Taking a Stand

March photo

Content  This lesson is the introduction to the Cause unit, which asks students to think about a cause they would be willing to stand up for, even if it required great personal sacrifices. By the end of the unit, students will have written a short essay that includes an introduction, the problem, what should be done, what they can do individually and a conclusion. They will also create a collage that represents their cause.

This lesson will introduce different historical and current day civil rights leaders, asking students to identify the individuals and their causes. Then, students will begin brainstorming the cause that’s important to them.

Process  Students will have read about Cesar Chavez in a previous lesson. I will use a Prezi to start today’s lesson, using student participation to identify the different leaders and their causes. There are some leaders that students may not recognize, but the causes are varied and relevant to their daily lives. We will also discuss what elevates a cause to international recognition. The students will then brainstorm causes that are important to them personally.

Product  At the end of the lesson, students will have identified their cause for the project. They will then begin working on the first draft of their topic sentence and engage in a peer review process that will extend into the next lesson.

Evaluation  Students will not be expected to identify all the leaders, but I hope that the presentation will lead to a conversation about the different causes and the overall idea that there are issues that are worth taking a stand for, even if it leads to personal sacrifices. Students will demonstrate understanding as they continue with the unit and create a short essay.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson? This lesson will ask students to remember what they have already learned about historical figures and world history, as well as analyzing what causes are important to them personally.

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components? As this is an introduction, student ownership is limited to demonstrating the information they learned last year. Student ownership will increase as they identify their personal cause and begin their essays. They will also have full control of the art portion of the unit, creating their collage. They will work together to peer edit their essays throughout the process.

Personal Reflection This is my first experience co-teaching with my cooperative teacher to introduce a unit and my first time using Prezi as a tool for student discussion. I’m not sure how the class will react to the discussion component, as this is only our fourth class together, but I hope I’ll be able to engage students into a deeper level of conversation, beyond yes and no answers. Thanks to my EdMethods classmates for their help in designing this lesson!

Image Credit: Mississippi Department of Archives and History

April 8, 1968

Dots Not Feathers: Ancient India for Sixth Graders


The following is a lesson study for part of a 10-lesson unit on ancient India that I will be teaching in October. For the purpose of my work sample, I will likely focus on Hinduism, the caste system, the life of Prince Siddhartha, and Buddhism.

Lesson Study (The Life of Siddhartha)

Content (knowledge, skills, course curriculum/standards)

Ss were assigned a reading in advance of the lesson: chapter 16 from History Alive! They were also instructed to make a chronological list of what they believe are the most important events that occurred in Prince Siddhartha’s life.

Curriculum: Ancient India: Buddhism: The life of Siddhartha Gautama. This lesson will serve as a precursor to a lesson (or two) on Buddhism.

Process (materials, procedures, CW/GW/PW/IW*)

Ss will share their list of what they believe to be the most important events from the life of Prince Siddhartha (IW), first with a partner (PW). Then as a class (CW), we will compile one master list of the scenes the Ss believe are the most important to know/cover, as well as how many Ss need to be in each group, and what roles need to be played. Ss will then create tableaux to illustrate the life of Prince Siddhartha in groups (GW; the same # of groups as our agreed upon list of life events).

Product (produced to demonstrate learning)

Tableaux: In small groups, Ss will create tableaux scenes (one per group) highlighting the pivotal moments/main events in the life of Prince Siddhartha.

Evaluation (assessment)

Formative assessment of their performances in the tableaux, participation in the class conversation, and their individual lists of the important events in Siddhartha’s life.

What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

Evaluation: what were the pivotal moments in the life of Siddhartha?

Demonstration/illustration (kinesthetic): how do I show this event clearly through a visual scene created with my body and the bodies of my fellow group members?

To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

Ss get to help create the list of “scenes” (important moments in Siddhartha’s life) that will be performed in the tableaux, and Ss have to decide (in small groups) how to demonstrate/show their scene.

