7th /8th grade Social Studies teacher take his class on a field trip to a park. Students go and have a good time. They hear a story: that this land was once full of trees; these trees were very useful for making a rare medication; this medication helps cure a life threading disease. The park authority cut the medicinal trees to build the park. This also led to the destruction of habitat for some animal, which led to extinction. After hearing the story the students become very frustrated. Once they are back at class, the teacher gives them an assignment. Which of the following is the best?
- Writing a letter to the local mayor about their concern: that cutting trees is not good for environment.
- Writing couple of paragraph about their field trip experience
- Compose an editorial piece, showing opposing arguments.
- Writing couple of paragraph about the invention and history of that particular medication.
The assignment that is most appropriate depends on what the teacher's objective is. There is really no way to answer this other than to say that the teacher needs to determine the objective, choose one of these activities, and make sure there is instruction in between.
I personally believe in giving students OPTIONS for assignments. This allows them to feel some ownership of what they are doing and hopefully create a little intrinsic motivation for doing the work. That being said, if just one assignment had to be chosen, I would choose Assignment 1. This allows the students to write about the experience, which serves both to help them process their thoughts about the field trip and also learn to express their thoughts clearly and directly. However it serves a dual purpose. This also gives the students the chance to realize that if there is something that upsets them in the world around them, they should do something about it! It is so important for us to emphasize civic duty to our students.
First of all, all of these assignments challenge students to write about their experience, which is positive. While there is certainly a push in American schools for realistic writing lessons, I think two of the above lessons outshine the others.
If you look at the levels of questioning in Bloom's Taxonomy, assignment 2 does not really go above level two or three without more specific instructions. Assignment 4 stays at level one. Also, these two assignments are largely personal and suggest working independently. They do not encourage students to work together in order to accomplish anything.
Assignment 3 lacks adequate instructions, but could be rewritten in such a way that students would be challenged in the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Taking the assignments as written, therefore, I would argue that #1 is best.
Assignment 1 challenges students to think critically, a skill which is highly emphasized in all classrooms but becoming more rare as standardized testing takes over. This assignment challenges students to make personal connections to a real life problem, then argue from a factual as well as emotional standpoint. It is actually applicable to real life, and requires students to problem solve. I also think this assignment naturally lends itself to becoming a group project, where students could work together, brainstorming and arguing with each other first to come up with better ideas. As far as Bloom's goes, this assignment taps into each level of questioning, which in many opinions, is a great assignment.
I think that all of the particular assignments are fairly valid and can have resonance. At the same time, the most appropriate of the assignments is going to be dependent on what the teacher wants from the students. If the teacher wishes to drive home the element of political activity and social activism, the editorial piece could be effective as well as the letter to the Mayor might be two examples of social activism. If the teacher is seeking to personalize the assignment to the highlight the experience of the student, then I think the second option would be appropriate. If there is a desire to link the Social Studies experience to a multi- disciplinary approach, then the science option would be appropriate. I think that the desire of the teacher, what end is sought out, is going to be critical in assessing which assignment is going to be best. In the end, I think that the teacher can offer all of the assignments to the students and then see the different choices as reflecting the different ends being reached through a variety of students.
I have to say that they are all assignments that the students would benefit from, and all of which I had completed at some point during my classroom career. If I had to choose one it would be the first assignment. I think it is a great idea to have students write and express their feelings/concerns. In high school we were given an assigment where we had to write to a local official about a topic. One of the students in my class wrote about the need for a placement of a yield sign on a road by his house. The mayor wrote back to him agreeing with his concerns and shortly after the town did place the yield sign on his road. This was obviously rememberable, and it did get the point across that if you voice your concerns they are heard!
My favorite is number three because it causes them to use the largest number of skills in critical thinking and writing.
Number one gives me pause because you are sort of forcing a point of view on them, how ever valid that point of view is. If everyone has to write a letter to the mayor about a concern of their choice, that is a better idea to me. You could give them a list to choose from or be inspired by.
how about giving the students all 4 options and letting them choose which one they want to write. allow them to express their own thoughts and creativity, the most passionate ones and the ones who are most likely to benefit from this will challenge themselves and it will show in their work