Lesson Experience: Teaching for deep understanding of “perseverance” through close reading, student-led conversations, and argument writing.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of working with sixth grade students on the west side of Chicago. This year they have been engaged in units of study focused on essential questions like “What is culture?” and “How do resistance and struggle play a role in historical events?” As part of these units, the students write argument essays that require an in-depth understanding of particular vocabulary words like “culture,” “resistance” and “cooperation.”
An analysis of the students’ attempts at argument writing revealed they needed to strengthen their understanding of the difference between the terms “claim” and “supporting evidence.” Many of the points they proposed as supporting evidence were actually “sub claims.” For example (my own):
Claim: Despite the poor and even hostile living conditions of the internment camps, the interned Japanese-Americans practiced ingenuity, creating spaces for their members to thrive.
Subclaim (erroneously posed as “supporting evidence for main claim”): The Japanese-Americans were determined to educate the children in the camps.
Supporting evidence (frequently the type of evidence not included in a student’s argument): They recruited teachers and set up schools for their children.
Just to clarify then, many students would pose a claim and then pose “sub claims” as supporting evidence.
Reading through their essays, I felt like the students were grappling with lots of Tier Two words like helpful, determined, courageous, but not revealing the depth of understanding of these words needed to identify and explain supporting evidence well. Understanding these words well might help them think through details and determine supporting evidence. Based on the teacher’s current unit of study – “resistance and struggle” – I planned a lesson that would focus primarily on understanding “perseverance,” and making claims about the perseverance of civil rights activists pursuing the right to vote.
More on this lesson soon.