Archive for the ‘teaching ideas/resources’ Category

One thing is certain as a teacher. You do not become a better without lots of hard work, reflection, and practice. Teaching is a craft.

Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion is the book that has helped me hone my skills the most. This book really should be on every teacher’s shelf (one reviewer says one for home, and one for school). Canadian teacher training does a good job with practical experience, but unless you are paired with a master teacher, you’re left to your own devices and a handful of competing theories.

I have no problem with theory, but management (think strategy vs tactics) can be tricky. Lemov shares 49 practical tactics master teachers use (Check out Lemov’s new TLAC 2.0)  While I agree that reducing teaching to technique is dangerous mistake, proper management is required for a teacher’s sustainable mental health. Almost all students I talk to say that the best teachers are the ones that instill discipline, respect, and hard work.

Here are some of the secrets of master teachers, starting with ones I’ve begun to adopt already:

1. No Opt Out – “A sequence that begins with a student unable to answer a question should end with the student answering the question as often as possible.”

Teachers should continually increase the cognitive work students do. The first rule of success is to not allow students to opt out of questions they “don’t know.” Boring reviews of homework become challenging, upbeat and interesting when students are held to a higher standard. If a student doesn’t know an answer, ask another student. If they give a full response, ask the initial student to repeat the definition. Come back a couple minutes later to see if it stuck. Students are often overconfident in their understanding of concepts until you make them explain to the class.

2. Right is Right – Don’t settle for partially right answers. Follow through to keep academic expectations high.

3. Follow Up – For international students with a highly developed worldview, asking challenging follow up questions is one of the most powerful ways to differentiate in the classroom. In my experience teaching advanced texts to middle schoolers (such as Plato’s Apology) it is always best to stretch overconfident students to their cognitive limit.

4. Cold Call – Don’t let students tune out because it’s not their turn. A little bit of “surprise” pressure is good for students, especially if you support learners with No Opt Out. Don’t set an order when reading a text out loud, and students will follow along better. Call on different students and vary the difficulty of the questions.

5. Ratio – More and more of the cognitive work should be done by students as you progress through a lesson. Some ways to do this are to feign ignorance (what do we do next?), have students finish your sentences, have them rephrase, ask higher order questions like why or how, and have students support their opinions with more reasons.

6. Break the Plane – Circulate around the room within the first five minutes of a lesson. Don’t let students feel like bystanders. I’m certainly guilty of standing there in my comfort zone. The most powerful position you can have is one in which students can’t quite see you, but know that you are present.

7. Complete Thoughts – Students should speak and write in full sentences 100% of the time. Half-thoughts lead to overconfidence and lazy thinking. Next year I will have a homework rubric and nothing less than a full sentence will be accepted for marks.

8. Repetition  – Students need to practice a skill at least 10 times before it becomes engrained. This is one of the things I found most difficult in the American style 40 minute class. You can have an amazing lesson, but never have time for kids to show you their mastery skills. According to #5 Ratio, this is a huge mistake.

9. Visible Objectives – Always write the objectives for that lesson on the board. The shortest path to mastery should be manageable (done in one class), measurable (you know when you’ve succeeded), and the most important (the shortest path to mastery).

10. Exit Slip – Students should always expect to show their understanding at the end of a lesson. The more substantial the answer (maybe a paragraph) the better. If students feel rushed at the end of class, they give half-answers and half-thoughts. I’ve definitely fallen prey to poor time management and not following up the next day with student responses. One way of teaching, based on behavioral psychology, is to ask students what they need to review, and then review only that material the next day. This gives students positive reinforcement, since they are being taught what they asked to learn.

11. Imagine – Don’t just imagine what you will say and do in the classroom. Imagine what the students will say and do in your lesson. What does your lesson (or long monologue) look like from their perspective? I’ve only just begun to do this, and it really helps you envision the shortest path to mastery.

12. Signals – Use non-verbal signals to make smooth transitions. This year I experimented with using numbers. Number 1 was “close computers” (before I take them away), 2 was “take out a piece of paper”, and 3 was “silence”. Kids get a kick out of the secret language, although my students found it more interesting to talk the phenomenon instead of completing the task seamlessly. What I was missing was a way to enforce consequences without too much discussion (see 19).

12. Entry Routine/On your mark – Students should pick up papers, have homework on their desks ready, and have pencils sharpened before we get going. I often have something written on the board for students to do. With practice, you don’t need to give any directions – students know what is expected and they can see the activity written on the board. Along with this rule, I’ve decided that next year there will be no bathroom breaks until the last 15 minutes of class.

