Skip to main content

Playing Devil's Advocate

I can't count how many times I've reiterated one of the tenets of my teaching philosophy to students: "In here, talk drives learning." And in a world where I've noticed kids have much to say but sometimes struggle with recognizing that spoken words can become the written, I try to leverage their abilities to talk as much as possible before, during, and after writing.

I also believe that we learn the most when cognitive dissonance occurs. This is why my students participated in a round of devil's advocate on Friday, with several students sharing their claims and reasons, evidence, and examples in front of the entire class.

I have to say that the teaching and discussion were messy. Not only is it the first time students are really wrestling with writing about self-chosen topics and personally relevant subjects, but they are also having to defend those views publicly.

In order to provide students with some structure, we covered ground rules first. We agreed to not attack the person but, instead, challenge the examples, reasoning, and ideas. We're still working on establishing the difference, but they're getting there. I often have to remind myself that these are ninth graders; they aren't adults yet, so this is the perfect space to practice these potentially heated arguments with a mediator that my students trust (me).

We also talked about how we can leverage argumentative phrases that so many people use: "I believe that," "___________ should/n't," "One reason for," "You might consider," etc. There are so many, and we're adding to our lists every day.

The Common Core State Standards call for complexity. It's not just enough to take a stand for something, but you have to understand and consider the opposing side. These discussions added to the in-class generating we did earlier in the week, when I asked students to compose their own I Say/They Say charts about their topics (see below).


What I loved most about playing devil's advocate this past Friday is the energy from so many of the students. I was hoping to get through most students' claims and reasons, but we only managed to get through five or six each hour because of the time spent considering the newly raised counterclaims and examples. The discussion about racism was the most intense I saw all day. And this is understandable, considering what students are seeing unfold in the world around them. During that round, students were able to see how their claims should be refined based off the examples used to support, and how sometimes counterclaims can have a minutiae of truth. 

Here's a list of what some students are writing about:
  • Schools should not be allowed to search students for drugs. 
  • Racism is alive and well. 
  • Undocumented immigrants are more helpful than harmful. 
  • Transgender students should have equal rights in school.

With that said, I'm excited to see where students' drafts head next week. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I should’ve taken the time

Yesterday during a teacher observation, a student asked me to step into the hall and talk with them. At the time, it didn’t seem urgent. With this student in particular, we have talked often. Sometimes it was important, other times—from my perspective—it didn’t seem that urgent. 
When I asked her if it could wait 10 minutes, she shut down. I could see the change in how she sat and participated, withdrawing into her desk and no longer asking for help from those around her. There was a noticeable difference in how she interacted with her peers the minute those words came out. 
When I noticed the change, I tried to drop everything right there and talk with her. Let’s go talk, right now, I said. No, it’s fine, she replied. And despite my multiple check-ins while she was working independently, she declined the opportunity to talk again that hour. 
Without even realizing it, I had damaged our relationship. 
We ended up talking later that the day. I saw her as she walked to her next class period…

Handwritten Cue Cards in the 21st Century

I just stumbled upon this behind-the-scenes clip of Saturday Night Live's cue card process.

This is intense writing. This is writing that is dependent upon trust and checks and balances.

Over a short period of time, skits are written, drafted on cards, revised, and the cards revised over and over again.

I also really love that SNL continues to use cue cards and not a teleprompter. Like Wally points out, technology can fail. Handwritten cue cards ensure the show goes on.

Comedy is hard work. Writing is hard work. Changes are made up until the last minute to get things just right. This is a form of real-world writing.

How Changing My Car’s Battery Made Me Think About Education

A lot of people write about how educators use the summer to “recharge their batteries,” which is true. It’s nice to have some down time to reflect and plan for the next year. It’s the one time of year when there aren’t constant demands for teachers’ and administrators’ time. No concerts, no after school events, no evaluations to prepare for.
Part of this time allows me to catch up on things that I didn’t have time for during the school year, like changing the battery in our Jeep, which is our only vehicle that has roof racks for us to transport our kayaks. We were able to get by this winter by jumping it a few times when it was really cold out, but my wife and I both knew it would eventually need to be replaced. My wife and I also knew nothing about replacing a battery.
So I turned to YouTube. And I watched video after video of someone changing car batteries in order to figure out what to do. I learned about “core charges” that auto part supply stores charge. I learned that batterie…