Personal Reflection:

Initially, I did a lesson study on the entire ancient India unit, which is the document I brought to our peer review session.  It was important to me to explore everything I wanted to cover. However, the lesson study format turned out to not be the best method for me to explore these options. To fit an entire unit on one page, I had to pick and choose from various threads of thought, which contributed to a lack of cohesion in the document. My thanks to Andy for supporting my use of visual and kinesthetic activities and encouraging me to continue in that direction. My thanks to Erik for helping me focus in on what topics I really want to address and providing follow-up peer review support.

* These designations are Individual Work (IW), Pair/Partner Work (PW), Group Work (GW), and Class Work (CW), terms I acquired at the Paris Teacher Training Centre whilst working on my TEFL certificate.

Image: “Lady in Blue,” taken by the author in New Delhi, India, in October 2009. Available on Flickr.

Looking Into 7th Grade Social Media


An introductory technology lesson by: Erik Nelson

Content: Recently our school district decided to purchase iPads for all students, from K-12. Students will be using the devices in the classroom, and also taking them home. In the social sciences, internet connected devices can be used to harness the collaborative and exploratory power of social media and internet resources while allowing students to create content in relevant ways. In this lesson students will begin to think about the types of social media used by classmates to gain a baseline of information about their social media experiences. Students will use this information to begin framing the conversation of transparency, digital citizenship, and proper use of social media for the 21st century. This lesson will begin setting the foundation for discussions with students around proper use of technology in the classroom and in their personal lives as the school year progresses.


Part One: Class Technology Survey

  • Step 1: As a group we will discuss and define “social media” and “regular use”. Table groups create combined lists of social media they regularly use.
  • Step 2: Students will create 2 sided labels for every social media app used in class. These labels will be posted on our classroom “window wall” that opens to the hallway.
  • Step 3: Students will take turns marking a dot on the window with dry erase marker next to every app they personally use. At the end, all the classes will contribute information to our “window chart.” (See photo above, you could use the classroom windows for the same purpose)

Part Two: Transparency Discussion

  • Discuss and record answers to:
  • What does our class use social media for?
  • Why did we put the class chart on the glass wall?
  • Why is social media transparent?
  • How is transparency positive and negative?

Part Three: Create a Manifesto

Create personal “social media manifestos” that students can “post” on their sites. (Each student will write a paragraph defining their personal declaration about how they will act using social media in a transparent world. Consider self, family, peers, school, world.)

Product: All the classes will combine to create a visual chart of how many individuals use each social media app. Reflections will be written in class notebooks to questions written after discussion. Written “Social Media Manifestos” can be either collected by teacher (for students who do not use social media but are around it daily) or posted by students with link for teacher to access.

Evaluation: This lesson is intended to be a starting place for all future discussions of social media use in the classroom and in personal life. Students will mark their use of social media on the “window wall,” and the metaphor of “transparency” will be used throughout the school year to reference social media use. Students will write answers to discussion questions in their class journals. Finally, students will create a short written declaration of how they intend to act using social media, hopefully posting it to their social media sites for the world to see their stance of proper use of transparent digital media.

What kind of thinking will the students need to do to participate in the lesson?

This lesson requires students to use lower order thinking to label and list social media they use. Then students will be asked to use higher order thinking to place their use of social media into the larger world.

To what extend to students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

Much of this lesson is teacher driven, especially at the middle school level. It is imperative that students connect their use of social media to the idea of transparency, and the teacher may need to direct them to that connection. Once transparency and safety have been discussed, students have choice in how they will create their own declaration of social media usage. From the conversation students will have opportunities to take varying degrees of stances towards using social media.

My reflection on this lesson: Creating a lesson for seventh graders about social media use was new to me, as I am used to high school students. I have been struggling with creating lessons that balance structure and direction with organic student engagement. I am indebted to Kristi and Christy for their help in directing me to focus on the end product that students can create. The “social media manifesto” came to life in these discussions, and has the power to be shaped and used in any classroom with a high degree of student choice. It is hard to know the long term impact this lesson may have, but certainly there are opportunities to revisit the transparency metaphor as needed throughout the school year.