13. Strong Voice – Say only what is absolutely necessary. Don’t talk over your students. Don’t engage off topic remarks. Speak quietly if you want students to take you seriously. These are a lot easier said than done. One time, a university professor of mine was confronted by an angry indignant student. His response was to lean back on the chalk board, speak quieter, and leave awkward silences. This showed he was in control.

14. Label desks – Instead of wasting time numbering groups, have your desks numbered or labelled already. One of my colleagues in kindergarten labels his desks with pictures of bread – either you have peanut butter, or jam. You can then pair up with an opposite, or form two groups in an instant. Also, if you want students to put desks back where they belong, tape spots on the floor for them (not sure how this works with janitors).

THINGS I’LL BE WORKING ON NEXT YEAR

Along with the above, here are more Lemov secrets that I will intentionally foster in my classroom next year:

15. SLANT – No one is exempt from showing respect by being prepared. Sit up, Listen, Ask questions, Nod your head, and Track the teacher – these are behaviours that have to be taught, not just expected – especially with those particularly entitled diplomat or wealthy kids. One of my students this year consistently put his feet up on a cross beam in his desk. After getting annoyed (or rather embarrassed when other teachers walked in), my response was to take one shoe off and keep it for a while. This proved to be just a fun distraction and totally ineffective. Better to enforce SLANT from day one with non-humorous consequences.

16. Threshold – As soon as students enter (or in some cases approach) your classroom, they should feel responsible. Make eye contact, shake hands, and say good morning to show that your class expectations have begun. Shaking hands is in most cases the only way to make physical contact with students, and this is a powerful signal.

Remember the tramway ethical dilemma? Psychologists like Jonathan Haidt have found that people are much less likely to commit a crime if they have to physically touch another person. While this sounds weird in relation to school and students, the same effect applies. The first time I had to call a principal to my classroom in a public school, the large burly man took the insecure and highly insubordinate 14 year old by the hand. He shook it vigorously, and was feared thereafter.

17. Class Vibe – I want to create some good energy in the classroom by having students cheer each other on, sing idiosyncratic songs they made up, and respond in chorus. Lemov talks about teachers that have special names like “lawnmower” for the kudos students offer each other. “Class, it looks like Mark has really hit the nail on the head with that answer, let’s give him the lawnmower,” and then everyone made a physical gesture (starting the lawnmower) with a sound. To create classroom culture, some teachers make inside jokes only their class understands. While teaching AP Psych, I found that my students laughed about (and remembered) the neuron song we sang.

I did play random games with the class, but the challenge is always to relate them to objectives. Competition does this really well. Add chants and cheers to the mix and you have a fun classroom that doesn’t realize it’s also learning.

18. Binder Control – Good organizational habits have to be taught. Punishing students for not organizing or even having a binder is like giving someone a timeout for not riding a bike on their 5th, 6th, or 7th tries. Require a table of contents, page numbers, sections, etc. The biggest struggle I had this year was students complaining that they couldn’t use their computers. Probably one of the reasons they thought binders were useless is because they hadn’t yet learned to organize properly.

19. No Warnings – Warnings are a sign to your students that it’s OK to not live up to expectations, and they are a recipe for inconsistency on your part. Better to just give a small consequence the first time so students get the message. Next year I’ll be posting all my rules and small consequences on the wall and starting from day one. The key to this is having many small incremental consequences (losing 5 minutes of break, defining 5 or 10 words in the dictionary, sharpening all the pencils at break, cleaning the whiteboards, etc.). International schools are a place where whining and talk-back are rampant. These will be included on my list of no-warning consequences. In many cases you’re enforcing behaviors that are rarely addressed at home.

20. Practice the rules – Review expectations in a fun way when you aren’t concerned about behavior. Spend the first couple weeks reinforcing the behaviors you want to see by doing them again and again. Time them to see how fast they can do it. Make it a challenge.

21. Positive Framing – Narrate the view of the world you want your students to see, even while improving it.  Don’t narrate your failure to enforce consequences in front of the class (“I’m going to wait for Jonny to do X before moving on..”) Talk about how to behave well (We show respect in this class by listening the first time) instead of asking rhetorical questions (“Can’t you hear what I’m saying?”).

