Lesson plans critical thinking middle school

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These two processes offer us an opportunity to think rigorously without polarization and to embrace contradictions that normally divide us. Without them India would still be ruled by Britain and the South would still keep African-Americans from voting. The subject is Thoreau's essay, "Civil Disobedience," written shortly after he was jailed for refusing to pay his poll tax, a protest against the U.

Student discussion is lively and combative. The debate exhausts the period, and when the bell rings, students continue to argue as they leave the room. A good class, the teacher is probably thinking. The debate has produced strong disagreement, some reasonable arguments, and lots of heat. But it has not produced a recognition of complexity, a sense of the strength and worth of a position not one's own; a movement, however, slight, in one's own position; a desire to go on thinking. We teachers are often better at stimulating exciting arguments than at complicating and deepening understandings; often better at developing critical thinking skills than at entering into another's point of view and working to experience it and find whatever truth it may contain.

The intellectual tradition of critical thinking Peter Elbow calls "methodological doubt," that is, "the systematic, disciplined, and conscious attempt to criticize everything no matter how compelling it might seem-to find flaws or contradictions we might otherwise miss. They can help us recognize that, as Elbow writes, "the truth is often complex and that different people often catch different aspects of it. Contraries in Inquiry," in Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching, N. What follows is an approach to teaching critical thinking that includes a "methodological belief" process the believing game and a "methodological doubt" process the doubting game.

An excerpt from "Civil Disobedience" will be the take-off point for an outline of how the two games might be used with students as they study any controversial issue. Starred items in the description of the doubting game refer to suggested lesson plans that follow the conclusion of the game.

Teachers may find one or more of them useful when a close examination of some aspect of the question process seems desirable. From Civil Disobedience "Unjust laws exist: They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. As for adopting the ways which the state has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways.

They take too much time, and man's life will be gone A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything it is not necessary that he should do something wrong The teacher might introduce the believing game by making the following points to students: You have probably noticed that when we consider controversial issues like anti-terrorist legislation and its effects on civil liberties or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or our own personal conflicts, what may start as a discussion quickly can become a debate.

We argue eagerly for our own opinions; we listen to opposing arguments mainly to find flaws and, when we do, interrupt and attack them. We are more interested in proving ourselves right, in winning the argument, than in considering seriously another viewpoint, in continuing to think. The idea behind the believing game is to suspend judgment, promote continued thought, open oneself to the strengths and values of a perspective with which one does not agree in part or in whole, and work at believing that perspective.

The believing game is the first step in a critical thinking process. In the second, the more familiar doubting game, we can ask probing questions, attack faulty logic, point out inadequate evidence, provide information that rebuts. A third step is to work toward judgment by integrating the insights gained by experiencing an idea from the inside and scrutinizing it from the outside. It can be useful to ask students to write a short paragraph as an initial record of their thinking on the issue to be considered-in this case, civil disobedience.

Do you believe it is ever right, as a matter of conscience, to deliberately break a law you regard as unjust? At one time in US history it was against the law to harbor a fugitive slave. Would you have broken that law? Why or why not? Ask students to read or listen to the viewpoint they are to believe in this case, the excerpt from "Civil Disobedience".

They need to work hard at believing as much of the argument as they can.


Lesson plans critical thinking middle school

If, as is likely, they disagree with Thoreau, they should ask themselves: What does he see that I don't? How could this argument possibly be right? What can I agree with? They should try to suppress the inclination to disagree. Divide the continue reading into small discussion groups for minutes.

Students are to make only statements that support Thoreau. They are not pretending or role-playing. They are finding and speaking from places in themselves that honestly connect with him. Elbow suggests they ask themselves such questions as: What would you notice if you believed this view? If it were true? In what sense or under what conditions might this idea be true? An acceptable comment might be: If it was against the law to practice my religion, I think I would do it anyway, even if secretly.

When discussion flags-and it may after a short time the first time students play the believing game - the teacher can interrupt and ask that they now work at formulating questions in the believing mode. These must aim at clarification and invite fuller understanding and acceptance. Perhaps other members of the group can answer them. They must not be loaded, rhetorical questions. An acceptable one might be: Or, "I have a problem with what Thoreau calls 'being an agent of injustice to another. Don't we elect the government?

The remainder of the period can be used to process the students' experiences. What success did they have? How did they deal with them? To what extent did the experience feel authentic? What did they notice about other students' statements and questions? Did the experience affect their point of view, even if only slightly? Students will probably have difficulty in their first experience with the believing game. It may seem artificial, perhaps uncomfortable, even threatening.

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  • What does the student feel and see?
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Under some circumstances, playing the game may challenge deeply held beliefs and the security that goes with them. If methodological belief, almost certainly an unfamiliar process for students, is to take hold and have a chance to produce worthwhile results, students need to experience it with some frequency. Article source students play the believing game when a significant disagreement occurs in any class session. Play it when a student is reporting to the class or reading an essay on a controversial subject.