Image Credit: Erik Nelson 2014

Analyzing Current Events as an Adversarial Process


Assignment – Every day, the class will examine a current event. Students will sign up for presentation dates upon which they will present their current event articles in a PowerPoint presentation. Every three consecutive presentations will fall under the auspices of the following categories: Civil rights; immigration; government regulation of personal behavior; energy security and climate change; the economy, stupid; electoral races and ballot measures; national security; foreign policy. Additionally, each student will be assigned a presentation for which they will play the devil’s advocate, playing counterpoint to the class discussion following the PowerPoint.

Content – Students will have an opportunity to examine and reconstruct their opinions on American political, economic, social, cultural, industrial, etc. opinions, and configure contemporary world events within their pre-existing schemata. They will also have the opportunity to practice sharing their thoughts on emotionally charged issues in a public forum. To effectively play the devil’s advocate, they will have to objectively examine arguments from multiple angles.

Process – Students will begin by taking a survey, in which they will be asked to “Briefly discuss your positions on the following world issues. Indicate how you arrived at your position on each issue.” They will write short responses on the following:

  • American politics, including issues related to immigration, civil rights, economic policy, national security, gun control, etc.
  • Social issues, including issues related to privacy, human rights and humanitarian issues, climate change, governmental regulation of personal behavior, etc.
  • Foreign policy issues, including foreign aid, energy security, nonproliferation, conflict and stabilization operations, counterterrorism, etc.

Their answers will be used to determine for which topic and for whom they will play the devil’s advocate. Students may have to argue opinions that are contrary to what they actually believe.

Students will also answer: “What do you hope or expect to gain from the current events exercises? Do you think your opinion will change on any of your positions? On what issues do you hope or expect to gain a more-developed understanding?” At the end of the unit, when everyone has presented, they will answer appropriately reflective questions.

During each presentation, students will complete their daily analysis worksheets, upon which they will take notes of the presentation and class discussion.

Product – Students will create PowerPoint presentations to summarize their current event, providing background information and their analyses of the topics. At the conclusion of the presentations, students will provide three questions to guide a classroom discussion following their explanation and background of the topics.  The questions should be open-ended and should ask for students to provide thoughtful responses related directly to the current event.


Grading Components

Intro sheet:                                                    10 pts

Current event presentation:                          30 pts

Devil’s advocate performance:                    12 pts

Current event analyses:                               48 pts

Current Events:

Daily Analysis

Take notes as the presenter presents his/her article. Then participate in the discussion using your notes to guide you, and reflect on the class discussion.

  1. How would you classify this article? Political Economic Social Cultural Combination _____________/_____________ Other __________________
  1. Write a list of things that you learned from this presentation.
  2. Write down a list of things that you are confused about or questions you have?
  3. In the best words you can possibly choose, what is the article’s point? What is the article about?
  4. Provide a summary of the class discussion. What points did you find the most thought-provoking? Did your opinion or position change as a result of the discussion?

Devil’s Advocate Self-Reflection

  1. Which arguments or points you made were the most effective at eliciting responses from the class?
  2. Did any of the arguments or points you made raise awareness of your classmates?
  3. Did your opinion or position on the subject at issue in the article change? What new things did you learn in researching the devil’s advocate position?

PowerPoint Grading Rubric

Summary of article is written in the student’s words, and is not simply copy and pasted from the article.             1   2   3   4   5

At least one other source of information was used to further explicate the article’s topic, with appropriate APA citations.           1   2   3   4   5

Background provided is accurate and thorough   1   2   3   4   5

Student actively and confidently leads discussion, asks follow up questions if necessary to individual students, and included as many students as possible in the discussion.    1   2   3   4   5

The three questions were open ended and led to a good discussion about the topic.             1   2   3   4   5

The PowerPoint presentation slides used an appropriate amount of text, were easy to read, and well designed.              1   2   3   4   5

[image credit]