 

A NOTE ON THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM: While these techniques enforce efficiency, conformity, and routine, my current view is that these virtues are necessary in any school system if it want to achieve results. Not only this, but I’ve been convinced by Angela Duckworth and other psychologists that discipline and grit really matter in life (See Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed” on the latest research).

The Einstein quote “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school,” is often invoked to say that school is largely unimportant. But it can also mean that habits are more important than knowledge – and for Einstein, imagination was one of those fundamental habits that schools killed.

I agree entirely with John T. Gatto that school more often than not “ruins” kids intellectual curiosity due to its constant enforcement of rules and ridiculous 8 period days.

That is why I think it is important to distinguish the tactics that address virtues (like SLANT, positive framing, and respect) and the ones that address conformity for efficiency’s sake (Threshold, Entry Routine, Binder Control, Class Vibe).

If you’re a sociologist, well, let’s go for coffee sometime so we can talk theory.

(Thanks to Miguel Sansalone for lending me Lemov’s book in Yerevan!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MUNA-Colour

You’d think that sitting through eight hours of speeches two days in a row would deflate any high schooler from participating again, not to mention their teacher counsellors. This was my first year at Winnipeg Model UN, and it was the best experience of students passing notes (personal and diplomatic) in my teaching career. When else do you have personal pages running notes for you, of both the political ultimatum, and tic-tac-toe varieties. As Winnipeg opens the new museum for Human Rights in September, I expect more schools will be sending delegations next year.

Russia presented their case about the Syrian rebels’ use of chemical weapons, North Korea threatened the US delegates, the Cuban delegation (a team from the US) denounced the US  as “the devil to the north,” (they were from Selkirk), and a WASPy Egyptian delegation revelled in their rhetoric against the Muslim Brotherhood and Israel. And then there was the Israeli delegate, a young Aboriginal man from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, whose job it was to call into question the notion of “indigenous peoples.”

It was perhaps this moment, a philosophical and political debate on the definition of “indigenous”, when Roberts Rules of Order worked their magic. Here was a bright and confident Aboriginal young man representing a very different kind of minority point of view. He had to think on his feet quickly, in order not to be cut off from debate by a move to previous question which would force a vote on the resolution.

My main job as counsellor was to look good dressed in business attire, and make the occasional suggestion to my delegates from Brazil, who were slated to give speeches in support of a resolution to create a fund for the plight indigenous peoples. It wasn’t long before my guys were wrangled in the political mess of wanting to do justice, and have their country’s best business interests in mind. We ended up voting for China on the South Seas conflict, since they have extensive Amazonian logging interests. Meanwhile, China voted against our indigenous fund resolution.

MUNA is not only a great introduction to political economy, it is also a lesson in the power of political connections, backroom deals, the magnetism of charismatic speakers, and above all, the need to be prepared. This is why MUNA rewards the two most prepared delegations every year – those who are knowledgeable and willing to speak on a host of issues, regardless of whether they are Mali and the resolution is about Syria.

This year our school sent delegations to Toronto MUNA as well, and one student won best position paper in a committee, regarding reduction of small arms trade. Even if you don’t enter a delegation or two, I highly suggest having your class volunteer as pages for the event, as it is always the experience that brings students back the next year.

Model UN is gaining ground in Canadian social studies’ programs, and for good reason. There are even Middle School versions of the conference. Here’s what our ex-foreign minister and current premier have to say about it:

The two years I was involved with the Model UN opened for me the challenges faced by the world of international relations. It also gave me the opportunity to meet, through the Rotary club, the dedicated volunteers, advisors and mentors to learn from. Looking back, as a former foreign minister, I believe participating in the Model UN was one of the formative experiences of my youth.”

Dr.Lloyd Axworthy, President of the University of Winnipeg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

“Taking part in the prestigious Winnipeg Rotary Model United Nations Assembly as a high school student allowed me to experience for the first time how politics is conducted, both in the public halls and behind the scenes. It gave me a taste of what it means to speak to the hopes, dreams, and needs of all citizens. For the participants of the 55th Winnipeg MUNA, it is the perfect time to hone your debating and negotiating skills, and to put your convictions into action.”

The Honourable  Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba

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Download your free logical fallacies poster for the classroom here

LogicalFallaciesInfographic_A3

Thanks to Massimo Pigliucci over at Scientia Salon. Pigliucci is dept. head of philosophy at CUNY and editor of Philosophy and Theory in Biology. His new website devoted to pursuing eudaimonia through public discourse. Here is their manifesto, which seems like a sensible vision for any school teacher:

1) Scientia Salon is a forum for academic and non-academic thinkers who do not shy from the label “public intellectual.”

