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: I facilitated a brief classroom discussion on what has happened in the news in the last 24 hours. I posted stories about the following:

·       The president meets with victims’ families at the White House

·       The Florida town hall meeting with Marco Rubio

·       Deputies in Florida to begin carrying rifles on school grounds

·       Threats against schools have increased since the Florida shootings

What the students did:They spent a few minutes surfing the articles.

What the teacher did: I introduced students to the podcast, Left, Right, and Center. This is a weekly discussion of the political events of the week (free on iTunes). The panel always has representation from the left, the right, and the center of the political spectrum. This week’s panel:

         Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review (right)

         David Frum, editor of The Atlantic (right)

         Josh Barro, editor for Business Insider (center)

         Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation (left)

The first 13 minutes of this podcast were devoted to the tragedy in Florida. To prepare the students for the conversation/debate they were about to hear, I previewed the segment and tracked vocabulary that I thought might be troublesome. I selected the following words and briefly previewed their definitions:

Dubious: doubtful               

Vigilant: wary

Lobbyist: a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest

Adjudicate: to settle               

NRA: National Rifle Association

Commerce: exchanging goods       

Scalia: former conservative Supreme Court justice

2nd amendment: an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the right to bear arms as necessary to maintain a state militia

Lax: not strict                   

Perforated: to poke holes in something

After previewing the vocabulary, students were given a 4-column chart. Each column had the name of one of the four panelists at the top. As the podcast was played, students were asked to listen carefully and to track the major points made by each speaker. The 13-minute segment was then played.

What the students did: Students listened carefully and then charted the major points made by each of the panelists. Upon the completion of the podcast segment, they compared notes, helping one another to make sure they captured the arguments made. Students were then asked to review their notes, find a point of interest, and to quickwrite in their notebooks for 10 minutes.

What the teacher did: I wrote alongside my students. Upon completing the writing, I asked students: “Did anyone find that the act of writing led you to unexpected thinking?” A few students replied affirmatively. I then talked briefly about why writing is so critical as a means of discovering thinking, and emphasized this is one reason why I still write regularly as an adult.

What the students did: Students were asked to share some post-writing thinking in small groups. Everyone was asked to say something. Students were encouraged to listen to any opposing opinions with civility. Once students had an opportunity to express their thinking in small groups, the discussion was opened up for whole-class input. The period ended with whole-class discussion.

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:

  • Two days into the lesson, and I am already behind. I had initially planned to spend half the class around listening and responding to the podcast, and then I was going to introduce my students to the gun arguments made on a different website. But the podcast segment took much longer than anticipated. Part of the problem was that the dialogue was rapid-fire in places, and my students were not able to track and record the major points quickly enough. I decided in the middle of the activity that I needed to pause the recording in a number of places so that my students would have time to catch up with their note-taking. I had “macro-planned” every one of the 12 days, and now that I am already behind, I am will have to go back and make adjustments.
  • I wish my students had more time to write. As a way to capture some time back, I am considering abandoning tomorrow’s 10-minute reading block. I want to begin stretching them out as writers on this topic.

AuthorKelly Gallagher