Play it after students hear an outside speaker. Play it when a student offers a view that others find peculiar or even stupid. The teacher can interrupt the session for ten minutes' worth of believing. What does the student feel and see? Am I sure I understand? What values underlie this view? Which do I acknowledge as valid, as important? How can this point of view possibly be right?

Entering into and really experiencing unfamiliar or irritating points of view takes time and effort.

They will then question whether bias may explain the conflicting data. What is on the x-axis? An acceptable one might be: The teacher might introduce the believing game by making the following points to students: Background Beliefs When two lesson plans critical thinking middle school have radically different background beliefs or worldviewsthey often have difficulty finding any sort of common ground. Sorting out the valuable claims from the worthless ones is tricky, since at first glance a Web site written by an expert can look a lot like one written by your next-door neighbor. The words "unjust" in the first sentence and "injustice" in the second as well as his advice about breaking the law are judgmental. Playing the doubting game is likely to have several byproducts:

But it invites listening, instead of arguing; it fosters empathy rather than antagonisms. It encourages an understanding that there can be competing truths, each of which has some value; that, as Elbow writes, "Certainty is rarely if ever possible and we increase the likelihood of getting things wrong if we succumb to the hunger for it.

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We understand nothing except in so far as we understand the questions behind it. A necessary complement to the believing game is the doubting game. Just as the former asks for a systematic, disciplined effort to believe a point of view no matter how unfamiliar or ridiculous it may seem, so the latter invites students to engage in a systematic, disciplined effort to inquire into or doubt a point of view no matter how familiar and reasonable it may seem. The doubting game begins with learning how to ask and to analyze questions.

The subject may be an issue discussed in a history text, a bill being debated in Congress, any controversial issue, but in this case will be the excerpt from "Civil Disobedience. The teacher can begin by inviting student questions about it, questions, which if answered well, might lead to a better understanding of civil disobedience, questions that will test its worth. Some sample questions students might ask: What is an unjust law? Is breaking the law ever justified? Why did Thoreau think the war against Mexico was unjust?

  • The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
  • What does the student feel and see?
  • The teacher might introduce the believing game by making the following points to students:

What about our gun laws? Why does the US government take too much time to remedy unjust laws? What would happen to our society if everyone who thought a law was unjust broke it? How long was Thoreau in jail? The next step is to analyze the questions to help students understand that: The class should analyze their questions using the following criteria: Do any questions require a strictly factual answer?

Can you get information that enables you to answer with reasonable certainty? How do you know? Do any questions call for an opinion? Do any questions contain assumptions c, e If so, are these assumptions reasonable to make? If they are not, how might the question be reworded? Click the following article any questions unclear? Do any questions call for predictions? Are any questions useless for the inquiry? For example, question e makes a triple set of assumptions: Once students recognize such a set of assumptions they can be helped to develop other questions that might lead to worthwhile inquiry.

Is there any law you know of that at least some US officials regard as unjust? If so, which officials and what law?

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Click to see more might know that Senators McCain and Feingold have sponsored legislation to correct what they regard as unjust campaign finance laws. Have such officials done anything to remedy this situation?


Explore: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving in Action

They will focus on their local water source and determine the effects of their actions on the quality of their water source and the organisms that rely on it. Zachary Fink Tips for downloading: For example, you could ask: Made in the U. The believing game is the first step in a critical thinking process. Olly Olly Oxen Free! Students will apply their knowledge of ecosystems and the interdependence of plants and animals to creatively solve problems. You could ask your students to compare and contrast between two different processes using Venn diagrams. Thoreau was born in

If not, why not? What are some of the reasons they have not yet succeeded in changing the law? Obviously, pursuing answers to such questions will take time. Some of the answers will be visit web page others will require facts and opinions, perhaps opinions of experts who know what it takes to get a law passed on campaign finance reform. That, in turn, raises questions about experts and expertness: What makes a person an expert on a subject?

How can you know if the person has these qualifications? How can you know if the person has any bias you should take into cover letter writer service as you examine the person's views? Having clarified the questions and determined which are most useful, the students can begin an inquiry.

The teacher has several choices about how to proceed. One might be to assign common class readings bearing on the questions to be answered and then to discuss them with the class. A second could be to divide the class into groups, assigning each certain questions to be answered in a presentation to the class. Still another would be to assign questions to individual students. In any of these assignments an important consideration will be the amount and difficulty of work required. Playing the doubting game is likely to have several byproducts: These, too, can be worth further examination and discussion; 3 The teacher will also note what class work is necessary on a number of critical thinking skills.

Are they clear about assumptions? How well do they identify central issues?