2) We think intellectualism — in the broader sense of a publicly shared life of the mind — is crucial to the wellbeing of our society.

3) We acknowledge — as is clear from research in the cognitive sciences — that human beings navigate the world by deploying a complex mixture of reason and emotion, and that they often engage in rationalization more than rationality.

4) Indeed, we think with David Hume that this is a crucial part of human nature, since emotions are necessary in order to actually care about anything in the first place.

5) But we also think that open and reasoned discourse is fundamental for the pursuit of a eudaimonic life on the part of the individual, as well as for the development of a just and democratic society.

6) Scientia, understood as the broadest range of scientific and humanistic disciplines that positively contribute to human understanding, is an essential tool for pursuing that eudaimonic life and achieving that just society.

7) In order to make an impact, we think that writers concerned with these matters ought to aim at a wide audience, avoid unnecessary jargon, and write clearly and engagingly, even humorously when appropriate.

8) We therefore welcome authors and readers who are willing to contribute honestly and substantively to an open dialogue on all matters of the intellect, especially those of general interest to fellow human beings.

My introduction to Pigliucci was a youtube forum discussion between him, Daniel Dennett, and Lawrence Krauss on the “limits of science.”

 

 

 

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I finally logged in to my Sr. Wooly account, home to the famous “Puedo Ir al Bano” song found on Youtube. I highly recommend subscribing to his site. Every video he provides has resources and teaching tips. I also found some pretty cool games.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this weekend in Winnipeg we had -50C  windchill (stupid global warming wobbly jetstream thingy), and the Gr. 9s are restless at 2:30pm (I have a Far Side comic book cover in mind). I tried out a bunch of Sr. Wooly’s games:

Noventa y nueve card game:  to practice numbers, students must add cards in the discard pile, but not go over 99. They have to constantly add or subtract based on the cards they play.

Opiniones:  One person stands up and says “a mi me gusta…” a movie or something, and whoever agrees has to stand up. Sr. Wooly does this with “es mejor que…”

Tres Acciones: We had great fun with this on Friday afternoon. It’s basically a jazzed up version of simon says. You really have to see his instruction video to get it, but basically you point at someone in a circle and say “tienes miedo”. The middle person has to cower in fear, and the people beside them have to do a sound effect and action. They have a time limit, and you can mess them up by saying “tengo miedo”. I used this game with “tienes que…” vocab and it seemed to work fine.

Concentremonos: this was my favourite because it was so simple and fun. I didn’t explain the rules to the students, I only said they had to say the first day of the week – Lunes, and get to the end of the week. If they make a mistake, I rang the bell, and they had to start over. The key is that they’re not allowed to prompt eachother, and no two people can talk at the same time. The fun is that no one knows who is going to speak next and mess everyone up. This was surprisingly effective in practicing ordinal numbers, days of week, months – anything that has a progression. They were instantly engaged by not knowing what the rules were and trying to figure them out.

 

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In Gr. 9 Social Studies I’ve been experimenting with short bursts of geographic literacy in between units. Inspired by Rafe Esquith, who has his Gr 5 students learning all the countries of the world, I thought it would be easy to do the same.

I applied a cooperative learning strategy called “quiz quiz” that I’ve used for AP Psychology. At times it feels like drill and kill, but students generally appreciate the slight competitive nature, and it is also a way to build classroom community.

The downside is that it takes a whole class to do one quiz quiz, but if you dedicated 1 day between units, you would have all the continents covered in 1 semester.

Here are some great perspective maps on world geography:

The-True-Size-of-Africaunited-states-into-russiaeurope-into-south-america-mapuk-into-great-lakesaustralia-into-brazilalaska-into-south-america-map

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034_infinite_monkey_theorem

Given enough time, can monkeys typing randomly come up the works of Shakespeare?…or even just 1 play?….  or just 1 sonnet?

The “infinite monkey theorem” has a long pedigree in the history of ideas – starting with Aristotle, and showing up in Jonathan Swift, Bacon, Huxley, Jorge Luis Borges, and Dawkins. There was even a real live demo of monkeys banging on (or smashing rather) typewriters in the UK. (They weren’t able to produce a single English word –  even “a”).

This week I used the poor old typing monkeys to illustrate the pros and cons of intuition. Does our hunch of what is possible change when we examine mathematically how small the chance actually is?

