Step One – Book Clubs
Eighth graders heard book talks about a variety of books set in other countries. The titles ranged in difficulty from slightly below grade level to books written for adults that were appropriate for young teens. Students read the first few pages of the titles that interested them most, then submitted a ballot with their top picks for their book club work. The classroom teacher created groups based on student ballots (while doing a little social engineering).
Students set their own reading calendar and did writing abut reading task to prepare for their book club discussions. In addition to doing the usual work analyzing the text (RL8.1), students identified and agreed on a main idea from their book and a contemporary issue that is addressed (RL8.2). Their book club choices introduced plenty of meaty issues: How do land mines impact the daily lives of people after a conflict has ended? What happens to child soldiers after they leave the army? How does educating women affect the well-being of children?
Step Two – Research the Contemporary Issue
Book Club groups dug into their issues by reading nonfiction books and text online, analyzing maps, charts, and infographics, watching videos, analyzing photos, studying maps, reading news articles from a variety of sources, and listening to interviews. Along the way they were citing evidence to support their point of view (RI8.1), figuring out new vocabulary (RI 8.4), and teasing out the author’s point of view (RI 8.6).
Example: the land mine group poured over diagrams of land mines. They were fascinated to see the video clips of mine-sniffing giant rats. They anguished over the problem of designing a prosthetic leg that works well in the rough terrain of rural areas.
Step Three – Research a Solution
Once the group thoroughly understood the issue, it was easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. The problems they were investigating felt intractable and overwhelming. So they explored what could be done to help solve the problems. What governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations are having an impact? How do they measure their efforts to dig out land mines or educate girls? RI 8.7 was especially helpful as students compared information delivered in any formats.
Step Four – Doing Well by Doing Good
Each group used iMovie to create a sixty second public service announcement promoting donations for a group working to eliminate a particular problem. Their movie had to include a description of the problem, how the group was working to solve the problem, and evidence that the group made effective of their donations. Groups participated in many collaborative discussions (SL 8.1), helped to create a rubric to analyze the arguments presented in the PSAs (SL 8.3), and had to figure out how to present their own claims (SL8.4) in an effective and focussed way.
Example: should the group choose a agency that provides prosthetic limbs for land mine victims? Or a group that trains land mine hunting rats?
The classroom teacher and the library teacher solicited donations so that each class would have $50.00 to donate to the NGO featured in the best PSA. A panel of parents was invited to come to class and see the PSA presentations. Using the rubric, they chose the most effective PSA to receive the donation. Students took their work on this project very seriously. It’s not often that doing your homework well can positively impact the world.
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