Several people including teachers — and our own staff — were inspired by Janet Jeffries’ student activists. We decided to visit her fifth grade class in part to figure out just how she encourages her students to take a stand.
On the day of our visit, students were reading an article about new school lunch standards. As they read, Ms. Jeffries placed signs in each corner of the room labeled “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree.” After reading the article, the students were asked to physically get up and stand in the corner which most closely represented how they felt. Did they think the new standards were good or bad?
Motivating Students to Take a Stand
Most of the students gathered under “Strongly Agree” and “Agree.” They said they wanted to see some changes to the school lunches. For five minutes, the students found evidence from the article to help back up why they felt this way. When time was up, the students returned to their seats and shared their findings with their teacher.
Ms. Jeffries then placed a T-chart up on the board with PRO on one side of the chart and CON on the other. Though it was clear how her students felt about school lunches, she wanted her students to consider the other side as well. The students were given time to find evidence that supported each side of the article and place it on the chart.
Students then shared their papers, and Ms. Jeffries assessed each paper’s evidence with the entire class. If they agreed that their peers had strong evidence to support their arguments, she gave it a check. If the student’s evidence needed more work, she asked the class what could be added to make a stronger case. Our staff was inspired to see how students collaboratively developed their arguments with Ms. Jeffries’ guidance.
Teachers: how do you motivate students to consider all sides of an argument? Tweet us at @Newsela with your favorite tips.