Note: my class periods are 53 minutes, every day. Because of time limitations, I am sharing a skeletal view of the lessons. In my lesson plan book, “What the teacher did” and “What the students did” are in side-by-side columns. However, they would not load as columns onto this web page.

What the teacher did: I posted the following articles to our digital “In the News…” page:

Teachers in This Texas School are Already Armed---source LA Times:

Cop Who Didn’t Enter School During Florida Shooting Resigns---source Fox News:

Transcript: Stoneman Students Questions to Lawmakers and the NRA at the CNN Town Hall---source: CNN:

Authorities missed dozens of warning signs about the Florida shooting suspect before the massacre---source: Business Insider:

Oregon lawmakers pass gun-control bill; first since Florida shooting---source: USA Today:

I am adding news stories to this page daily as they unfold. Instead of reading in their independent books today, I directed students to open up the classroom digital page and to surf and read amongst these articles for ten minutes. Students were then asked to share their thinking with a “shoulder partner” (My students sit at tables, not desks).

What the students did: Students read articles in the “In the News…” section of our digital classroom page, and then shared some thinking with a “shoulder partner.”

What the teacher did: Students were directed to the gun control page found on

What the students did: Students read quietly through the pros and cons for 15 minutes.

What the teacher did: I asked my students to take one argument in favor of gun control and one argument against gun control. For each of the arguments, they were asked to list (1) reasons that support the argument; (2) counterarguments the other side would give; and (3) possible rebuttals to the counterarguments. Again, they had to do these three steps on two different occasions: once for an argument in favor of gun control and once for an argument opposed to gun control. 

To help them to understand the task, I modeled two examples before they started. Because I did not want to influence their thinking—and because I didn’t want them to copy me—I modeled the task on a different controversial issue: the death penalty. I took one argument in favor of the death penalty and one argument opposed to the death penalty, and modeled reasons, counterarguments, and rebuttals to the counterarguments for each of the arguments.

As they began working on their arguments, I circulated the room to confer with as many of them as possible.

What the students did: Students zoomed in on two opposing arguments and considered the reasons, the counterarguments, and rebuttals to the counterarguments. Most students worked on this until the end of the period. (Students who finished before the end of the period were asked to take out their independent books and to read quietly).

Some reflections on the lesson:

  • In my first class of the day, I modeled the argument/counteragument/rebuttal chart to them before they began wading through the arguments on  This was a mistake because students were finding two arguments fairly quickly and were beginning to write about them immediately. This in itself is not bad, but because they began writing so early they did not get to the subsequent arguments on the procon site. I adjusted 2nd period by having them read for 15 minutes first, and then after they had read, I introduced the task at hand. Even after 33 years of teaching, my first period still gets my crappiest lesson of the day.


  • I know the initial 10 minutes of reading “In the News…” is not nearly enough time for them to read all the articles I have been posting, but I am hoping it whets their appetites enough so that they will want to voluntarily go back and read more of them outside of school.


  • I want my students to have more of a visual of how this story is unfolding. In the past, I have stretched butcher paper across a wall in my classroom and then printed and posted news articles as the story unfolds—a timeline of events. I’ve done this because I want my students to see that the story has “legs,” and that they should be tracking their thinking over time. The problem? I no longer have enough wall space in my classroom to do this (too many bookshelves!). However, I have two long whiteboards. I may have to sacrifice one of them.

AuthorKelly Gallagher