the defendants; that is, zoos were causing greater harm than good.

Using the Discussion Strategy, Fishbowl

Today we used the discussion strategy “Fishbowl” to debate whether using bottled water was more positive or negative. The students read two articles (here) and annotated the pieces looking for evidence to support one position or the other. Then they discussed both articles free of any valued added statements; instead, attention was pointed to finding evidence.

The students positioned themselves around a fishbowl with four students in the middle. Students would share a point, debate the point, and if they couldn’t find evidence or didn’t have a good argument, they would tap someone from outside the fishbowl to take over for them.

The annotating, discussion and debate will help us with our writing in which students have to support a super claim.

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Zooming In

Today we completed a Zoom In. In this case we took a careful look at Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom. This is an instructional strategy first introduced to me by Angela Orr which she describes as follows:

The Zoom-In Strategy is an excellent way for you to have students participate in document analysis in a new way. Zoom-In’s are images that have been manipulated so the students only see a portion of the image, rather than the whole thing at one time. Students often struggle to identify the nuances in art, details in a photograph, or historical significance of terms or images chosen by an author/artist/photographer/illustrator. Zoom-In’s highlight these nuances and with the use of guiding questions enable students to analyze primary sources in a new way.

The strategy is important insofar as reinforcing the the habit of making claims supported by reasoning and evidence.

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Socratic Seminar: A Game of Catch

This week we completed our first Socratic Seminar. We used the text A Game of Catch to reinforce the habit of buttressing claims with evidence from text. In this case, students had to build their case and answer the questions, Why did Scho fall from the tree?

Our Socratic Seminar followed the structure listed at www.ProjectTahoe.org (here) in which 100% of the talking and arguing is done by the students.

Our Study of the American Revolution Begins

Today we started our study of the American Revolution. The big idea for students to grasp, after working through 17 units, is that disagreements about principles of government led colonists to seek independence from Great Britain. Students will be introduced to important battles, historical figures, and writings so they know what values were at the heart of the Revolution.

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Structured Academic Controversy–Recycling

Today we concluded our Pro/Con readings on recycling and divided ourselves into partners for our Structured Academic Controversy. We started the work last week when students annotated articles on recycling and identified a “super claim.” This was followed by students sharing the evidence they found and then today we divided ourselves into partners and randomly were assigned a position in favor or against our super claim.

Using Pro/Con to get ready for our next SAC

We started the week reading about the pros and cons of recycling to get ready for our next Structured Academic Controversy (SAC). We continue to use this method so that students develop perspective taking and civic responsibility.

We are also using text annotating to go with our reading. This will help facilitate the process of making claims supported by evidence.

Field Trip to the 2nd Judicial District Court

Today we visited the 2nd Judicial District Court to put on a mock trial. This was followed by learning more about the work of a court, information about jails and prisons, and a chance to “meet an inmate.”

The day included a lot of learning and a lot of fun. This was best exemplified by the cased we tried and adjudicated. Ultimately, the students found Curly Pig liable for damages in the case brought by B.B. Wolf.

 

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