In AP Psych,  Thinking and Cognition unit, I gave a Cole’s notes summary of Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking: Fast and Slow. Kahneman is a cognitive psychologist famous for showing how economic decision theory has not taken account the often irrational nature of our intuitions, which are influenced by recent thoughts, events, and environments. For example, participants in a study who were asked to describe their overall life happiness were told to go make a photocopy in another room. Once they returned the psychologists gave them a life happiness questionnaire. In the experiment group, psychologists placed a dime on the photocopying machine. To their amazement, the experiment group reported a higher happiness in life than their counterparts! Their judgment of the whole was influenced by a recent (and minuscule) chance event that changed slightly their thought process.

We’re also less reasonable than we think, often falling back on gullible intuition to conserve energy. For example, consider the following:

A bat and a ball cost 1.10, and the bat was 1 dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

If you answered 10 cents, you’ve fallen prey to your misguided intuition, which associates the 1 dollar difference with the easy calculation between $1.00 and 10 cents. If you think about it before jumping to conclusions, you’ll realize that if the ball cost 10 cents and the bat was 1 dollar more, then the bat would have to cost 1.10, and the total would be 1.20. But you’re in luck, because when presented to students at Ivy League schools such as Harvard, more than have of the participants made the same mistake. In my AP Psych class of 23, only 1 student caught the problem right away.

OK, back to typing monkeys. I thought of using this example after reading about atheist philosopher Anthony Flew’s famous “conversion” to theism. This conversion, also experienced by the likes of Einstein, Schrodinger, Dirac, and Heisenberg (to varying degrees), hinges on the fundamentally rational nature of the universe: 1. science assumes the rationality of the universe, 2. the universe seems to reflect some kind of order, accessible to reason (or given by reason if you’re an idealist), 3. the inherent order of the universe seems to contradict the doctrine that all events are entirely by chance, 4. Our experience of order is more real than our experience of random chance, 5. It is more rational to assume their is an ordering logic to the universe (whatever that may be) than that everything is entirely by chance.

Anthony Flew, an atheist heretic, was said to be just an old man in his 80s with the jimmies for some kind of piety. That may be the case. Nevertheless, the example he cites from the scientist Gerald Schroeder is a great illustration:

What are the chances that monkeys will type a single Shakespeare sonnet?  Well, the smallest word in the English alphabet is “a”, but you need a space in front and back, so assuming that there are roughly 30 characters on a typewriter, that’s a probability of 30 x 30 x 30 , or 27,000.  Now, how about a sonnet? “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day” is 488 characters long. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, so the probability of generating each character in sequence is 26(power 488). In base 10, that’s 10 (power 690).

Just to give you an idea how big that number is, there are only 10 (power 80) estimated particles in the known universe. There are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials – you’d be off by 10 (power of 600).

If each particle were somehow converted into a microcomputer and did 488 trials a million times per second, the number of trials you get from the beginning of time is 10 (power 90). You’d be off again by a factor of 10 (600 power).  “Yet the world just thinks that the monkeys can do it every time.”

Again, this is simply 1 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, never the complexity of DNA or ecosystems, and it would be impossible for the entire universe converted to computers to generate it within the history of the universe.

So… how did my students react? Well, some were impressed. But most kept to their hunch – “if it is at all possible, and the universe is infinite, then sure, it’s possible for monkeys to come up with a Shakespeare sonnet.”

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Students in Gr. 9 often see issues in black and white, so what better way to introduce the ambiguities and complexities of everyday moral dilemmas by covering the political spectrum through debates on controversial topics? Debate forces students to take a side (even when they don’t agree with it) and focuses on the reasons behind decisions rather than simply individual opinion. And, it’s often fun, especially when you have an excuse to hammer the tables in agreement.  My first go at it was OK, but next time I would prepare more examples in current events and think more about the 4 dimensional quality of the spectrum, rather than placing libertarian and utilitarian on a right/left scale….

