Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mudslingers, Muckrakers and Research?

Get Your Students Thinking with this fun lesson: 

It's that time of year for mudslinging, dinners interrupted by political robo-calls,  and repulsive TV Commercials...  Welcome to the November Elections! Why not Carpe Diem…and turn this time into an Inquiry Based Learning adventure for your secondary students?

Using this  www.livingroomcandidate.com site as "Primary Media Source Documents" we can ask students to critically evaluate media, messages, and do close examination of candidates to compare, contrast, investigate, synthesize, and draw conclusions.  This is real life in reverse.  In order to answer your essential question, students will have to do some close reading of material during their investigation.  They will likely learn the vocabulary of the discipline and speak intelligently as they present their conclusions.  
(This site provides a historical aggregation of Presidential candidates 
and their commercials back to 1952.) 

With Inquiry-based Learning hitting the Social Studies communities like wildfire, it seems more SS teachers are open to new ideas.  Here's a short lesson suggestion which is student-centered, real-world, Inquiry-based, fun, and sadly…relevant.  

We librarians know there are many "steps" to Inquiry, some methods stating 6, others stating 7 or 8, while our WISE (Wonder, Investigate, Synthesize, Express) model has only 4.  (It's a non-threatening introductory approach user-friendly for new "Inquiry" teachers.)  
When repackaging research, there are a many details to embrace, but let's point out a few imperatives: The first is to agree you want the research to be Inquiry-based.  What question can we ask to compel the students to uncover and discover new knowledge?  What question can we ask that aligns with the standards and the real-world? This lesson is not a "long sustained" Inquiry project, but rather would fit the CCSS thought of "short" research projects.  This helps foster the information-literate paradigm for college and career ready students.
After you've agreed on INQUIRY as a framework, you'll have to insure you have a good EQ to inspire kids to uncover and discover meaning.   For our LIVINGROOM CANDIDATE lesson, let's present an EQ such as one of the following:  

  • How do[did] primary source media products reflect cultural issues? 
  • How has "running for office" changed over the last Century? 
  • If you were running for office, why would you run? What would your platform stand for? Create a slogan for your platform? 

Guiding Questions for direction as they investigate:
  • Why did candidates choose these issues to spotlight?
  • Were these issues solved or addressed during the "reign" in office? 
  • Did the elected official live up to their "living room message?" 
  • What was going on in the world that compelled the "party" to have this message? 
  • What messages are you hearing today? 
  • What's the cause and effect? 
  • Can we view these messages via our Social Studies "lenses" to make sense of the information? (i.e. synthesize)
  • Would you have voted for either of these candidates?  
  • What other primary source documents can you find, discover that reflect cultural issues of the time?
Ideas and Notes: 
  • This lesson embeds technology for the "transliterate"  or "metaliterate" learner. This Livingroomcandidate.org site provides a great opportunity for "flipped learning."
  • Vocabulary of the discipline "graffiti walls" could be built by the students, as they uncover and discover relevant words within their close reading.  Bulletin board paper provides the perfect tool for students to aggregate vocabulary words critical to understanding political issues, voting, campaigning, and more. 
  • Don't forget about the Inquiry… Knowledge Presentation. Knowledge is meant to be shared.  How will you have the students present their knowledge?  Can we have a discussion or debate over successful advertising or successful campaigns followed by successful Presidential terms? Can we place into perspective the campaign, world history issues and more? These activities support "Evidence Based Claim" arguments that are required in CCSS delivery changes. Create a new political party that embodies what you stand for(?)  
  • Can we follow-up this activity with a "what if" section: If there was "media" available for Presidential Candidates during the 1800's, what would they commercials have contained? This assignment would hit the top of Bloom's taxonomy and require synthesis of history timelines, cultural issues, campaign spotlights, economics, and more.  This requires the students to "create" something.
  • To help students synthesize the information they uncover, or investigate different aspects of the topic, new SS standards want your students to view material through "lenses."  You may want to consider creating a graphic organizer such as this to help them search:

Aligned with new C3 SS “themes” ... Consider using something like this for SS “facts” to  help students synthesize.





Cause & Effect

Global Connections

Have some fun and turn this season of mudslinging into a lesson about Fearmongers, Muckrakers, Freedom of the Press and more!  

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