What the teacher did: I briefly shared some news updates with students.

Today is the day we begin to prepare to write our letters to lawmakers. Each student was asked to identify at least one concrete step he/she believes needs to be made to help address the mass shooting epidemic.

What the students did: Student wrote their belief statements. Here are some example statements:

I believe AR-15s should be outlawed.

I believe every school should have an armed guard.

I believe the age of consent to buy a gun should be raised to 21.

What the teacher did: Once students had their “I believe…” statements, they were asked to complete a tri-chart graphic organizer. In the first column they had to list reasons to support their belief statements (they In the second column they had to write down anticipated counterarguments. In the third column, they had to write how they would refute the counterarguments.

What the students did: Students spent the rest of the period filling out their charts. This spurred them to revisit many of the articles/cartoons/graphics that they had previously studied.

What the teacher did: As students were working, the teacher conferred with random students to push their thinking as they built support for their arguments.

Some reflections on the lesson:

  • This lesson is the “grunt work” that is foundational to writing a cogent letter. I am reminded of Ernest Morrell, who says the hardest part of teaching can be that transition from inspiration to perspiration. This was a perspiration day.


  • The following was asked of me on my blog: “Although you teach seniors, I wondered if you reached out to parents prior to this unit so they would be prepared for any conversations students may have when they go home. Also, did you have to get approval by your administration? NEA's advisory states, “school safety and gun control issues may be considered 'controversial' [therefore] educators should refer to their collective bargaining agreement and district policies.”

Great questions. No, I did not reach out to my parents ahead of time to give them a heads up, nor did I get approval from my administration. Teaching controversial issues is in my state ELA standards (in this case, the Common Core). Schools are the VERY PLACE where this kind of study should be occurring. I am not simply trying to inform my students of the details of the controversy; I am also teaching my students how to have measured and reasonable discourse with those with whom they disagree. Isn’t this where school gets the most interesting—where reasonable people disagree?

I am also trying hard to make sure the unit is balanced, with student access to both sides of the issue.

AuthorKelly Gallagher