Understanding the Political Spectrum Through Moral Dilemmas

Big Idea:

Civil discourse is enhanced by finding that you agree with your opposition in some areas. Taking stances on various moral dilemmas will give us a greater understanding of our common belief in the competing claims of freedom and equality across the political spectrum. It also enables us to foster democratic discussion by building:

a) agreed upon vocabulary
b) opinions supported by reasons
c) a willingness to be convinced by good reasons

Unit Overview:

(I used a version of this for Gr 9, but you could adapt this for any SS course)

1. Watch Michael Sandel’s “Justice” dilemmas clips and discuss/journal

2. Introduce the Political Spectrum and vocabulary

3. Research and Debate pros and cons for three current issues

4. Use informed opinions and common vocabulary to kickstart an inquiry project, discuss multiculturalism, or start a Gov. unit

1. Michael Sandel – Harvard “Justice” course videos (Youtube)

Sandel’s Harvard course is a great exemplar for students of civic discussion among young people. Each example from the episodes below might take 25 min to watch, discuss, and then journal.

  • Episode 1 lecture 1 0-12 min mark

Introduces trolley car example
Forces students to choose between rights of one person or the good of many (would you kill 1 to save 5 people?)

  • Episode 1 lecture 2 28-40 min mark Cannibalism case

Students asked whether if shipwrecked, they would kill and eat a sick crew member in order that 2 others might survive (real law case – R v Dudley & Stephens, 1884).

These clips set up the vocabulary of utilitarianism and libertarianism which are helpful keys in understanding the difference between Canadian and American politics. The Canadian tradition of the “common good,” in its conservative or liberal forms, is contrasted with individual liberty enshrined in the US constitution.

2. Political Spectrum:

The political spectrum is often portrayed as a spread between economic equality (communism) and freedom (neoliberalism) on one plane, and social equality (authoritarianism) and freedom (libertarianism) on the other.

Image

There are many versions of political spectrums with political agendas, (such as the libertarian “Smallest Political Quiz”). Be sure you know what it is saying. The above spectrum comes from Political Compass.org – it would be good to know how the Canadian Conservative party was placed much farther up the “authoritarian” scale (perhaps Harper’s personal leadership style?).

In any case, the goal is to focus on what unites the disparate views. I focus on Modern Liberalism as our “common denominator”:

The current view of justice in Western society, based on the idea that we have rights by nature. Liberalism emphasizes the rights and duties of individuals. You have the right to liberty and equality, in return for your allegiance to the state.

To understand how liberty and equality are often at odds with one another, I use the vocabulary of utilitarianism and libertarianism, following Sandel. While students will want to pick one or the other as a point of identity, the idea is to introduce students to the spectrum in between these extremes, which will come out in the debates.

Utilitarianism: a view of justice in which the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few (maximize utility, ends justifies means, etc.).

Libertarianism: a view of justice in which individual rights are the most important. Government should not infringe on individual liberty.

eg. Modern Liberalism

Equality  – Utilitarianism – Health Care

Freedom – Libertarianism – US gun laws

3. Debate

Debate forces students to take more than one side of an issue. They must argue for resolutions they may not agree with. It also makes them think about how to define the terms of discussion. (Info on how to set up a debate, and exemplar videos can be found on the Manitoba Debate website.)

I introduce examples of liberty and equality which create controversy in current affairs:

Social equality: Quebec Charter of Values, illegal euthanasia

Social freedom: censorship, legal marijuana, freemen on the land

Economic equality: Health Care, Social Assistance

Economic freedom: Bangladeshi sweatshops

Formulate three resolutions.

Be it resolved that:

“this house would legalize euthanasia”

“this house would force religions to be equal”

“this house would censor the Internet”

Form groups of three – two debaters and one “brains of the operation” researcher. Place them in debate teams for each resolution. You may have two pairs of teams for one resolution. Government must define the resolution terms.

In order of speaking:

1.PM Alex,  2. Leader of the Opposition Joe,  3. Deputy PM Sharon,  4. Shadow minister Amanda, 5. L. Opp rebuttal, 6. PM rebuttal.

Each team must come up with 5 arguments for, and 5 arguments against their resolution. Use a day or two to research.

Debate sets up the Government unit well, and you can show clips of Question Period. Once they get their feet wet, students enjoy the controversy and understand better the challenges of being an MP.

During debates, I act as the Speaker and ham it up with dramatic introductions for speakers.  During each debate I write the main arguments on the board as they unfold. Engage all students by encouraging them to stand and give Points of Information during the debates. Students are very interested in who wins, and this will motivate them to research both sides of the argument. As an exit slip, all students must judge each debate and give reasons why the teams won, and whose arguments were better.

One of my goals is also to have students incorporate some of their journal material into their final paper on Canadian identity.  (For more on why writing academic papers may be a good thing, check out this Atlantic thread: http://www.theatlantic.com/debates/education/)

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