The Big Idea: Children confront problems everyday. Some are small like how to study for an exam or get a ride to school, and some large like how to support their friends who are in unhealthy relationships. All of these problems involve the choice of whether to intervene or do nothing and let the situation play itself out. This choice is always hard because we never really know the future and must rely on our instincts in the moment.
Claim: According to famous Greek physician Hippocrates sometimes the best way to solve a problem is not to intervene. Let the problem resolve itself.
Counterclaim: But sometimes intervention is necessary to solve problems because people are unable or unwilling to do it themselves.
Essential Question:How do we know when we should intervene to solve problems?
COPY assignment, send to students and start the conversation!
This resource is from Teach Different, where you learn about how to make this conversation method a routine.
The Big Idea: Students make moral decisions everyday. Usually these decisions revolve around specific actions they take like helping a friend, cheating on a test or obeying curfew. But students also make moral decisions by being silent after witnessing the immoral behavior of others. In these situations, the impulse for self-protection overrides moral obligations. Learning how to choose whether or not to be silent in the midst of injustice is an important part of moral development.
Claim: According to American writer and feminist Audre Lorde, if you don’t speak up, your voice will never be heard. If you don’t stand up for yourself, then you will get taken advantage of. If you don’t stand up against injustice, it will never go away and it will be knocking at your door soon.
Counterclaim: Sometimes being quiet is the right thing to do. You need to be silent to protect yourself or a friend. Minding your own business can offer protection as well.
Essential Question:How do we know when to be silent?
COPY assignment, send to students and start the conversation!
This resource on Audre Lorde comes from the Teach Different where you can learn about a 3-Step method for making these conversations a routine.
Other posts you may like which use this conversation method:
One thing is clear: there is a great need for short, portable assignments to give to students which are meaningful, inspire conversations and will work in any environment (face-to-face, blended or virtual).
In that spirit, here’s something you can send students to foster some great conversations and get them to grapple with essential questions, using the ideas of some of our great historical and literary thinkers as prompts.
Each assignment is an editable Google form which has…
a provocative quote and theme and picture of the author
a student primer video
text fields where students write out the claim and counterclaim the author is making
space to answer an essential question
Click on the resources below and click “Make a Copy“
As this pandemic continues to unfold, I’m realizing that it just may serve as the best opportunity we will ever have to study of how government works (and doesn’t work).
To that end, I’m thinking ahead to the AP exam and thought of creating a simple, yet comprehensive, ongoing e-learning assignment which calls on students to connect all of the areas of government with the crisis.
I’ve used questions directly from the AP College Board as the prompts. Clearly, not all of the questions fit perfectly but enough do to make this a worthwhile activity.
MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail is a true classic, both for its historical significance and unapologetic endorsement of non-violent civil disobedience. It actually made the list of required readings for the AP government/politics course, a list that includes Federalist Paper #10, #51 and even the Constitution.
It’s not easy to teach, though. The letter has profound ideas about the relationship between the individual and the state which are hard for students to appreciate.
Here’s a different way of teaching the letter using a compelling quote by Albert Einstein to start things off:
“Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.”
Tell students to…
1. State the claim that Einstein is making by putting it in their own words
2. Establish a counterclaim which goes against Einstein’s thinking.
3. Share responses privately in groups of three
4. Share out with the entire class
The quote exposes the tension between an individual’s duty to follow moral conscience and the duty to follow government laws, duties which often conflict. Einstein clearly provokes us to follow our conscience, not the law.
In the ensuing conversation encourage students to bring up situations where THEY must decide between obeying their morals or obeying the government. There’s always the refusal to go to war because of religious reasons, but there are others. This week I had a student describe how his father– who was religiously opposed to vaccinations for his children– was forced to obey the laws of the state of Illinois. He had a very difficult choice to make. This issue hits home emotionally in a very real way.
After the conversation, think about a really good essential question that puts everything together. Here’s one I developed recently: Should you ever disobey a law if it offends your moral conscience?
With this question in hand, give out King’s Letterand tell the students to think and write about how MLK would answer the essential question using specific textual references from the document. You could give them this task as an in-class writing assignment, for homework or even as preparation for a Socratic seminar discussion. The possibilities are vast.
What has happened here?
Well, a lot.
You started the students off with a provocative quotationwith a themeconnected to a primary source. You challenged students to think critically about the quotation by coming up with a claim and counterclaim and then had a thoughtful conversation about the meaning of Einstein’s quote as it relates to students’ lived experiences. Then you capitalized on their emotional investment in this conversation by creating an essential question designed to generate interest and excitement in the letter.
Yes, this process takes up a little class time and demands some careful thinking on your part. But think about what you are doing. You’re ensuring that when students read this letter that it will be more interesting, more meaningful and connected to their lives in a real way. The upfront investment is worth it.
Here are some more examples of this 3-step process in action with other quotations. They come from Teach Different, a professional development organization geared towards helping teachers and parents have great conversations and essential-questions.
As you read these posts think about the primary sources you teach and how you might make them more interesting.
I totally screwed up last week. We were studying the basic differences between judicial activism and judicial restraint. We had just finished up making the point that a judicial restraint oriented court is typically more conservative in that it is less likely to overturn precedent and more likely to see the law as static. A student disrupts the chain of thinking with this question… Continue reading →