Note: my class periods are 53 minutes, every day.  As part of my daily routine, my students read quietly for the first ten minutes of class while I confer with them. The unit described in these blog posts occurs outside these 10-minute windows.

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: Asked the students: “What do you already know, or think you know, about the mass shooting in Florida?”

What the students did: In small group discussions, students shared what they knew (or thought they knew) about the tragedy.


What the teacher did: Randomly selected responses from each group and charted them for the entire class to see.

What the students did: Students shared out as a whole class. Students listened and charted responses in their writer’s notebooks.


What the teacher did: Showed the following news clip that summarized what happened: Students were told to listen for hotspots, as they would be quickwriting after the clip.

What the students did: Students watched the clip and bulleted anything they found interesting. After watching the clip, students were asked to verbally share in their small groups something they were thinking.


What the teacher did: The teacher wrote in his notebook alongside the students.  

What the students did: After a short conversation, students were asked to write for 8 minutes in their notebooks. They have done enough quickwriting from seeds in this class to already know they had the freedom to take their writing in any direction they chose.

After writing, students were given a chance to share their initial thinking with others in their group. This was voluntary-only. Some students did; others did not. Some then shared out to the entire class.


What the teacher did: Introduced the key question of the unit: What should be done to help stem or stop mass shootings? Explained the finish line, that students will be writing letters and placing calls to lawmakers. Reassured the students that they will be shown how to do this.

Introduced the idea that there is a wide spectrum of opinion on this topic, ranging in extremes from those who believe all guns should be banned to those who believe there should be no limits on gun ownership. No matter what side of the spectrum you might be on, almost all people believe the rash of mass shootings is a problem that needs to be addressed, There is no controversy is recognizing the problem; the controversy lies in HOW to address it.  In some cases, both extremes might agree on some approaches (e.g increase mental health services); in other cases there is spirited disagreement as to what should be done. Students were then asked to brainstorm the “sub-categories” or elements that should be addressed if we are serious about “fixing” the problem.

What the students did: Students brainstormed the “sub-categories” or elements that should be considered if we are serious about addressing the problem. Here are some of their initial thoughts:

  • More mental health services
  • More school counselors, social workers, and nurses
  • Changing the law so that 18-year-olds cannot acquire guns
  • Re-examining /toughening background checks
  • Making it illegal to modify or “boost” guns
  • Making it illegal to own an AR-15
  • Providing parent education classes
  • Beefing up school security
  • Hiring armed guards for campuses
  • Arming teachers

After the brainstorm, each student participated in a brief “Say Something” lap.  Each student in each small group was asked to share one thought about the brainstorm. Person A spoke, and then it rotated to person B, and so on.


What the teacher did: After the Say Something activity, students were given a preview of the rest of the unit and were encouraged to share resources for our digital classroom page.


The period ended. Students are working on a digital poetry project at home that is due next week, and they were encouraged to work on it this evening.

Some reflections on the lesson:

  • It was interesting to see what they knew—and what they didn’t know—about the tragedy in Florida. This created some good talk. I also noticed that some students who are traditionally very quiet spoke out. This topic connected with them, and I could tell because as they watched the news clip, you could hear a pin drop in the room. Eric, a student who joined our class a month ago, spoke out today for the first time.


  • Normally, I quickwrite on the doc camera alongside my students, so that they can glance up and see my writing unfold as well. Today, however, I sat in the middle of the room with them and wrote privately in my notebook. In my attempt to stay neutral, I did not want them to see my initial thinking. I did notice they were very focused on their writing—it was much quieter than normal during today’s writing time. Another sign of engagement.


  • I created a Facebook-like digital page for the students to re-visit. I posted the news clip watched in class, along with a couple of others. They can re-visit these later, if they’d like. One section of this digital page is entitled, “In the News…” I have begun posting news stories from various websites on it. For example, the president indicated today that he is open to the idea of toughening “some” gun laws. As stories unfold, articles will be added to this section.


  • I will describe other elements of the digital classroom page as they are created. I am considering a section entitled, “Thoughts from the left” alongside a section called “Thoughts from the right.” Maybe. I am tired and need to sleep on it.


AuthorKelly Gallagher