Note: Today we had a late-start day, which means our class periods were shortened to 45 minutes. 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 are presented sequentially below due to the constraints of this blog platform.
What the teacher did: I began class by doing a book talk on Dave Cullen’s Columbine. I started the lesson with this bold statement to the students: “Today, we start with the most debated sentence in the United States today: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The sentence, which is the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was posted up on the screen for all to see.
What the students did: Students copied the sentence in their notebooks.
What the teacher did: The teacher pointed out that there were many specific, single words in the 2nd Amendment that have been the subject of intense debate. Students were asked to read the sentence quietly a couple of times. They were then asked to attempt to “translate” the 2nd Amendment in their own words.
What the students did: Students wrote paraphrased versions of the 2nd Amendment into their notebooks and then shared out their interpretations in small groups.
What the teacher did: The teacher then facilitated a whole-class share out of student thinking. There was a lot of talk around the words “militia” and “well-regulated.” Once this share-out was completed, I showed them this short clip from the History channel on the history of the 2nd Amendment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TGcU0lmINk&t=28s
What the students did: Students took “bullet” notes on the video. Once the video was over, were asked, “What surprised you in the video?” Students then shared their thinking in small group discussions.
What the teacher did:I randomly chose student to share “one big idea that was discussed in your groups.” I then facilitated that sharing to the class.
I then showed them two articles we were going to study in class today (posted on our class digital page). One of the articles claims that the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the rights to bear any arms. The second article claims the 2nd Amendment has been misinterpreted.
We began with article #1. Students were given seven minutes to read as deeply into the article as possible. Some finished; some didn’t. Upon completing the article, each student worked on a “What does it say?/What does it not say?” T-chart drawn into their notebooks. We started with “What does it say? And students brainstormed in their small groups. (Example: the text says that it is a “natural right” to own a gun). After working on this side of the chart, and after sharing out as a class, students then brainstormed again on the “What does it not say?” side of the chart. Again we shared in small groups and then as a class as a whole. (Example: The text does not say anything about whether an age limit should be put on the purchasing of guns).
We repeated this entire Say?/Doesn’t say? process again with article #2. This took us to the end of the period.
Some reflections on the lesson:
- When my students are sharing in small groups, they are aware that often someone in the group is going to be asked to share “something interesting” that the group had discussed. What is important to know here is that each table’s spokesperson will be chosen randomly, which helps to ensure that everyone stays dialed into the conversation and that no one “hitchhikes.” My students sit four to a table, and the chairs they sit in come in four different colors. Often I will say something like, “Today the person sitting in the red chair is your group’s spokesperson. Take one minute, revisit the key points of the conversation your group just had, and help prep your spokesperson to represent your group well.” I am trying to build in consistent accountability.
- Even though I broke from the normal template of my “usual” rhythm of my class period, I still ran out of time before my students had a chance to do any quick writing about today’s articles. I really do not like it when my kids do not have time to write, but the articles took longer than anticipated. I could have assigned students to do some night writing, but their digital poetry projects are due tomorrow and I know many of them will be working on these projects late into the night (this project was assigned at the end of our poetry unit last week).
- Students also did not have time to do any independent reading in class today. I take some solace in that they did a lot of reading from the selected articles, but it bothers me that I could not work this in. I like today’s lesson, but any day without independent reading and without the opportunity to put more words down on the page makes me re-evaluate whether I made the best use of class time—even on a day with shortened periods.