Lesson plans critical thinking middle school

What help might they need in determining the relevance and reliability of lesson plans critical thinking middle school Like the believing game, the doubting game requires repeated experiences if students are to become good questioners and inquirers. Experience with the two games need not focus only on current or historical issues. An English class can play the games with poems and novels; science classes can believe and doubt competing points of view on environmental issues; a mathematics class can do the same on the use of statistics to support differing opinions.

Integrating One's Thinking Having believed, doubted, and investigated further, students can now work at integrating lesson plans critical thinking middle school thinking. Have the students' experiences opened possibilities for finding lesson plans critical thinking middle school common ground on an issue? Are they feeling and thinking somewhat differently than they were originally? What does this mean for one's actions in a world where most social issues are complex and certainty about them is "rarely if ever possible"? Following a discussion of such questions and as a conclusion to their work, students can subject themselves and the issue they have examined to some written analysis.

What was their opinion before they began the study? Have students take another look at what they wrote earlier.

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Are their answers to the questions any different now? Are the men incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay prisoners of war? An answer depends upon how one defines "prisoners of war," and people can and do disagree about them. So what is the "real definition"? Since people are the only sources of word meanings, there is no "real meaning" to be found.

This is true not only for such potentially controversial terms as "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" but also for such seemingly innocent words as "girl. It is not words that have meanings but we who give them meanings. Ask students to read the following definitions of "friend" and then to determine into which of the categories below them each falls. Diamonds are a girl's best friend. A dog is man's best friend. If you want to know what a friend is, read the Biblical story of David and Jonathan.

A friend is the opposite of an enemy. A friend is a comrade. The word friend is a noun in sentence e. Definition by synonym e Definition by "word as word" d, f Definition by attitude a, b, c Definition by operation or by what is happening c Help students to understand that there are multiple ways of defining words, that each serves a different purpose. Have students read the following poem. The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe It was six men of Indostan To click at this page much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant Though all of them were blindThat each by observation The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: To me 'tis very clear This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!

Though each was partly in the right They all were in the wrong! How does the poem suggest any problems of defining? Like the men of Indostan, each of us by our individuality is limited in what link can see.

What is "partly in the right" about each of the definitions of "friend" even if none is "in the wrong"? Student exercise Using each of the four ways of defining "friend," define "unjust law. Ask them to share their definitions and then to pick what they think is the best one. Students need to recognize that the chosen definition is not the final word, that it limits the group in certain ways but at least allows them to talk about an "unjust law" from the point of view of a shared definition. Apply the class definition to one or more of the following laws that at least some people have regarded as unjust: Assignment Keeping in mind the definition the class has agreed upon, answer the following question in one well-developed paragraph: If you regarded a law as unjust, would you break that law?

He tells his readers to break the law if it requires one to be "an agent of injustice. Reading the essay verifies that these are his views. Of course Thoreau's statements themselves are judgmental. The words "unjust" in the first sentence and "injustice" in the second as well as his advice about breaking the law are judgmental. So we have factual statements that include Thoreau's opinions. But what about such statements as, "Thoreau published 'Civil Disobedience' in Check this out is also the author of 'Self Reliance'"?

These sentences are factual in form but are inaccurate. It is therefore useful to use instead the term "report," which may be defined as a verifiable statement that excludes judgmental language but that may or may not be factually accurate.

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The following sentences raise still other issues: Thoreau's famous comment that "any man more right than his neighbor constitutes a majority of one already" includes a judgmental term, "more right," and what looks like a report, "a majority of one," but is a rather subtly stated opinion. Students need to discuss such matters and gain sophistication in distinguishing among different kinds of statements, an essential critical thinking ability. To help students understand the distinctions between reports accurate, partially accurate and false and judgments, the teacher might have them analyze readings and use such exercises as the following.

Mark each sentence either R report or J judgment. Laws never made men a whit more just. I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into jail once on this account, for one night. The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Our life is frittered away by detail I have traveled a good deal in Concord. Thoreau was born in He wrote "Civil Disobedience," Walden and Moby Dick.

Strategies are organized into three groups: Try a Google Custom Search: If methodological belief, almost certainly an unfamiliar process for students, is to take hold and have a chance to produce worthwhile results, students need to experience it with some frequency. Do any questions contain assumptions c, e If so, are these assumptions reasonable to make? Students will read and analyze an adapted introductory article about tobacco bag stringing. Students will apply their knowledge of ecosystems and the interdependence of plants and animals to creatively solve problems. It makes it worse. Provide some guided questions to maximize results.

The first five sentences are from "Civil Disobedience, " the next three from "Walden," the last two invented. Write five reports and five judgments about "Civil Disobedience. Write a short paragraph beginning with a where can i find someone to write essays for me statement about "Civil Disobedience" with which you agree and support it with three reports. Then write another short paragraph, beginning this time with a judgmental statement about the essay with which you disagree but support with three reports.

This lesson was written for TeachableMoment. Org, a project of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility.

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